Study finds male culture of golf clubs is what’s killing them

Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim December 28, 2014 14:29

A major study into how UK golf clubs can reverse their financial decline, driven by a widespread drop in both membership numbers and participation in golf generally, has concluded that the male culture is a barrier to growth.

Female participation 1 mr copy

“Golf in the UK has an opportunity to grow if clubs and courses become more female friendly and offer flexible playing options,” said a spokesman for Syngenta, which commissioned the new research.

The study found more women would be interested in taking up golf if they could learn with female friends and family, and play on shorter courses offering the option of nine or six-hole rounds.

They would also be encouraged to commit to golf or return to the sport if clubs were ‘less masculine’, ‘less intimidating’ and treated them as ‘valued customers’.

The findings are contained in a new report, The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female Participation which follows specialist qualitative research, including a series of panel sessions around the UK listening to the views of female golfers, lapsed players and non-golfers.

The report, which was launched in London to a select audience of golf industry professionals, including the 2015 European Solheim Cup captain Carin Koch and Golf Club Management editor Alistair Dunsmuir, is designed to help clubs and courses identify potential solutions to retain current female golfers and attract new players, supporting the long-term sustainability of the golf industry.

Syngenta head turf and landscape EAME, Simon Elsworth, said: “The good news coming out of this research is that the UK golf business has a genuine opportunity to grow by proactively encouraging female participation.

“What’s important, though, is to listen carefully to what women are saying about golf, what aspects of the sport appeals to them and understand the conditions that need to be created to engage women as customers.

“The results of our qualitative research show that an important factor is the ability to learn and play with friends and family at venues where women feel welcome. Some of our case study videos underline this point, especially where there is all-female coaching and courses are able to provide flexible playing conditions.”

More than 30 golf business leaders gathered in London for a special presentation of the research report, including representatives of golf’s governing bodies, the professional tours and leading multi-course operators.

The group of golf industry leaders in London for the launch of the report

The group of golf industry leaders in London for the launch of the report

European Solheim Cup captain Carin Koch, who has publicly expressed her desire to see more women playing golf, said: “It’s very important that we listen to young people and women and better understand what would encourage them to try golf, which is why I was so interested to read this report.

“As European Solheim Cup captain, I’m very aware that thousands of sports fans will be watching the event on television and what a great opportunity this is to showcase golf as a game for women. My hope is that it will inspire new players of all ages to give golf a try and see what an enjoyable, social and healthy sport it is.”

Mike Round, director of Development and Membership at the Ladies European Tour, said: “The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female Participation is an important and valuable contribution to the efforts being made to inform and support the growth of golf – and is welcomed by the Ladies European Tour.

“The reality is that there is a gender imbalance in golf and this is something that needs to be addressed. While progress is being made, much more needs to be done. This survey highlights that while there are challenges to overcome, there are also practical solutions that, if applied, will enable the sport to grow.”

Syngenta’s golf market research is designed to provide clubs and courses with information that will help them make customer-focused decisions to maximize market opportunities and deliver long-term business benefits.

carin koch

Carin Kock. Image by Keith Allison


Previous reports, including Growing Golf in the UK (2013) and The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Youth Participation (2014), are available to download from


Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim December 28, 2014 14:29
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1 Comment

  1. Tony Pennock December 29, 14:33

    What a waste of time, effort and money, we knew this was the case years ago.

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