‘Many golf clubhouses are still not welcoming to women’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 3, 2020 07:11

The most successful women’s golfer in history has said that golf clubs need to think about the design of their clubhouses if they want to attract more women to them.

In particular, Annika Sorenstam said ladies’ locker rooms appear to be a “last minute thought”, while the pro shop can also be unwelcoming.

Studies in recent years have shown millions of women could be attracted to play golf, but in the UK members of clubs are predominantly adult males.

Speaking as she took part in a Virtual Women’s Leadership Forum hosted by the R&A and Mastercard, the 10-time major winner said she feels the wrong message is currently being sent out to women the minute they arrive at most clubs around the world for the first time.

“I have some ideas, but not necessarily programmes,” said Sorenstam in reply to being asked about what she believed could be done to encourage more women and girls to get into golf. “I think there are already a lot of programmes out there that have incentivised women to play.

“But, just from a club standpoint, I think the language – even the basic things like a pro shop – is a big deal if you are new to golf. Also the ladies’ locker-room, it’s almost as though it’s a last-minute thought. There’s just nothing to it. It’s small. It’s old. It’s very dated. It’s just not welcoming. It’s not fresh.

Annika Sorenstam. Image by Tristan Jones

“I think there are few things we need to do to invest in these clubs and I’m not talking about fancy country clubs. Let’s make golf attractive in the sense of being welcoming. It’s not just about hitting seven irons and holing putts.”

Her comments echo those of golf course architect Kari Haug, who wrote in 2018 ‘only in recent years has women’s golf apparel been designed with ‘technical’ fabrics and comfortable cut, but availability of these garments is still limited.’

“There’s a lot of things we can work on to make golf clubs a place you want to go to. I think the dress code needs to change. If you want to get people involved, you can’t have all these rules. There are a lot of things we can do and a lot of it is the perception of golf. Let’s start making golf cool again.

“Let’s look at other sports and see what they are doing to make it welcoming for young people. There has to be a fine line where we can preserve history and tradition because I think that is what golf is about but, at the same time, how can we modernise it and share what we have?

“We’ve seen 20 percent of rounds increase since the pandemic, which is interesting. I guess there is something good coming out of something bad. In golf, equipment sales are up and memberships are up and it is considered a great Covid sport.

“I think it is important that we all take advantage of this surge in the game. We all know that golf has a lot of benefits being outside and I think it is something that has naturally occurred due to this pandemic.

“As an industry, I think we need to talk about the benefits of golf for women. Maybe from the health perspective. Maybe from the mental perspective. Maybe from a social perspective.

“In the industry, let’s get women into jobs, maybe on board seats and promote women in the management positions. We have to make it more welcoming for women, we have to support them. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think the opportunities are there, so let’s keep moving forward.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 3, 2020 07:11
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  1. Babin December 11, 17:00

    Very interesting survey about how grow golf female participation

    Reply to this comment
    • Nicky December 30, 16:33

      We need to start by calling it the womens section (and not ladies) and get rid of so many idiot rules. If we want younger people to play or at least stay at the club from the juniors lighten up on the clothing rules. Get with it or close down – you chose!

      Reply to this comment
  2. LCB December 6, 20:14

    Well said, there ARE great benefits of golf for women; physical health, mental health, and especially the social benefits. I’ve made some great girl (and guy friends) playing golf. But yeah, sometimes it’s the basics and not just the amenities…when a clubhouse has one stall in the ladies room, there’s much room for improvement.

    Reply to this comment
  3. SSmith December 6, 20:05

    One of the most illuminating insights I had as the chief psych at a global oil and gas organisation was that designing platforms to accommodate women made them more attractive to men. I am convinced the same will be true in golf

    Reply to this comment
    • ErnieLong December 7, 09:54

      Golf clubs in general are not welcoming to anyone, which is a crazy way to run any business. When you have a stuffy atmosphere with uptight rules, it attracts the blazer squad mentality, get off my land, because its learnt behaviour. If I have to then you will to ! This makes for an unwelcome atmosphere unless you know the other members, some clubs have got it right, but it has to be worked at, men generally play comps with men midweek and Saturdays and women midweek and Sundays, they are divided and many of the men Ive played with dont want anything to do with women on a golf course, personally I’m happy to have a mix both on the course and in the clubhouse A golf club I joinec a while ago told me when I joined that women could be 7 day members but there was only one and they were advised not to bother just be 6 day and save a bit of money, and they could play after the mens competition on a Saturday. That was their working of the equality act ! No wonder women feel like 2nd class citizens at golf clubs, they are still male chauvanist places. Some women dont help either as they like it just as it is, not everyone wants change. The golf club I mentioned has a female general manager. People will always have their own agendas,

      Reply to this comment
  4. SwilkenBurn December 5, 04:42

    The equality act never addressed the issue of men dominating golf clubs especially on Saturdays, the golf clubs got around it. There are some golf clubs where women have equal status and can play in the Saturday comps. Peter Alliss comments that women didnt want it, didnt help, bless him.

    Reply to this comment
  5. LaaTeeDaSports December 4, 14:31

    We agree with Annika and Kari! There is still a long way to go make Golf more appealing to the next generation, especially women. The mission of our company is to be a part of this change for women and we hope to see more and more women out on the course enjoying this amazing game!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Ingrey December 4, 13:18

    Some great points for the growth of our game

    Reply to this comment
  7. Peter December 3, 17:55

    Sadly, in far too many communities still an issue !! In most cases, the fault of Leadership and management !! Club managers must take control of the planning process in designing clubhouses !! The “puppet master” pulling the strings, getting more to the table ( women) and guiding members and professional consultants through a successful project !! The master plan committee, is far too often dominated by men!!!

    Reply to this comment
  8. GaryC December 3, 15:45

    Well said..it all starts with the image our golf clubs have. Please….no more fancy shots of the golf course on our websites! Include images of women, families and youngsters enjoying themselves to create an environment of inclusion that is welcoming.

    Reply to this comment
  9. MGreeves December 3, 15:11

    To be honest, there are plenty that are not that ‘welcoming’ full stop!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Klerkx December 3, 14:35

    It would be nice that each human who steps or is in a clubhouse feels happy and comfortable

    Reply to this comment
  11. Nicole December 3, 12:39

    When I went to the HQ of one of the UK’s leading ‘organisations’ – not long ago I should add – I was astonished to discover an incredible amount of golf photography and memorabilia across it’s walls.

    BUT, not one photo of a woman in any building I went into.

    Reply to this comment
    • Clogg December 3, 17:55

      Hi Nicole
      Please come and visit the RAC in Epsom our walls are full of women golfers and the Lady Captains for the past century line the corridor to the members bar.
      I agree things need to change…….

      Reply to this comment
  12. Pringle December 3, 11:30

    I’ve been Living in Germany now for 42 years ladies golf is 50% of business proshop and lessons
    It’s not Rocket science
    Waken up guys

    Reply to this comment
  13. Ian S December 3, 11:15

    Embrace Equality embrace change it is here Stop turning a Blind eye.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Baxter December 3, 08:57

    Annika is absolutely right ⛳️

    Reply to this comment
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