The litany of opportunities being created across the country this season is enough to have us questioning whether 2018 could, in fact, be a game-changing year for women’s golf?
Written by Becky Gee
If you’re in any doubt over the enormous potential of the women’s game, then a look at the leaderboard following the Girls Under 16 Open Championship last weekend should quickly change your opinion. The inaugural event was held at Fulford Golf Club, where 90 of Europe's best young golfers competed in spectacular form.
Rosie Bee Kim, a ten-year-old golf prodigy from Buckinghamshire, Maggie Whitehead a two-time British Kids Champion, and Elena Moosmann, a +3.5 handicapper from Switzerland, were just three of the exciting young players in the enormously talented field, with victory being secured in a dramatic fashion when Scotland's Hannah Darling holed a closing 40-foot birdie putt to seal the deal.
The event, launched as part of the R&A’s new drive to boost junior girls’ golf in Great Britain and Ireland, was just the tip of the iceberg in a year where the organisation is putting their focus firmly on increasing women's golf participation.
In fact, the litany of opportunities being created across the country this season is enough to have us questioning whether 2018 could, in fact, be a game-changing year for women’s golf?
Alongside the additional resources being made available, the R&A appears to be making a conscious step to break away from old traditions and customs that have long served as barriers preventing women and girls from getting into the sport.
Handicap limits are to be increased in a bid to make the game more accessible, rules are to be scaled back in a quest to encourage players of all abilities to get golfing, and nine-hole competitions are being introduced to help speed up the sport.
For an organisation that in relative terms only recently voted to allow female members, the recent changes are incredibly encouraging.
It’s impossible not to mention the R&A’s new push for equality without talking about the governing body’s merger with the Ladies Golf Union, which came into effect on 1 January 2017.
No longer merely an exclusive male institution, the R&A appear to be relishing their new status as an umbrella organisation for amateur golf, and with more funds and a greater profile afforded to the women’s game, it can surely only mean positive things in the months and years ahead.
The drive to get women golfing is being replicated across the sport’s other governing bodies. England Golf has teamed up celebrities and non-golfers with large social media followings, including notable health bloggers Cat Meffan and Madeleine Shaw, in a rebranded Get into Golf campaign, designed to attract new audiences into the sport. Wales Golf has also achieved notable success with their New2Golf Scheme.
Meanwhile, the R&A’s concerted effort to grow the game comes just weeks before the third annual Women’s Golf Day on June 5, 2018, the worldwide celebration of the game which last year saw events held across 46 countries and 700 different locations.
It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement.
Of course, there are still plenty of obstacles ahead.
The impetus behind the increased drive to get women golfing is a marked drop in the number of women taking up the sport, a theme that is replicated in dwindling golf club membership.
The struggles for Europe’s professional golfers are also well-documented and frankly, impossible to ignore. For the young talent at Fulford this weekend questions over the feasibility of earning a living as a professional and pursuing their dreams this side of the pond, look set to remain unanswered, at least in the immediate future.
Persisting inequality at golf clubs. A notable lack of TV coverage. How to break down golfing stereotypes?
All questions that also remain to be answered.
Nonetheless, if 2018 is to be the first year that women’s golf is to be fully embraced at all levels of the game, then we for one will be revelling in the celebrations.
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