Words by Phoebe Torrance, Women’s Golf and Development Manager, Metropolitan Golf Club, Australia
Despite historical and well-documented gender imbalances in the sport, golf is booming across all ages, abilities and genders. In 2020, more women and younger people played golf compared to the previous year – a testament to the efforts and initiatives from organisations around the world working hard to further the game of golf.
By creating positive change for all and taking a more collective approach to tackling the persistent, yet decreasing, gender imbalance in the sport, some of golf’s leading organisations are championing the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’.
Launched in 2018, the R&A Women in Golf Charter has been a catalyst for improving women’s representation within golf, not only from the perspective of participation but also as a mechanism to encourage more women to pursue a professional career in the sport, across all areas of the industry.
As signatories of the charter, golf clubs and organisations (which includes the Confederation of Professional Golf, the Ladies European Tour, European Tour and many amateur federations) recognise the need for positive change for women in golf, and have pledged their support to induce such change.
Whilst there is a focus on increasing the number of women playing golf at grassroots level, the Women in Golf Charter also places emphasis on organisations to incorporate into their thinking a drive to create further opportunity for women in the workplace as well.
Without greater female representation across the industry, which will provide a greater number of female role models, younger generations will inevitably struggle to see a future career in the golf industry. Furthermore, provoking a change in culture and attitude to inclusivity is significantly more achievable if more women have the opportunity to hold senior, decision-making roles in the industry.
Overall, the charter is a statement of intent that brings accountability to golf clubs and other organisations when driving this change. It will ultimately help to bring a significant number of people together, united by the goal of improving the game for women and girls.
Working alongside the charter, the R&A recently introduced their #FOREveryone campaign as a creative movement to help unite golf clubs through a common goal and encourage them to pledge their support to the Women in Golf Charter.
#FOREveryone provides clubs and facilities with knowledge, resources and a comprehensive toolkit that will help them to take further action and, in time, increase the number of women playing golf.
This movement is gaining significant and exciting momentum, with many golf clubs making their own pledges to the Women in Golf Charter. With further uptake and more golf clubs making substantial internal changes, the campaign has the capacity to change the face of golf and inclusivity in the sport significantly.
PGA of Canada
To ensure the game of golf is both diverse and inclusive, the PGA of Canada (a CPG Member Country) has taken a number of measures to highlight and further encourage diversity across its membership and organisation.
This has included some incredible content and storytelling that promotes women’s golf and female members of the PGA of Canada. On 1 June, the organisation saw Women’s Golf Day as the perfect opportunity to highlight female members across the country and produced a short video featuring 14 female PGA of Canada members, each discussing what golf means to them.
In addition, the CPG member country has taken a number of other measures that highlight and promote inclusion, including the addition of two new awards at their annual prize-giving: ‘The Brooke Henderson Female Player of the Year Award’, given to the top performing female player in national and regional events, and ‘The Lorie Kane Award’, given to the winner of one of the PGA of Canada’s National Championships.
Changes have also been seen at a structural level, with regulatory amendments being made in 2019 to ensure that women can participate in all of the organisation’s national championships (at a yardage of 86-88% the length of male competitors).
The Ladies European Tour
As the leading professional tour across Europe, the Ladies European Tour (LET) plays a crucial role in providing opportunity for elite female golfers to compete and showcase the sport to global audiences. In 2021, this will include a schedule comprising approximately 30 tournaments in multiple countries such as Sweden, Japan, the USA and Italy.
Aside from its main tournament schedule, the LET has also ensured that it provides a strong development journey for its member professionals with the introduction of its Ladies European Tour Access series (LETAS) in 2010.
As the equivalent to the men’s Challenge Tour, LETAS has provided aspiring women golfers aged 18 and above and with a handicap 2 or less with more competitive opportunities and a supported pathway onto mainstream LET events.
More recently, the LET has taken strong action in ensuring sustainability and stability was added to its schedule, announcing a ground-breaking partnership with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
By coming together and collaborating with the LPGA, the two major professional tours have been able to combat reducing season lengths and create a thriving schedule for elite women to compete on a full-time basis.
The organisation’s visual rebrand and new slogan ‘Raise Our Game’, also hopes to inspire young women to achieve their goals and share its desire to continue driving women’s golf forward.
Whilst this strategy aims to inspire women and girls, it also acknowledges the importance of those who surround and support women in golf, including tournament promoters, sponsors, friends, family and the media, all of which play important roles in creating a thriving sport at the elite level.
As an equipment manufacturer, PING have long been advocates and pioneers for encouraging greater inclusivity and the number of women playing and working in golf.
Just last year, PING announced Lisa Lovatt as the new Managing Director for its European division. Having been at the organisation since 1994, Lovatt is now responsible for driving the company forward and becomes one of the leading female figures in the industry.
Another of PING’s most significant contributions has been its relationship with the Solheim Cup – the women’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup, named in honour of Karsten and Louise Solheim, the founders of Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, which makes PING equipment.
The Solheim Cup combines the game’s traditions with passion for one’s country and continent. This biennial, transatlantic team match-play competition features the 12 best European players from the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the 12 best US players from the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.
Since 1990, both teams have come together over three days of competition to provide audiences with a mix of fierce rivalry, shot-making skills and significant exposure for the women’s game.
But the opportunities for women do not stop at senior level. To ensure girls under the age of 18 are provided with the same level of experience and opportunity, the PING Junior Solheim Cup was introduced in 2002. Like the Junior Ryder Cup, this has enabled the event to take full advantage of its position as the most coveted trophy in women’s golf and foster further appetite and desire for girls to enjoy the game.
Changing the Face of Women’s Golf
The impact many leading organisations are having on inclusivity in golf is clear to see.
Historically, golf has come under fire and faced many challenges when it comes to the point of inequality. The sport is in a completely different position now thanks to pioneering organisations such as PING, the Ladies European Tour and the PGA of Canada. As a collective, they are positively showcasing the game to far greater audiences and are bringing about fundamental changes for women to play and enjoy the sport in greater numbers.
As Chief Executive of The R&A, Martin Slumbers said at the launch of the Women in Golf Charter: “We are changing the face of golf across the globe, for the betterment of our sport”.