Can we be honest for a moment?
Am I alone in feeling that golf has been pale, stale, and male for too long? I hope not.
Growing up and playing golf as a little black girl in suburbia, I got pretty used to being one of the very few people who looked like me. I can tell you that if I had been subject to playing weekend golf exclusively with stereotypical golfers, I would have given up golf to begrudgingly learn the piano like my grandmother always dreamed I would.
I’m a proud member of the Tiger Woods generation, a group of young golfers who (at least for me) was no longer embarrassed to carry their clubs on the school bus because it was now “cool” to be the black girl who knew how to play golf. There was a year in junior high school that I actually dressed in Tiger’s signature, red and black Sunday ensemble, coupled with a Nike logoed hat, and trick-or-treated as Tiger Woods for Halloween.
My pursuit of golf was thanks to more than just the inspiration of Tiger. I was a member of a local junior program for minority golfers, and I participated at an LPGA*USGA Girls Golf site which gave me a tribe of my own, kids my age, who looked like me and loved Tiger Woods and the Spice Girls as much as I did.
As important as Tiger, Se Ri Pak, and Lorena Ochoa are as influencers for non-stereotypical golfers like myself, they’re just a piece of the puzzle. Optics are important at every level, particularly for those who could be potentially turned on to the game. Seeing people who look like you, whether playing professionally on television or simply enjoying the game at your local course, sends important, psychological cues that communicate belonging and assurance that this sport is for you too.
As a millennial, an African American, and a woman (a “triple-threat” if you will 🙂 ), I can say with confidence that golf’s most urgent need is to change the widely held perception of our sport’s exclusivity, which has far more to do with perceptions and barriers to entry than physically preventing someone from participating.
My hope for golf is that the demographics I see walking through the aisles of my grocery store will soon be mirrored on the fairways of my local golf course to include more women, families, millennials, and people of color.
Golf is making progress thanks to groups initiating change at the grass-roots level – golf claps to LPGA*USGA Girls Golf, Black Girls Golf, Women with Drive, TopGolf and Adaptive Golf to name a few. They’re each creating new visual cues and offering supportive environments that are driving more women, millennials and people of color to experience the game.
Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. There is a now a higher sense of awareness that if golf doesn’t work hard – and work hard quickly – to become more inclusive, the sport will fail to keep up with cultural shifts.
If that pressure is felt by the likes of Augusta National, who recently announced their decision to host a woman’s event on their course just six years after finally admitting female members, I think we can all be more hopeful for the future.
This month we’ll be examining the power of inclusiveness in golf, exploring stories of women and groups who are working to make change, and opening up conversations centered around how we can each contribute towards making golf a more welcoming space for people of all backgrounds.
Tell us what changes you’d like to see to help welcome more groups of people to join in. Let’s get the discussion started in the comments section below.