It's often said that golf is in need of a makeover.
Things aren't always as they seem, however, and you only need to take a look across the pond to the hugely successful LPGA* USGA Girls Golf program to know that many of golf's most well-established clichés are, in many cases, vastly off the mark.
When we caught up with LPGA's chief communications and tour operations officer Heather Daly-Donofrio at the HSBC Women's World Championship last week, one of the first things she was quick to point out was that girls' golf is now the fastest growing segment of the American golf industry.
While the initiative was launched almost three decades ago, it has grown exponentially over the past five years, a trend that has coincided with the rise of a new generation of young and athletic stars on the LPGA Tour.
The breeding ground for many of these stars, the Girls Golf program is focused on providing a fun environment, where the girls feel at ease, with Daly-Donofrio stressing that research demonstrates that players are far more likely to stay in the sport if they are U14 when they first pick up a club.
‘’All the research shows that girls learn best when they are taught in an all-girl environment, where the emphasis is on having fun and making friends rather than solely on performance. We’re verging on having 100,000 youngsters picking up a club through the scheme alone and it’s only going to get bigger.’’
‘’These girls, the likes of Lexi Thompson and the Korda sisters, who are breaking through as teenagers on the LPGA Tour, are incredibly relatable to the next group of youngsters coming through the ranks.''
''They're social media savvy and fashionable, and just downright cool, and for the kids who see these players competing on the LPGA Tour it's very inspirational.''
The success of the initiative has been remarkable. Girls now make up 30% of all junior golfers in the United States, a figure which looks set to continue to rise over the coming years.
While it’s a model that’s notably missing on this side of the Atlantic, where there is on average just two girls to every UK golf club, England Golf has also seen notable success with their Girls Golf Rock programme. The scheme is founded on a similar principle, namely, introducing girls to the sport in a fun and supportive environment.
Last year over 860 girls attended Girls Golf Rocks taster sessions and 730 enjoyed it so much they went on to take a coaching course with PGA professionals. The newcomers are supported by girls from county squads who act as ambassadors.
Similar initiatives across the UK have also been changing the face of the game. Among the most successful is Wales Golf's New2Golf Scheme which has seen a big boost in the number of girls taking up the sport in the country, with latest statistics suggesting that 37% of junior academy members in Wales are now girls.
The sessions are open to all girls, regardless of whether or not they have an impairment. To find out more and book visit www.girlsgolfrocks.org