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Morri: The Crisis In Women's Golf

A group of schoolgirls watch the action at the 2018 Women's Australian Open.
“There’s no such thing as junior golf or senior golf or men’s golf or women’s golf,” former Golf NSW boss David Allen once told me.

“There’s just golf. It’s the same game played by everybody under the same rules and as administrators it is our job to look after the game that is golf for all golfers.”

I was reminded of David’s words this week when the national governing body, Golf Australia, announced Vision 2025 at the Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide.

For those who may have missed it, Vision 2025 is a long-term plan to arrest and reverse a quite shocking decline in participation of women in golf in this country.

It is a noble plan and one that is to be applauded. But how does it fit with David Allen’s notion of all those years ago?

Perhaps we could call it triage. The truth is there is a crisis in the participation of women in golf and in every conceivable way it is bad for the game.

Consider this: in 1970, 102,000 of 300,000 golf club members were women. That figure represented 34 per cent.

Fast forward to 2018 and the number of women members has increased by just 2,000 and represents a mere 20 per cent of the total golf population.

Leaving aside for a moment the disturbing message this sends about the culture of the game and clubs in Australia, think about the financial cost.

More than 50 per cent of clubs in this country are in financial distress and the significant loss of women members must be a contributing factor.

Vision 2025 was launched this week at the Women's Australian Open at Kooyonga Golf Club.

The Golf Australia plan calls for a multi-faceted approach to correcting the gender imbalance built around four pillars: culture and leadership; grassroots; high performance and coaching and marketing and positioning.

All are important but it is the first item on the list, culture, which will need to be the starting point at most facilities.

The truth for most women and their experience with golf is that it is simply not a welcoming environment and if that doesn’t change then all efforts devoted to the other three are virtually wasted.

GA board member Jill Spargo was on hand at the press conference where Vision 2025 was launched and had some interesting things to say on the subject.

Her recent exchange with one of our professional women players perfectly summed up a large part of the problem.

“Her comment was, when she walks into a clubhouse, she feels as though she’s going into a principal’s office,” Spargo said.

“Once she walks outside everything’s okay.  There’s a lot we need to do to change that culture of our game.

“It’s not something that’s going to happen quickly. A lot of clubs are doing good things out there, so we need to be identifying those clubs that are doing good things and showcasing that and sharing it with other clubs.

“We’re going to have to go to clubs and look at the case for change with them and get them on the journey with us and be part of it, not telling them what to do but work with them to see what’s going to work with them.’’

The temptation when reading about these issues is, of course, to automatically assume they are problems elsewhere but not in our own backyard.

So if you’re reading this and you’re a bloke and a member of a club think about it this way: Is your club the sort of place your wife or girlfriend or mum or sister would feel comfortable at?

Would they be welcomed on to the golf course should they choose to try the game?

If the answer to any of the above is ‘no’ then perhaps you’re part of the problem.

The good news, however, is that Golf Australia wants to help you become part of the solution.

So if you’re a golf club member get on board with Vision 2025. Ultimately it will be in your, and the game’s, best interests.


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