Wanted: More Women in Golf

Solving a complex problem takes more than understanding and sharing research. It takes a team with a collective wisdom, a strategy and a united industry effort that has delivered at the grassroots.

The golf membership trend

Golf clubs experienced steady membership growth in the 70s, 80s and 90s. In 1970 there were around 303,000 playing members. This grew to a peak of 500,000 in 1998. The dominance of Greg Norman is often cited as the major contributor to the growth. During the 80s and 90s “the Great White Shark” was winning countless PGA tour events, holding the number one ranking for a combined 331 weeks.

But something can be overlooked during these decades. The number of female golfers hardly grew at all. In 1970, there were around 103,000 female members, or 34% of all members. By golf’s peak in 1998, the number of female members had crept only to 106,000. The percentage of female golfers had dropped to 21%.

So, what else was happening?

A big factor was women in the workforce. In the 1970s, more women began entering higher education which increased their participation in the workforce. At the same time, male participation rates in the workforce entered a long period of decline. These trends continued into the 80s, 90s and 2000s, along with the lowering of the birth rate.

Today, there are around 312,000 male and 78,000 female playing members; a 80:20 ratio. Whilst golf remains the most popular club sport for adults, today there are many more casual golfing options that appeal to people seeking variety, or who have less time to commit to a membership. AusPlay reported in 2016 there were 1,022,127 adults who participated in some form of golf at least once.

The research

We know golf has many inherent qualities to attract females. Perhaps not surprisingly the key drivers are social and health benefits, fun and enjoyment rather than competition. Research by the Australian Sports Commission in 2013 found that 1.3 million women in Australia would consider participating in golf in the next 12 months. So how do we, as an industry, tap into these motivators and attract more women to golf?

The gathering

In April 2018, a Vision 2025 Steering Group was formed to oversee and contribute recommendations to Vision 2025.

Vision 2025 is a blueprint that sets out how golf in Australia can become a sport where women and girls are inspired to participate, welcomed, nurtured and developed to achieve their goals.

The group is charged with monitoring the implementation of Vision 2025, providing recommendations on initiatives to grow female participation, influencing its members and constituents, supporting the strategy and communicating its progress.

Year one priorities will be to focus on inclusion and encouraging clubs to consider ways that they can become more friendly and accessible to women and girls:

  • focus on culture and leadership
  • lay the foundations for success
  • prompt nationwide stakeholder engagement and whole of sport approach
  • seek commitment from all key golf bodies to support the vision
  • educate in the area of equal opportunity and the importance of diversity
  • undertake benchmarking to establish robust baseline data
  • complete an audit of clubs and facilities

In future, the priorities will extend to encouraging more women into golf coaching and leadership positions within club boards and golf administration.

Clubs can begin the conversation now. For a start, attracting more women to golf club boards starts with creating an environment which makes a woman’s work on a board a positive experience. When boards commit to good governance these favourable conditions are enhanced. The governance fundamentals e-learning course is a perfect induction for woman considering or commencing a board position.

Visit the governance fundamentals e-learning course website.

For more information on the Vision 2025 Women and girls in golf strategy, contact Chyloe Kurdas at Golf Australia chyloeK@golf.org.au.

GMA Corporate Partners