Will Europe’s Solheim Cup success lead to more women playing golf?

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire October 8, 2019 20:28

Europe’s stunning victory in The Solheim Cup last month is expected to boost female participation in the game – but this summer many clubs were experiencing this anyway thanks to golf clinics with female tour players, free group lessons for women and free golfing equipment for ladies.

15/09/2019. Ladies European Tour 2019. The Solheim Cup, PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland. 13-15 September 2019. Suzann Pettersen of Norway reacts on the 18th green as she sinks her final putt to help Europe win the Solheim Cup. Credit: Mark Runnacles/LET

Europe’s sensational victory in The Solheim Cup last month will, according to many golf commentators in the immediate aftermath of the Gleneagles event, lead to increased participation by women in the game.

This is excellent news for UK golf clubs if true – women represent just 15 per cent of golfers in the UK. However, a number of clubs had already created initiatives this summer – prior to the tournament – to encourage participation in the sport at a grassroots level, and with that working, some of them even visited Gleneagles in their all-women golfing groups to cheer on Europe.

For example, Ireland professional Leona Maguire took time out from her busy schedule earlier this summer to make a visit to her home club, PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell, to host an event aimed at inspiring the next generation of Irish female golfers.

Leona Maguire with two students this summer

Maguire, who is currently playing on the Symetra Tour in America, treated a group of nine girls of all ages and abilities to an exclusive golf clinic at the venue.

As well as playing nine holes and taking part in a question-and-answer session, the group – which included Ireland’s current under-16 reigning champion, Beth Coulter, as well as three complete beginners – also had the opportunity to receive some individual tuition from the Irish star.

Maguire said: “I am really enjoying the challenge of carving out a career in professional golf and would love to see more Irish women and girls having similar opportunities in professional sport. I am thrilled to have had the chance to meet, play and talk with some of Ireland’s aspiring female golfers.

“It was also great to meet some girls who are new to the game and, hopefully, in some way, I can inspire them as to what is possible when opportunity combines with passion, hard work and dedication.”

Also this summer Macdonald Hotels & Resorts offered complimentary lessons delivered by PGA professionals to females at five of its UK golf hotels.

Golf operations manager and former European Tour professional Emma Goddard launched the campaign at the Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa where she was joined by the first group of participants.

She said: “Golf is an incredibly rewarding sport which helps keep you active and teaches valuable lessons that can be applied on and off the course.

“Traditionally, there have been a lot of barriers for women interested in taking up golf. Today women represent just 15 per cent of golfers in the UK which, when compared to sports like cycling or tennis, is incredibly low. Indeed, when you look at other European countries, which record figures as a high as 38 per cent, it’s clear we are falling behind.

“By giving young girls and women a taster we hope to inspire the next generation of female golfers.

“I fell in love with golf the first time I stepped out on the course, and now I want to help other young girls experience the magic of the game.”

At the same time, women’s coaching initiative, love.golf, and golf equipment manufacturer, PING, joined forces to mark the launch of a women’s teaching programme at Thonock Park GC in Lincolnshire, introducing over 35 new female players to the game and removing a key cost barrier for new golfers.

PING supplied equipment for the launch of the initiative at its newest venue.

The launch took place over two sessions, led by head coach Alastair Spink (Fynn Valley Golf Club), love.golf’s most recent coach recruit, Nick Taylor (Thonock Park), and fellow love.golf coaches Hannah Crump (Robin Hood Golf Club) and Amy Millward (Cleobury Mortimer Golf Club).

Spink commented: “love.golf has been an instant hit with the women who experienced it for the first time at Thonock Park. The feedback we’ve received has been fantastic and more than 80 per cent of the participants have already signed up for follow-on projects.

Participants in love.golf at last month’s Solheim Cup. Pic Kenny Smith, Kenny Smith Photography

“We understand from research carried out by Syngenta that equipment is a barrier to entry for women, both in terms of cost and knowing what’s right for them. PING’s continued support has been invaluable in removing this barrier and supplying equipment that is tailored to help new golfers progress.”

The love.golf approach – which focuses on learning the game by experiencing it out on the course with a group of peers, rather than through technical lessons on a driving range – has demonstrated significantly higher retention rates, as well as the ability to engage a diverse range of women from different backgrounds.

Lisa Lovatt, general manager at PING Europe and a participant on the day, commented: “It’s such a different approach to learning the game. All the women really embraced it, myself included, and we had a fantastic time meeting and mixing with each other.”

15/09/2019. Ladies European Tour 2019. The Solheim Cup, PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland. 13-15 September 2019. The European team celebrate together as they win the Solheim Cup. Credit: Mark Runnacles/LET

A few weeks later, a community of over 120 new female golfers, all part of the love.golf community in Scotland, visited Gleneagles to show their support for Europe in The Solheim Cup. For the majority of them, this was their first experience of a professional golf tournament.

Among the attendees was Karen Harkins, 39, who has been part of the programme for over two years. Commenting on the experience, Karen said: “When I first walked into Gleneagles, I could feel the atmosphere, the excitement building and the energy coming from all the fans. I’m fortunate to have attended other golf events too, but none of them are like this. This is how golf events should be.”

Also attending was Dawn, part of an avid group of over 50 love.golfers based in Fraserburgh, who said: “This has been a truly memorable experience. Everyone has fully immersed themselves in the Solheim experience.”

 

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire October 8, 2019 20:28
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1 Comment

  1. Kari October 7, 11:46

    I can’t emphasize enough the importance of role models in engaging young girls in the game! Yes! The Solheim Cup will lead to more women playing golf…now and for the next generation! My player role models: (Nancy Lopez, Jane Blalock, Carol Mann, Kathy Whitworth, etc.) and I have been an avid golfer all my life. My first LPGA tournament as a fan – Hazeltine 1977 US Women’s Open. I will never forget it! Thanks for the memories.

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