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  • Alistair Tait

Golf’s Chrysalis Moment

The silver lining for golf as a result of Covid-19 has seen a large influx of people taking up the game, either trying it for the first time or returning to it after a hiatus. Question is, how do we retain these players to help grow this great sport, especially women taking up the game?

Karen Harding’s excellent article in Golf Australia magazine provides some answers that should be followed everywhere.

As often noted, women’s participation levels in Great Britain are unacceptably low – perhaps “embarrassingly” is a better word. Women account for just 13% of the golfing populations of England, Scotland and Wales. Far lower than other European countries where percentage numbers for women start with the numeral three.

Harding’s insightful piece describes golf Down Under as a being in a “chrysalis moment” as it relates to women golfers. She writes:

“What do butterflies and women’s golf have in common? ... Butterflies do not evolve from smaller to larger versions of themselves. Rather, they undergo complete metamorphosis from egg to larva (caterpillar) to pupa (chrysalis) before emerging in final form. Women’s sport – of which golf is a sub-species – has also evolved in stages rather than on a continuum.”

As Harding highlights, the ration of women to men is closing, but there is still a long way to go. She outline initiatives Golf Australia is undertaking to entice not only more women to take up the game, but retain those who’ve tried or come back to golf during the pandemic.

“There’s more work to be done. And that’s why we’ve moved from awareness raising to an action-taking phase,” said Chyloe Kurdas, Golf Australia’s Female Engagement Senior Manager.

Harding outlines a number of issues currently being addressed to help more women take up or stay in the game, everything from dress to course setup. The major issue that really needs addressing in my view is the culture of golf.

Golf has been seen as a man’s sport for far too long. In many ways it still is. Take a look at the respective prize monies for women’s and men’s professional golf tournaments and you get an idea of where women sit on the pecking order. The European Tour is currently playing in Ireland for a prize fund of €3 million while the Ladies European Tour’s Big Green Egg Open finished yesterday. The total purse was €200,000.

Yes, we have an awful long way to go.

One important way of levelling up our sport is to see more women in positions of power. Harding writes:

“Across the board, women are engaging in all aspects of the golf industry. But it needs to go further. We need women in leadership roles to be part of making decisions, not just assisting or being the recipient thereof.

There was a wee bit of hype recently when Hannah McAllister became the first female CEO of Wales Golf, joining Karin Sharp in a very small club. Sharp became Scottish Golf’s Chief Operating Officer last year. You have to look far and wide in this game to find women in similar positions of power.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers has made attracting women and girls to golf one of the cornerstones of his tenure in charge of the governing body. Positive moves are in effect as a result that should hopefully see participation levels grow. We are getting there but it’s taking eons with still a long way to go.

Golf’s “chrysalis moment” seems sure to last longer than it takes a butterfly to emerge blinking into the world.

#JustSaying: “It is to their presence as spectators that the most serious objection must be taken. If they could abstain from talking while you are playing, and if the shadow of their dresses would not flicker on the putting green while you are holing out, other objections perhaps might be waived. If they volunteer to score, they may and probably will score wrong.” Lord Moncrief, 1890

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