GCMA speaks to Carin Koch, 2015 European Solheim Cup Captain and Syngenta Golf Ambassador about Syngenta’s recent market research report The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female participation. Carin will join the Keynote Session: Here Come The Girls: Value of the Female Golfer: Review of the Syngenta Study at the 2015 GCMA Conference at St George’s Park, which will explain what golf venues can do to attract more women into the game.
What inspired you to take up golf?
It was my father who initially inspired me to take up golf. He took me to my local golf course when I was around eight or nine and I was fortunate that there was a great junior programme and coaching available to me and I just fell in love with the game.
What we found though was my mother was a little envious of the time my father and I were spending together, so she decided to take up the game to be with us and is now the keenest golfer of us all. That is what I enjoy most about golf, the fact it is fun and can be family-friendly.
I now find that it is the same with my family, as my children are now playing regularly, so when I am not on tour we tend to spend a lot of time out on the course as a family.
Which country do you think offers the most welcoming golfing environment for females?
My home country of Sweden has, for many years, been very welcoming to anyone who wants to play golf. With around 450 courses and more than 470,000 golfers, the participation levels have remained high for some time and the game’s popularity in the country is reflected in the number of talented female golfers that have come from Sweden over the past 30 years.
In addition, female participation in golf across Asian countries such as South Korea and China continues to grow. China has an almost equal split between male and female golfers and when you visit the country you realise that this is predominantly because they don’t have the same traditions and rules as older golfing nations – the game doesn’t have that old look and feel to it. So there are definitely things established golfing nations, such as the UK, can learn from countries where the game is emerging.
What do you think the keys are to successfully improving the UK’s relatively poor ratio of female golfers?
I think there is now some real momentum in the UK around encouraging more women to try golf, but there is still more that can be done. The good news is that Syngenta’s research has highlighted what drives women’s interest in sport, why so many active women are very interested in taking up golf [up to 640,000 in the UK, according to the research] and what clubs and courses can do to make themselves more female-friendly.
There continues to be a number of issues that can put women off about golf, including those who have expressed a strong interest in taking up the game. Intimidation created by masculine, male-dominated club culture is one of those factors and clubs in the UK should think about this. There is also a common perception that you have to be a member of a club just to learn the game, and that’s not the case – there are some really excellent introductory coaching schemes out there. Also, dress codes are an issue. I often wear my jeans to pop into my club in Sweden, but that’s not something you can do at many clubs in the UK. The research shows that spending time with family and friends, socialising outdoors and stress relief are the things that appeal to women about golf, and these are the factors the golf industry needs to take into consideration.
The Syngenta research offers a great toolkit for golf club managers – are you seeing clubs successfully implementing their findings?
There are a number of really positive stories from golf clubs throughout the UK, where female participation schemes have been successfully implemented. For example, I was involved with National Golf Month in May and the launch event was held at Wimbledon Common Golf Club. The Ladies Academy it has created is a wonderful example of how making a golf club more female-friendly can positively impact on membership numbers in a very short period of time.
Another example I am aware of is Maidenhead Golf Club in Berkshire, which has successfully launched a beginner-to-member women’s golf academy. The scheme helped to bridge the gap between introductory coaching and full club membership, while helping all of the women to feel comfortable within the clubhouse, which was one of the key barriers identified by Syngenta’s market research.
These two great examples show how successfully introducing a female academy can have a positive effect on golf in the UK if more clubs implement the findings from Syngenta’s report.
How important is the Solheim Cup in inspiring girls to take up the game?
The Solheim Cup is the biggest event in the women’s game and provides the perfect opportunity to showcase golf to a global audience. It is our chance to really be the ambassadors for our sport and to show the world how great the players are and how exciting women’s golf is.
The need for positive role models is hugely important for women’s golf and I feel that with players such as Charley Hull playing at such a high level at a young age and with the opportunity The Solheim Cup provides as a global stage, the future for the game of golf looks positive.
I hope clubs in the UK will use the opportunity to reach out to their local communities and communicate what’s on offer for females.
What would be your message to any women or girls who aren’t sure if golf is for them?
My advice for anybody, female or male, who is thinking about taking up golf for the first time would be to just give it a try. I was lucky to have taken the game up when I was a child, but it is a sport that can be enjoyed and learnt at any age. Golf is a healthy, social, outdoor sport and I’d encourage women to get together with friends and family and experience for themselves what a wonderful game for life golf is.
- Carin Koch is an Ambassador for Syngenta. To download Syngenta’s free golf market research reports and to watch case study videos of golf courses successfully recruiting new golfers, visit www.greencast.co.uk
- Carin will take part in the Keynote Session, Here Come The Girls: Value of the Female Golfer: Review of the Syngenta Study, at the GCMA Conference at St George’s Park, Burton upon-Trent, on November 17. Book your place now.
By Mike Hyde