With one club recently making headlines due to its hostile attitude towards new female members, Harriet Shephard argues that thankfully, most clubs are super friendly places for women and girls.
Image: Andy Hiseman
Well, I have to admit that reading Kerry Cooper’s account of her time as a member of a very cold and hostile golf club, was a bit of ordeal to say the least.
Speaking in an article on The Golf Business, she said that the ladies' section at her club (which remained unnamed) made her feel ‘judged and discriminated against’ for joining on her own and not knowing anyone else there.
She also recalled how one male member told her that ‘women should never be given a seven-day membership’ and that the ‘weekends were for male golf’.
It literally left me with my head in my hands.
If her experience is a common one, then there’s really no mystery about why we are struggling to get more young women to join a club.
However, it’s important to put things into perspective and look at both sides of the argument.
Because, judging from the countless super-friendly golf clubs I’ve visited over the years, I do find it very hard to believe that many harbour such a hostile environment.
What Kerry Cooper went through sounds horrific and totally unacceptable, but it also sounds like she was a bit unlucky.
Nothing demonstrates the natural camaraderie of the golfing community more perfectly then the fact that mere minutes after I sent out my first editor’s newsletter, I was inundated with emails from our amazing community of subscribers, all welcoming me with open arms and inviting me over to their club for a round.
Plus, whether I’m there for work or leisure, whenever I arrive at a new golf club it’s always the members who go out of their way to help me if I’m looking a bit lost trying to find the 1st tee, the ladies changing room or the nearest place for a G&T.
They can’t do enough to try and make my experience as enjoyable as possible, asking me where I’ve travelled from and offering priceless insider tips about how to get the best out of my round (and avoid losing as many balls as possible).
I’ve never experienced such an inbuilt, friendly culture in any other industry or area of life. In most gyms or fitness centres you’d be lucky to exchange eye contact with anyone, never mind get an invitation for a post-round drink.
For me, the immediate bond and connection between golfers is one of the most magical things about the game.
I know I’m not alone in thinking this either.
Speaking to Nicola Bennett, a PGA Pro in North London, she told me that women of all ages and backgrounds join her group lessons. There’s no sense of the older, married ladies turning their noses up at the younger, single ones.
Meanwhile, Hannah Burke’s member's community at Mid Herts is so much like an extended family to her that 54 of them have joined together to donate funds and support her through the Rose Series.
In fact, barely a day goes by without a new example of a friendly golf club dropping into my inbox or popping up on my Twitter feed. I know there are so many vibrant and fun ladies’ sections out there.
However, Kerry's tale is a reminder that there is still room for improvement.
Despite The R&A launching the Women in Golf Charter in 2018, it seems that not everyone is totally united in trying to make golf more inclusive and encouraging more women and girls to take it up.
Hopefully this will give The R&A an extra push to try and convert these last few clubs who are still clinging on to old-fashioned attitudes and putting off potential female members.
Let's not forget that many clubs will also need help in understanding what women actually want from golf clubs, as well as how to make them feel welcome.
As Olympic Medallist Gail Emms said to me recently (and very eloquently), golf clubs can’t just ‘make things pink and hope the women will come’.
It's so important that we all carry on trying to remove the stigma that golf clubs are snooty, exclusive places for gentlemen with lots of money and instead spread the word that they are welcoming and nurturing communities that provide friendships, experiences and opportunities for personal development that you simply won’t find anywhere else.
Golf clubs are amazing places to invest your time and money, and we want to make sure everyone else knows this too.