You may think that Annika Sorenstam, as a ten-time major winner, would escape the pitfalls that come with working in a male-dominated world.
As she carves a new career for herself as a golf course designer however, she has learnt only too well the gender stereotypes that continue to preside at all levels of the game.
Annika may be one of the most successful players ever to have graced the fairways, but the Swede recently revealed that she is often overlooked in favour of male designers, with clubs fearing that her courses will be, too ‘short and easy.’
“I don't know where it comes from. I think they just have that predetermined notion of women designing shorter courses, and that's not really what comes to my mind.’ she told CNN Living Golf's Shane O'Donoghue.
Anyone who has played an Annika design will quickly attest otherwise. Her Euphoria layout in South Africa stretches to more than 7,000 yards, while her design at Mission Hills is renowned for being one of the toughest tracks at the extensive Chinese complex.
The challenges that have faced the former World No. 1 make the achievements of the most successful female designer, Cynthia Dye, even more impressive. The American may come from a family of revered golf course architects, but her accomplishment at the recently opened West Cliffs Links in Portugal looks set to cement her name as one of golf’s most accomplished modern-day designers.
Influenced by her uncle Pete, who was behind the likes of Crooked Stick, and Teeth of the Dog, Dye’s latest project has received rave reviews since opening earlier this year, with many positing that West Cliffs will rise to the very top of the European golf course rankings.
Female golf architects may still be in the minority but as co-designer of the Olympic Course in Rio De Janeiro Amy Alcott points out, the world of design has come a long way from 30 to 40 years ago, when male designers viewed women golfers as “afterthoughts”, plonking the women’s tees in front of the men’s without sparing a thought as to how the hole might play from those starting points.
“Setting tees,” says Amy, “has less to do with what sex you are than how far you hit the ball. There are men who ought to be hitting from women’s tees, though you can’t tell them that, and, by the same token, there are women who don’t need to be playing from the very front.’’
“Where I can help,” she continued, “is with my understanding of how women hit the ball and how far. Also, I am strong on aesthetics and how a course flows. I have a good sense of what should be where, which is hardly surprising when I’ve played over 1,000 courses in my career.”
Female greenkeepers may well be the scarcest breed in golf, with most of us able to count on one hand the number of times we've ever seen a woman working out on the course. In an interview featured in the current edition of Women & Golf magazine, Tracey Maddison, the General Manager/Head of Membership Services for the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) bemoaned the lack of women going into the profession.
‘’Unfortunately, greenkeeping remains a very male dominated industry,’’ she confessed. ‘’We only have about 20 female members in total, many of whom who have gone into the role through family members.’’
It's perhaps little surprise that greenkeeping, like many labour-orientated jobs, remains male dominated. Maddison thinks however that the problem lies more with perceptions about the role, rather than the realities of the job.
'There's no reason why women shouldn't go into the profession, and here at BIGGA we're actively encouraging more women to become greenkeepers. It can be a rewarding job, and very different from your normal nine to five. Most girls however never really consider it as future profession, largely because of the mis-conception that it is solely a male domain.''
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