A nationwide drive - coinciding with the build-up to the Solheim Cup – is underway to get more women and girls playing golf in Great Britain and Ireland.
As the top women professionals of Europe and the USA prepare to do battle this weekend, golf’s governing bodies in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, have announced a joint commitment to increase participation.
The four countries together had just over 171,000 female golf club members last year, compared to 952,000 men. But evidence from England Golf’s ‘Get into golf’ campaign shows significant interest from women who want to play the game.
The joined-up approach will see each country take a lead in one aspect of growing the game and they will all share ideas and good practice.
Ireland will look at participation programmes; England will focus on marketing; Scotland will consider governance and equality; and Wales will explore shorter, fun formats and competitive opportunities.
The combined efforts of the Home Unions will build on the success of the #ThisGirlGolfs video campaign. It was produced and funded by Sports Publications Ltd, England Golf and Scottish Golf and challenges the perception that golf is an exclusive, expensive game for men. Instead it shows women and girls from all backgrounds, fitting golf into their everyday lives and enjoying the game.
David Joy, Chief Executive of England Golf, commented: “The huge interest around the Solheim Cup helps us to further spread the message that golf really is a great game for women and girls - it’s healthy, sociable, fun and competitive. By working together we can do this very effectively across Great Britain and Ireland and we all feel that our collaborative approach will be critical to the success of growing women and girls’ golf.
“We’ve all got a great deal to share, for example England Golf has promotional materials and factsheets to help clubs recruit and retain women members. We’ve also invested heavily in digital advertising to promote our Get into golf campaign and this had led to almost 50% of online bookings being made by women.”
Sinead Heraty, Chief Executive of the Irish Ladies Golf Union, added: “There is no doubt that the profile of women’s sports had improved significantly in recent years and that is creating an opportunity for golf to attract women and girls to the sport.
“In addition the image of golf is changing to reflect a modern society and the golf organisations are embracing this change. There is a great appetite for women and girls to take up golf as a sport for life and by the national organisations working together we will meet the demand that is clearly visible.”
Eleanor Cannon, incoming Chair of Scottish Golf added, “Our message is simple. Clubs need to segment their customers by their consumer preferences and not by their gender. Our Model Constitution shows clubs how this can be achieved so that committees consider the needs of all customers. Golf is a unique family sport that can be played by and with all generations.
"Women are at the heart of family life and therefore are key to a healthy golfing membership. We are encouraged by the way in which clubs are embracing this message and this can be seen from the very positive trends in women’s and girl’s membership in Scotland.”
Wales runs New2Golf coaching and membership schemes which encourage groups to take up and learn golf together, through fun, sociable coaching and trial memberships. It’s supported by their women and girls’ ambassador Amy Boulden, who was the LET’s 2014 Rookie of the Year. Richard Dixon, Chief Executive of the Golf Union of Wales, commented: “Over 50% of our New2Golf members are female, however females represent only 13% of full golf club members in Wales.
“By collaborating we will strengthen our drive to increase the number of women and girls taking up the sport.”
Europe will defend the Solheim Cup at St Leon Rot in Germany, from 18-20 September. The European team includes two English players, Charley Hull and Melissa Reid, and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew. Visit www.solheimcup.com for more information.