By Alison Root
At the Golf Club Managers’ Association conference, 15-17 November, I was one of the speakers for a keynote presentation and panel discussion on female golf participation in the UK.
I was joined by Syngenta golf ambassador Carin Koch, Rod Burke, Syngenta Marketing Manager Turf and Vegetation Management EAME, former GCMA Golf Club Manager of the Year Emma Clifford, and PGA Professional Alastair Spink from Fynn Valley Golf Club in Suffolk.
The panel discussion was preceded by a presentation from Rod Burke on the findings of Syngenta’s market research report ‘The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female Participation,’ that was released earlier this year and offers clubs insights and solutions on how to engage new women golfers.
This research highlights the wants and needs of the modern day golfer and it was pleasing to so many club managers in the UK recognising this with a view to implementing change.
One discussion point featured Alastair Spink’s new pilot initiative called Love Golf. Based on case studies and Syngenta’s industry research, Alastair believes that it’s important to allow female beginners to get out on the golf course under supervision as soon as possible. “Here’s a club, here’s a ball, go and have fun.” It’s an attitude that should help to retain interest rather than initially putting ladies through a series of lessons and asking them to adhere to lots of rules and regulations.
A lot of women interested in playing golf already participate in another sport or are generally active, therefore they want a part of the action straight away. If you join a tennis club, you’re not asked to make a 50 stroke rally before you’re allowed on a tennis court!
While I voiced my opinion in support of Love Golf, as you can imagine, there were some raised eyebrows. Yes, it’s not for all and it will be a challenge for traditional golf clubs as they will need to gain the full support of current members for this type of initiative to work, but surely it’s worth a try, as most clubs are not attracting a great number of new female members under current methods.
Love Golf has been well received so far by the golf clubs trialling this programme including Aldwickbury Park in Hertfordshire, where Emma Clifford is Club Manager. There has already been a take up by a group of women interested in learning the game and the club recognises the potential revenue that can be generated.
In Sweden approximately 26% of golfers are female, compared with the UK that amounts to 13%, however, Sweden is also looking to encourage more women to play. Carin Koch described a Swedish Golf Federation initiative tagged ‘Vision 50:50’ to get more women into club management positions to influence club operations and female and family appeal.
There are no easy answers, but with such a strong focus on the women’s game, let’s hope the potential women golfers that are out there will joining clubs in 2016.
To download a free copy of The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female Participation, visit www.greencast.co.uk/uk/growing-golf