How golf is becoming a Family Affair

With the Women in Golf Charter now launched, a research project from The R&A reckons this could be a defining year for the sport…

With more events, dedicated participation initiatives and coaching activities available than ever before, opportunities certainly knock for females of all ages and abilities in 2018 to get into golf.

While many of us are aware of the statistics – women and girls’ golf in the UK lags behind other European countries at only 14% of club membership in Great Britain and Ireland – there is a new feelgood factor about the game that could inspire more female golfers onto the fairways.
“I do see a change, everyone seems to be working hard to encourage women and girls into golf,” said Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell, a consistent Ladies European Tour (LET) performer. “There seems to be a lot of initiatives, like #ThisGirlGolfs.

“At golf events, you also see more juniors coming along, especially at the LET events where there are clinics for the girls and other activities. It’s good they are getting access to players at an early age to see what a girl can go and do. When I was growing up, I didn’t really have that access to pros.”

The inaugural Girls Under-16 Open Championship, staged at Fulford at the end of April, offered further optimism. Then there was the inspiration of Jenni Falconer, a working mum and beginner golfer, spreading her new love for the sport to her large social media audience through a tie up with the PGAs of Europe.

The TV and radio presenter handled her nerves to play in the Golf Sixes Pro-Am, which this year offered an innovative mixed event featuring Charley Hull and Georgia Hall. “It’s a brilliant new sport for me, I’ve enjoyed it so much and this is only the beginning,” she said.
“I hope that more women and girls come and take up golf too.

It’s time out, away from all other stresses, in the fresh air and as much as it tests your patience when things go wrong, it also gives you the greatest buzz when things go right.”

New R&A-endorsed research illustrates how important the role of the mother can be to capitalise on the significant growth opportunity that exists for golf if it can attract more women, girls and families.
The research report analyses the factors which can increase whole family participation in the sport, including women and girls, and details a number of useful practical recommendations for national golf bodies and clubs to help encourage more women and girls to play.

The R&A commissioned the International Institute for Golf Education, based at the University Centre Myerscough, to carry out the research.

The key themes identified in the report, which was produced by Dr John Fry and Philip Hall, include: The importance of establishing the optimum environment for family participation by being aware of the changing needs of the ‘modern family’

There is a direct link between equality in sports participation and wider measures of gender equality, such as the number of women in influential decision-making positions at various levels in golf 

Parents are the chief factor underpinning families’ likelihood to play golf and that their motivations for their children taking part include having fun, improving health and developing friendships – not on competition “The report brings together for the first time in one place the key academic and industry research articles conducted on family sports participation,” said Fry.

“The process involved searching scientific databases containing more than one million citations, peer-reviewed research papers and selecting the most appropriate evidence based studies that can help underpin strategies to increase participation in golf.”

The research is supplemented with case studies of best practice, analysis from a number of industry experts and offers a series of practical actions which golf clubs can adopt.

“Notably, the traditional method of golf does not meet the needs of the modern family,” added Fry. “We have a new consumer looking for quick access and smaller versions of sport. Clubs and facilities have to meet their needs, with the role of the mother and parents also very important.”

Pretswell certainly feels the sport is evolving, adding: “My dad played off scratch when he was younger, so he really helped me, but at the same time my mum and my brother played golf as well, so we could all go as a family which made it fun. But there are now more mums who have access to golf and can take a bigger interest.

“We perhaps think it is harder than it is to attract female players to golf, but if clubs offer the right product and opportunities,
like family memberships or memberships for those under the age of 30, then there is a great potential for the sport.”


Key statistics and trends

  • There are thought to be as many as 36.9 million latent female golfers around the world
  • Latent female golfers are worth up to $35 billion to the golf industry.
  • The main reasons given for non-participation in golf are cost (37%), the impact of family responsibilities (30%) and the amount of time taken to play (17%) (Syngenta, 2016)
  • Female PGA and trainee PGA professionals make up less than 3% of all PGA pros in Great Britain and Ireland (Kitching, 2017)

By Marie J. Taylor

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