Girls under the age of 18 represent the fastest growing sector in the U.S. golf population since 2010, and more than 60,000 girls were engaged last year by the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf initiative, a staggering increase of 1,000 percent since the Founders Cup was launched in 2011.
The LPGA*USGA Girls Golf program, which began in Phoenix in 1989, specializes in providing a “girl-friendly” environment for juniors to learn and play the game of golf and the program has expanded to nearly 400 sites across the United States, with more than 50 new locations being added just this year.
“We learned early on with Girls Golf that if you let young women come together in an all-girls environment, they begin to really enjoy the game and the retention rate is unbelievable,” says LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan.
More than 40 members of the LPGA and Symetra Tours kick-started their golf careers at a Girls Golf program, including Cheyenne Woods, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Mariah Stackhouse, Vicky Hurst, and Kathleen Ekey.
Girls are getting the message that golf can be both welcoming and fun. Over the last 20 years, the growth of girls’ golf in the U.S. has far outpaced that of the boys. In 1995, girls made up only 17% of all junior golfers — today they total one-third, according to the National Golf Foundation.
There has been similar growth in the numbers of non-white junior golfers in the U.S. during that time. Twenty years ago, only 1 out of 17 junior players was non-Caucasian, according to the NGF. Today, that number is nearly 1 out of 3.
Today’s emerging golfers are coming to the game at a much younger age in the U.S. where there are 50% more junior players under 12 than there were in 1995. The NGF’s research also found that Millennials who started playing before the age of 14 are nearly twice as likely to become regular golfers than players who picked up the game at a later stage.
Junior golf has increased in participation by 600,000 from 2011 to 2015, according to a study by the Sports Industry Association. This is the largest jump in total volume compared to other youth sports such as soccer, basketball, football, and baseball.