Confronting Sexism In Golf
Push-back against the Boys Club mentality which infects so many golf courses apparently goes back a long way. In this cartoon from the British Punch magazine, circa 1900, a woman challenges the sexist remark that women will ruin the golf club. She suggests that in making such a comment, the man is not, in fact, a “gentleman.” That this made its way into a cartoon in a mass market magazine suggests that people even then were aware of the absurdity of sexism in golf (even if they did nothing to counteract it).
The cartoon and its sentiment is particularly apropos given the current cultural movement against sexual harassment.
Rather than being a detriment to golf, I will suggest that women may actually be the sport’s salvation. While the number of golfers overall is apparently in decline, women are woefully under-represented. Although they are 50% of the population, the most recent figure I have seen suggests that they comprise just 20% of the golfers. If the National Golf Foundation is correct that there currently are 23 million golfers (down from 30 million at the height of the Tiger boom), that means that 4.6 million of those are women. Doubling women’s participation rate would take the overall number of golfers up to 27.6 million — darn close to the Tiger boom’s artificial high.
I have no idea what it would take to encourage more women to play golf. But I do think that part of it involves men welcoming them to the course. In spite of the stereotype, it has been my observation that women play golf no more slowly than most men. I have never waited on a group of women (or if I did, they cheerily waved me through). However, I have on a regular basis been stuck behind groups of guys who planned every shot and plumb-bobbed every putt as though thousands of dollars were riding on the outcome.
Courses also could be more welcoming as an institution (and this also goes for new male golfers as well). I remember well my initial forays to a golf course. There were never any instructions on how to proceed. Further, there are no instructions on how to proceed once on the course, either. Aspiring players are somehow supposed to know what to do. They don’t. And fear of embarrassment likely has kept more than a few players from the course.
In this new year, let us see if we all can do something to make our courses a more welcoming place.