Editor Emma Ballard explores the tricky position that golf holds in the women's sports space and explains why it's time the wider community embraces it

A glorious summer of women’s sport is now a phrase that seems to come around yearly as we look ahead to top women athletes across different sports showing casing their skills on the biggest stages.

This summer has been no different with events like the Ashes, World Cups in Netball and Football, as well as Wimbledon, UCI Cycling World Championships and The Hundred.

Last week as I watched Celine Boutier sink her winning putt at Dundonald Links to win the FREED Group Women’s Scottish Open on my computer, the Netball World Cup between England and Australia was on my TV.

Next weekend, I very much hope that I will be tuning in to see England playing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final. But even if it’s not England, I’ll still be tuning in.

But as I sit here in the media centre at the AIG Women’s Open, I wonder how many people will be tuning in to watch the final round of the biggest women’s golf event on British soil.

A glorious time for England's athletes

There is certainly reason to if you are a patriotic England supporter as our very own Charley Hull will be teeing it up in the final group as she has one shot lead with American Lilia Vu this Sunday. It’s potentially a massive moment for English female athletes from three different sports across three weekends. It doesn’t get much better than that!

I look to my social media feeds and in the women’s sport space there lacks a buzz around what will be happening on the fairways at Walton Heath.

Team sports will always generate more interest and excitement just becuase of the tribal nature it creates, I expect just as much when we head into the final day of the Solheim Cup in just six weeks time. However, women’s golf seems to sit awkwardly in the women’s sport space and not get the kudos and exposure it deserves.

Does golf as a whole just give women’s golf a bad reputation?

This is often my first thought. A sport that is still very much thought of for white, middle aged wealthy men, might just find it too tough to convert women’s sports fans to like it. The gross sums of money that the male professional players play for may also have something to do with it but that’s nothing compared to the Ronaldos of this world.

So, it has an image problem. But I thought in the women’s sport space we’re meant to be working together and lifting each other up. You can’t just place your views on age old perceptions – take a step into our world before you decide.

Is the sport mainstream enough?

Golf fans are definitely a dedicated bunch and we’re much fewer than other sports but say that to the 256,000 who came to watch the men’s Open Championship in July at Royal Liverpool. Ok, the women’s game has a fraction of the boots on the ground this week but with over 50,000 in attendance across the week (up 20,000 from last year) – women’s golf is on the right trajectory.

Coverage on TV is often confined to paid channels but Sky Sports has done an excellent job of offering coverage for free on their YouTube channels, exactly as they did for the Netball Super League a few years ago. You can watch women’s golf and our biggest events, if you want to.

So, women’s golf doesn’t have enough die hard fans, but I am adamant that we could doubly fill the fairways with more support from the wider golf and women’s sport community. This isn’t a poorer version of men’s golf.

Is golf even an athletic sport?

Again, the thought is that these athletes, yes athletes, are walking on lush green grass for five hours. A nice gentle stroll as they take in the beautiful surroundings.

If this is in your thoughts, then I implore you to watch these women. The amount of training that goes into being able to generate huge club head speed, is phenomenal. But whilst they need explosive power for driving the ball and getting out of the heather here at Walton Heath. They also need to have pin point precision on the greens. Be able to calm the adrenaline down from the explosive shots, all whilst having strong mental fortitude during the periods of time when it is just them with their thoughts.

It's no surprise that the Ladies European Tour launched its Performance Institute yesterday. Elite golfers need physical, mental, health and well-being support.  Their collaboration with Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill’s app Jennis, the first sport to partner with the menstrual mapping app, just shows that women’s golf is being taken more seriously.

So I’m glad we cleared that up and agree they're athletes, just like Millie Bright or Helen Housby.

Is equal pay an issue?

A lot of discussion in women’s sport is around reducing the gender pay gap. That is not different in professional golf. This week, after a 23% increase, the prize fund will be $9 million with the winner receiving $1.35 million which compares to The Open where Brian Harman won $3 million from a $16.5 million pot.

Total prize funds on the LPGA Tour are around a quarter of those on the men’s which have only been elevated further since LIV Golf burst onto the scene.

However, like women’s tennis players, golf is fairing well in the women’s sport space. In the Forbes World Highest Paid Female Athletes in 2022, seven of the top 25 were golfers.

So, maybe women golfers are already earning enough that they don’t need the support of the women’s sport community?

It's time to embrace women's golf

It is my opinion that it is a combination of factors that leaves women’s professional golf failing to gain traction in the women’s sport space. An image problem, with elitist undertones, a wealthy sport that doesn’t seem to show enough athletic prowess, plus you’re going it alone and not able to build the hype around a team.

What I will say as I prepare to watch the best golfers on the planet this afternoon. Watch them, because what you will see is a hard fought battle against themselves, their opponents and the course to win one of the biggest prizes in women’s golf.

Pass the message on and let’s elevate these professional golfers in the women’s sports space – they sure as hell deserve it.

Watch live coverage from the AIG Women's Open at 12pm (BST) on Sky Sports Golf. Listen to coverage on AIG Women's Open radio here and follow live scoring here.