Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Do women have to dress up to play golf?

By Mary Armstrong

FOR THE SUN-NEWS published 02/18/2012

Acouple of weeks ago, I noticed an article that was in the March issue of Golf Digest. The article de­tails an “experiment” in which golf writer Peter Finch accompanied LPGA Tour player Kim Hall on a trip to Chicago equipped with golf clubs of different quality, a makeup artist, and several sets of golf clothes.

First let me say that I am not targeting any of the cours­es here in Las Cruces. My per­sonal experience is always positive at our facilities. This article, as was the intent of Finch’s piece, is to examine why the golf industry has been such a miserable failure in getting women interested in the game. I’ve been hearing that women are the largest untapped market since I start­ed my business 22 years ago.  There has been progress, but certainly not in the magnitude that the potential indicates.

Finch and Hall didn’t intro­duce themselves as “writer and golf pro.” They didn’t even admit to knowing each other — in essence, they were “undercover.” The pur­pose of their assignment was to determine if a woman’s ap­pearance had anything to do with her treatment at a given golf course.

If you’re an experienced fe­male player, about now you’re saying, “Tell me some­thing I don’t already know.” As their little experiment shows, a woman that is young, beautiful, and dresses a little provocatively will have no problem getting ac­cepted by a threesome of men. I also know that if you are a good player but a little frumpy, the group won’t wel­come you until you’ve played a hole or two. If, however, you are an average player with an average figure, you won’t be easily accepted and may be turned down. It is on­ly after you show that you won’t slow the group down that you’ll be tolerated and perhaps embraced as a part of the foursome. However inter­esting the article might be, and I acknowledge my inter­est, I don’t think it gets to the root of the problem and most certainly doesn’t provide any solutions.

Golf Digest Editor in Chief Jerry Tarde received mounds of mail on the article, but the one that struck me as the most insightful was from Massachusetts PGA Profes­sional Sue Shapcott. Besides being an ex-tour player (Asian and European), she has served as the director of instruction at Dallas’ most popular public course. From her teaching success, she went on to Arizona State for a masters in educational psy­chology, emphasizing educa­tion and motivation.

Most people (me included) talk about the emotional issues surrounding women in golf; few have given us real princi­ples on which to base a solu­tion. Shapcott’s Masters thesis addressed that very subject, and her letter to Tarde was concise, direct and logical.

Her thesis indicates that women explain their golf per­formances in maladaptive ways. Basically, this means that women often do things to avoid the anxiety they experi­ence in a golf setting — like avoiding the pro shop. We al­so usually perceive ourselves as significantly less successful than male golfers. These be­haviors lead to a lack of moti­vation. In other words, who wants play golf if you don’t feel comfortable there? It’s really as simple as that.

But Shapcott goes on to say that the lack of women in “ex­pert” roles reduces the motiva­tion of women to play golf. The same can probably be said for other golf minorities as well. Less than 4% of “expert” roles are filled by women.

Shapcott’s letter to Tarde is written in “research-ese,” so breaking it down into com­mon language may somewhat diminish the specificity of what she has to say, at least according to her. As an exam­ple, she states, “Female role models also break down the incongruence with women’s female identity and golf, and increase the likelihood of women feeling golf is some­thing for them.” What she seems to be saying is, “If women had more role mod­els, they would more readily see that it is possible for them to feel comfortable in the golf scene.” (I learned how to in­terpret “research-ese” when I was in graduate school from Drs. Goss and Mexal — by the way, their battle against “research-ese” is failing, I’m afraid).

Personally, I’m a little tired of this battle — the one con­cerning acceptance of women in golf. After all, it’s golf’s loss. If they can’t figure it out, they probably just don’t care enough. Shapcott goes on to say that she has had a difficult time getting funding for her research.

“When I started my re­search at Arizona State Uni­versity, I applied to governing bodies of golf for funding. Each organization told me that funding was unavailable.  I submitted my master’s thesis results to the golf industry’s organizations — with sugges­tions on how the findings can inform how we teach female golfers to increase their moti­vation and persistence — and received no feedback.”

’Nuff said. Now, perhaps Shapcott’s “bedside manner” isn’t the best — I really don’t know, but that still wouldn’t excuse a lack of funding for this kind of baseline research.

Handa Women’s Australian Open

A rare six way playoff de­cided the event last Sunday.  On the second playoff hole, American Jessica Korda scored a birdie to win the sudden death decision. It is rare that we see more than three players in a playoff, and when the LPGA ruled that the six women would be split up into two threesomes by draw­ing numbered tees, it struck me as odd that they wouldn’t all play together. A call to the LPGA headquarters didn’t get to the rules officials involved in that decision, but the con­sensus was that a total of 12 people jaunting down the fairway and surveying the green would be just too con­gested. I also spoke with Don­na Sauve, Sun Country Ama­teur Golf Association USGA rules official and she quoted a paragraph from the USGA publication, “How to conduct a competition.” Basically, it is consistent with the LPGA’s ruling in that anytime there is to be a playoff of five or more players, the group will be split into groups of no more than 4 players each.

To see Peter Finch’s full ar­ticle, go to 2012-03/women.

To see Shapcotts full letter to Tarde, Google: Sue Shap­cott golf digest.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Mary Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http:// roadholeshorts17.


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