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…
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.
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.
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?”
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
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.