Think Only Newbies feel Unwelcome at Golf Courses? Think Again

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Think Only Newbies feel Unwelcome at Golf Courses? Think Again

Golf still has a long way to go to help women feel as welcomed as their male counterparts
Woman Putting on Green

Written By:

Nancy Henderson

Nancy Henderson is the Chief Teaching Officer for the Ladies Professional Golf Association and spearheads the organization's professional development, youth and women's outreach initiatives. Nancy leads the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals membership, the LPGA Foundation, and the LPGA Women's Network.

As someone who grew up around golf and has enjoyed a career in the golf industry, I can honestly say that golf has come a long way for women. Back then, Tuesdays were “Ladies Days,” and were one of the few opportunities available to women to get on the course. The other time open to us was on the weekends (when women could only play after 12 noon).

Despite no longer having to wait around for our designated times to play, there are still unconscious biases that exist against women who play golf. They all may not be inherently obvious, but they leave a lasting impression and subtly communicate that women are either unwanted or simply an afterthought.

While I know that many golf courses want to improve the ways in which they cater to women, I would bet that most of them are not aware of how they subtly discriminate against us. The end result not only leaves a sour taste, but for women who are new to the game, the prospect of them turning away from golf all together is almost certain.

One such experience that illustrates my point occurred not long ago. While on vacation, another female golf professional and I had the chance to stay at renowned resort that had a beautiful golf course associated with property.

As golf professionals on vacation, playing golf didn’t appeal to us, that is until we arrived and caught a glimpse of the course. It was spectacular, even from a distance. Because we hadn’t planned to play golf, we had nothing with us – no golf clubs, shoes, or golf clothes. We figured a quick round of golf would be enjoyable, so we decided to make plans to play.

Sadly, despite being at a world-class facility, our experience was a reminder that no matter how long you’ve been playing golf, or the caliber of where you play, as women we will all face the same biases.

Here is my story…


Golf Experience


Our first order of business was to call the golf course to reserve a tee time. In the golf industry, golf professionals extend special pricing to one another as a courtesy to our counterparts. We identified ourselves as LPGA Professionals but were told that there was not a professional courtesy price for LPGA Teaching and Club Professional members, and that we would need to pay full price.  I mentioned that I was also a PGA member and asked if they had a discount for PGA professionals. I was told the green fee was complimentary for PGA Pros but the LPGA Professional with me had to pay full price.

Considering that both PGA and LPGA Professionals go through equally rigorous certification processes, a golf course not accommodating members of both associations was surprising to hear.

Pro-Shop Experience

When we arrived to the Pro Shop, we knew we’d have to purchase golf gloves, balls, and clothing. With a lengthy list of items to find for each of us, we got to work searching for the things we would need to enjoy our round of golf. What surprised me more than the limited offerings available for women was that no one even bothered to ask us if we needed assistance. We searched the racks and shelves aimlessly, trying to find what would fit.


Once we finished sifting through the racks, we brought our items to the counter to pay and to check-in for our tee-time.  We asked about rental clubs, since we hadn’t traveled with our own. As golfers, who have played competitively for a number of years, we asked for men’s rental clubs since they would be a better fit for our swings. After a major eye roll, we were informed that the course did indeed have rental clubs and that arrangements would be made to bring them down to our golf carts for us.

Cart Attendant

After changing into our new golf clothes, we proceeded down to the cart area. There was a golf cart waiting for us, however the rental clubs were ladies sets. Assuming there was a mix-up, we asked if we could exchange the clubs for men’s clubs. The attendant’s response was: “Now, why would you two fine ladies be needing those?”

After a bit of discussion about swing speed and shaft flex, we convinced him that these two ladies knew what they were talking about, and we finally secured our men’s rental clubs. We gave the attendant a nice tip and headed to the first tee.


We reached the first tee and handed our receipt from the Pro Shop to the starter.  Our tee-time was for 11:10 am and we noticed a group of four men sitting in their carts just ahead. They were assigned the 11:20 am tee-time but had gotten to the tee box just ahead of us. Even though our tee-time was before theirs, and we had just two players, the starter felt obliged to ask the foursome, “Is it ok if these two ladies go ahead of you?”

First Tee

After getting the official “okay” from the group assigned to play after us that it was indeed okay for us to tee off before them, we pulled our golf cart up to the blue tee box. The blue tees for the course measured around 6200 yards (a distance we’ve played from for countless years). In a near panic, the starter began yelling to us that the red tee box (i.e. the “Ladies Tees”) were up farther and that we needed to keep going. We politely waved back and assured him that we had not made a mistake and were in fact where we needed to be. Once my playing partner hit her tee shot (a drive flying easily over 270 yards) and I hit mine, we were not bothered again regarding the tees we “should” be playing.

