Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Commentary: Has golf embraced women?

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 06/08/2010 03:17:53 PM MDT

The weekly Golf Journal column by John Paul Newport in the Wall Street Journal titled “Golf’s Search for its Feminine Side” draws on studies and research from the last few years. The most recent study “The Right Invitation: A Comprehensive Research Study to Guide the Golf Industry to Meaningfully Increase Women’s Golf Participation and Satisfaction” is by the National Golf Course Owners Association.

I could stretch this article out — talk about how women experience golf differently than men, how there are different things that women value in a golfing experience — but let’s just lay it on the line. Golf doesn’t care. Ladies, we have to face it. We are not in the power position in this society — not even close. For the guys, I think it’s just become the way things are and why make an effort to change it?

Here is what some of my women golfer friends thought about Mr. Newport’s article:

“In Las Cruces and El Paso there are no stores that sell women’s equipment. Our pro shop has just begun to carry some attractive women’s clothing, but has more men’s attire, as do Sonoma and NMSU. I do not believe that either place or the golf store in town has demos for the ladies to try.”

“I would love to play on a little shorter course that would make my score much better and therefore more fun.”

“The young women play in college, then stop to build their careers and family. When their kids get older and their careers are established, many come back. Some don’t.

Men often use golf to build their careers. There is definitely a gap in there.””I do believe that most older, and the higher-handicap, women golfers have a hard time going to a course as a single and playing with other people/strangers for fear that they will get paired up with a male. Sometimes if he is fairly good, women are afraid that the man will think the woman will hold them up. There are some men today that will refuse to play with a woman.”

“Men don’t understand it when women ‘collect’ around they’re playing partner for her to hit her shot. Boys, it’s because when women feel threatened or uncomfortable, and especially when it has to do with men, they tend to gather ’round to support each other.”

And this final comment from my friend in New Hampshire:”The last issue, and probably the most important, has to do with respect. It is not just golf courses that don’t know how to deal with women. It is, unfortunately, a cultural problem. I know a couple of men who should move up a set of tees. They would enjoy themselves so much more. They don’t because of the comments from the other men. And don’t get me started on the looks I get when I get paired up with men I don’t know while traveling.”Granted, all women aren’t overwhelmed by the game and having to deal with a male dominated facility.

Since coming to Las Cruces, I’ve had very positive experiences at all the courses. On the other hand, here as well as other places around the country, I’ve seen women completely turned off by their golfing experience.Province Lake Golf Club in Parsonsfield, Maine (I’ve played it several times) tripled rounds played by women. How’d they do it? Oh sure, they altered their facility — adding tees to produce appropriate-length holes, included restrooms on the course and provided access to all the features that men take for granted. I mean REALLY, why can’t there be a wastebasket or ball washer near the women’s tees?

But it’s about a lot more than physical adjustments. According to Nancy Berkley, a noted consultant on women and golf, it’s about attitude. When a woman walks into a pro shop is she getting the customer service that is going to result in her playing your course? The male dominated gatekeepers of golf intimidate many women. From the person taking green fees behind the counter to the bag-boys, marshals and starters, it’s 99 percent male. Is it purposeful? Is this just a remnant of our fading patriarchal society? Maybe, but I prefer to think that men are just panic-stricken by women golfers. Think about it — men are from Mars, right? If it’s not important enough for them to figure out how to get along with us in relationships, why in the world will they want to help you decide if you need a Precept Lady IQ plus or a Titlest Pro V1x?I’m not writing this to bash you guys. We understand that you like to have your all-men’s moments.

We like to have our all-women’s moments too. Thing is, there’s not many women-owned courses.Then there’s always the sexual tension issue. It’s difficult in our society for men and women to interact and communicate clearly in an “unchaperoned” setting. Think about the last time you were in line at the grocery store. If you were by yourself and there was a man or woman behind or in front of you, did you feel comfortable striking up a casual “this line is sure slow” type conversation? I’ll bet not. Women are afraid we’ll be perceived as offering ourselves up as a willing partner, and men are afraid she will think he is hitting on her.

But in American society isn’t capitalism the last word? If it can make money then societal nuances be damned? Apparently not for golf. Women have been looked upon as a “vast untapped market” for well over 10 years. The sad and telling truth is that we still are.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. 

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