Posted on July 26, 2016

This month’s Women & Golf discusses the development of the women’s game over the last 25 years, and looks forward to how the game is evolving. The article draws upon a few SMS INC. research projects, such as the Golf Participation report and Golf Actives. See the full article below and get in touch with us for more details about the different types of research we have to offer.

Over the last 25 years and particularly more recently, golf has seen some significant changes that have contributed to women’s golf making headline news, sadly not always in the way we would like with issues of equality overriding performance and results. In 2002 Beverly Lewis became the first female captain of the PGA; there was the introduction of the 2010 Equality Act; in 2014 Carnoustie Links appointed Patricia Sawers as the first female Chairman; in the same year the R&A voted to allow women members, and earlier this year, it was announced that the R&A will merge with the Ladies Golf Union to create one governing body.

Of course, these events don’t have any direct impact on individual female golfers, but they do help to shake off the men-only perception that has been so firmly cemented within the traditions of the game. I’m often asked the question, Are more women playing golf? The answer is twofold. Last year’s Golf Actives survey carried out by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc (SMS Inc) on behalf of the European Tour shows that 9.3m adults and 1.7m children aged 6-17 years-old have had some involvement in playing golf in its various forms. From this figure, 33% of those who have taken part in golf were female.



SMS INC_WomenGolf_May 2016 FINAL

Comparing this to SMS Inc’s Golf Participation by Gender survey, over the last ten years, the total number of female golfers playing on a full-length course in Great Britain remains steady at around 12%. When you look at the data (above), it’s clear where female interest lies – adventure golf, pitch and putt, golf simulator, or perhaps 9-hole golf – because this is fun! Whether it’s making women feel more welcome at golf clubs or encouraging them to take up the game by having a go on a simulator, these are just an example of the contributing factors to the bigger picture of how golf and the way it is played is changing and will continue to do so over the next 25 years. Modern day families have busy lifestyles and as a reflection of this, neither men nor women can always justify the outlay of a golf club membership. Twenty-five years ago any decent club had a waiting list, the interview process was a serious affair, but in general, with ailing memberships, those days are gone and clubs are having to get their acts together to offer flexible membership options. As time is of the essence and given that it takes on average 4 hours to play 18 holes, it’s not surprising that numerous surveys show that 9 holes is favourable and subsequently new formats and competitions have been launched to accommodate this.

And then there’s FootGolf, the game that’s played the same way as golf with the aim being to get the football into the hole in the fewest number of shots. Who would have thought 25 years ago that the game in this form would become such a phenomenon? FootGolf can now be played at nearly 200 venues across the UK and last month The Health Insurance Group announced sponsorship of the UK FootGolf Association’s National Tour. At the other end of the scale, it’s a different story again. BBC commentator and former Ladies European Tour player Maureen Madill said: “When I was playing 25 years ago we had the luxury of having to plan our tournaments – four weeks on, then one week off – but it’s sad that nowadays there is no planning.” Acknowledging that today’s female tour players are better golfers than they were in her day, Maureen added: “They have advanced in everything except recognition and financial remuneration.” From club through to tour level, who knows where this wonderful game is heading, but it will be interesting to find out!


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