This is just one of many experiences I’ve faced that have heightened my awareness of how differently women are treated than men on the golf course, and I know I’m not alone.

There are a number biases golf courses have about women that are simply not true, these are just a few:

Myths about Women and Golf

  • Women are poor golfers
  • Women like to “window-shop” but don’t actually buy from the Pro Shop
  • Women don’t tip
  • Women play slowly
  • Women play the forward tees


If nothing else, this experience was a reminder for me that all women who play golf, regardless of playing ability, will face unfair biases and treatment.

Despite this reality, we can take a stand and help move the needle on how male golfers and facilities perceive women in golf. We can start by having conversations and sharing our experiences with one another, and letting the leaders at our local golf courses and golf associations know how we want to be treated.

We can also continue to prove that these “myths” are just that by showing up to the tee box with confidence, knowing that we are exactly where we belong.


Did You Know: There are more than 1,700 women working in the golf industry who are passionate about improving the golfing experience for women. You can find an LPGA Teacher, Coach, or golf course managed by an LPGA Club Professional here.  

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Susan Fogleman

Great article. I have also experienced much of what you spoke of. Nothing better than uncorking a bomb off the blue tee and waving to the boys!

judy willoughby

How ’bout courses using the appropriate “women’s” as opposed to antique “ladies?” It’s not the LPWA is it?


The “L” in LPGA stands for Ladies and Yes, it is not the “LPWA”.

Tiffany Benedetto

Great article Nancy.


I find that the forward tees are generally good enough for the majority of women I play with. If that is very short, we always have the option of moving back to a more appropriate tee box. What I find lacking is the fact that there are no forward tees for senior women like there are senior men. I know quite a few women in their 70s that want to continue to play golf, but the ladies tees are too far back for them. Most of these women are now hitting from the same tee box that their senior husbands… Read more »

Linda K. Young

Aah yes – how well I know. Just happened to me Sunday. I got to the starter who knows me and he said I have another single and asked him if he minded playing with me. They guy hesitated and said he was practicing for a tournament the next day so starter said he could go out in front of me. Starter said ‘he may change his mind when you hit into him a few times’. As it was, the guy was in the woods more than the fairway. Another guy caught up to me (as I was waiting for… Read more »

Cc W

Good for you! It does seem like the guys who don’t want to play with women aren’t good golfers.


Great article. A lot of what she spoke about motivated me to switch from tennis to golf and I now have an online women’s golf apparel store, just so that they can no longer say we aren’t properly dressed. Golf Sophisticate is the name of my site and I now play golf at least once a week with ladies that started off just like me.

Cc W

Sad that LPGA pros are treated so poorly. The whole – can we tee off first crap really fires me up – especially when everyone is waiting because the course is backed up. I’ve had that happen a couple of times, and it usually results in a great round of golf. Every time the guys behind are close enough they see long drives and great shots. I make sure I tell all the guys I play with that women are not the reasons for backed up courses – it is all the men who think they can drive every green,… Read more »

Betsy Larey

Thanks for the good read! Sad that a lot of courses and clubs still don’t get it. My course bends over backwards for our women’s league. I think we have 150 this year with a waiting list to get in. Our Head Pro comes to every meeting and knows each person by name.

Kay Springstroh

While I understand that you are being professional, I would like to know where this happened as I would avoid playing there. Most of the vacation courses I’ve played have treated me and other women with respect but it has been the male customers who are mysoginist. When courses like this are discovered, we should name them. People like this do not change unless you hit them in their wallets. All that the men at this particular courses learned was that these 2 particular women are players and it won’t apply to women playing after them.

Danea Avey

You forgot that in the pro shop the clothing will usually be big enough to fit a 10 year old girl for the large size. There is never anything for women who golf and just happen to fit into larger sizes. Typical for any athletic industry, when you are woman you are expected to fit a certain size or you obviously don’t play. Oh, and if you are bigger, you very obviously do not know what you are doing, nor do you do it well.


I’m not a pro, but multiple club and regional amateur winner and have had that “wrong tees” routine many times, though I don’t play the Blues… They even did it to me at St. Andrews! I do find that when guys see I’m better than 95% of them, things settle down. I still can’t figure out why pro shops buy most of their clothes to fit teenage girls though. :-/