The golfing world has finally uncovered the secret to attracting and retaining more people into the game: focusing on the experience that women really want.
They say the future is female, but for golf, it looks as though it really is. New research has proved that if we have any chance of increasing participation in golf, the game needs to focus on women. In fact, recent studies have shown that children are more likely to go to the golf course with their mum than their dad, making young mothers an even more important focus group.
There has been a great deal of investment by golf bodies in programmes that attract women to golf. From The R&A's ‘Women in Golf Charter’ to the ‘Invite Her’ programme across the pond, the powers that be in golf are raising the profile in a big way.
Combine this with the increased TV coverage of the women's professional game and we should be seeing massive increases in female participation. More women are being attracted to try the game than ever before, but that's not really converting into long-term participation – something is leaving a sour taste and stopping them dead in their tracks.
Joanne Taylor is a PGA golf professional who made female participation and the perceived blockers the core focus of her Master’s dissertation. At her own golf club in Surrey, Jo has led the way in creating programmes that bring women into her club in a sustainable way. Jo has now teamed up with Stephen Smith of Sport Psychology Ltd, who has spent the last 15 years researching what makes golf venues attractive.
Jo and Stephen were really excited by all of the programmes to attract women to golf but their research has shown that none of these initiatives really tackle the psychological aspects of the experience women have when they transition from taster initiatives to going it alone and playing at a club for the first time. Sadly, there is a huge disconnect between what the starter programmes are promising, the expectations that new female golfers have about the game and what golf clubs and venues are actually offering. That comes as no surprise really since no one has actually taken the time to look into the psychology of the novice female golfer experience – until now.
The pair have built a psychometric system that enables golf clubs and venues to scientifically diagnose their experience offering and understand how it can be improved for women. They're even using research that NASA employed to design their space vehicles, so this literally is rocket science for golf.
The system looks at a huge range of areas that trigger the deep primaeval circuits in the human brain that make us feel comfortable in a particular location or put us on edge. In their research, they discovered more than one golf club where a prospective female member had taken one look at the club and then got straight back in their car, leaving the club secretary scratching their head about the missed opportunity.