We interviewed female PGA Professionals around the country to see what role they think the PGA has in growing women’s golf.

The Professional Golfers’ Association is one of the oldest and most prestigious associations in the world of professional golf. It currently has over 8,000 members in 80 different countries across the globe.

But as of the start of March this year, only 320 of those members are female.

That’s less than 4%.

As part of our series of articles for International Women’s Day, we’re exploring why so few women join the PGA, and how that might impact participation at a grass roots level.

And, of course, what can be done to fix it.

First things first: How many women actually play golf?

The issue of women’s participation isn’t a problem unique to the PGA.

It is everywhere in the world of golf.

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen unprecedented growth in the number of people playing golf in Great Britain and Ireland. But the number of women taking part in the game in any form is still woefully low; only 28% of the total in 2020.

Now, consider that that number includes casual golfers and women who only go to the driving range or their local pitch and putt, and the number of female golfers playing regularly is likely to be much lower.

I hate to categorise golfers like that, like if you’re not playing 18 holes a few times a week you’re not a proper golfer.

But in the context of joining the PGA, it matters. You have to reach a certain playing ability to join. It’s one of the things that makes the PGA what it is, and I don’t for one moment think that should change.

So, the answer seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? There are fewer women playing golf, so therefore even fewer getting their handicap down low enough to join the PGA.

As Danielle, PGA Professional, commented, “when you are recruiting from such a small group of category one golfers, the numbers will never be very high. Therefore, really, to get more female PGA professionals we need more women playing golf in the first place.”

But is it that simple?

The chicken and egg scenario

If we had more female PGA Professionals, would we attract more women to golf at a grass roots level?

Or do we need more women at a grass roots level to grow into PGA members?

I really believe in the idea that if you see it, you can be it. If we had more women in the PGA, I think we would see more women take up the game.

We’d remove some of the invisible boundaries and make clubs and driving ranges look and feel more inclusive.

The PGA opens doors

With more women PGA Professionals, we’d be better at promoting the benefits and opportunities that come with playing golf. I’m confident that in turn that would encourage more girls and women to take up the sport in the first place.

Because there are so many fantastic opportunities that come with joining the PGA.

Hannah Crump, Golf Professional at Stonebridge Golf Centre told us, “I love being a part of the PGA. My experience has always been positive and well supported. I think becoming part of a worldwide recognised association really allows doors to open.”

“Being a PGA member has given me the platform to build a career in a sport I love and the opportunity to introduce more people to golf, especially women,” continued Harriet Key, PGA Coach and Group Academy Manager at Orbis Golf Limited.

Danielle, PGA Professional, added, “I am proud to be a member. I worked hard to join and I’m glad I did; I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t.”

Why do women still choose not to join the PGA?

For me, the years I spent gaining my degree in Golf Management and becoming PGA qualified were undoubtedly some of my best. I made friends for life and met my now husband.

Having my PGA Professional status opened so many opportunities for work and for travel. And it meant I could keep doing something I love; a hobby that was great for my physical and mental health too.  

But I have to admit, I was hesitant to join the PGA.

I thought it was just all about coaching (and if you know me at all, you’ll know I absolutely do not have the patience to be a coach).

And I know that’s a feeling that’s shared amongst other people I went to university with.

When I asked a friend of mine why she didn’t turn professional after our degree, she said: “I’ve always had a good experience with the PGA, I just decided that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to compete or coach, and I enjoyed playing amateur golf.

For the career path I decided to take, it wasn’t essential for me to turn professional.”

The golf industry is so much more than just coaching or playing though, and there are endless opportunities that the game can bring – whether you play at a high level or not.

And that’s what I think the PGA is missing.

What can be done to fix it?

We know we need to get more girls and women playing golf.

That bit is clear (not easy, but clear).

But how do we keep converting female golfers into PGA Professionals, and in turn arm them with the tools they need to keep growing women’s golf?

I think the answer to that is one word: Opportunity.

We need to do more to promote the opportunities that joining the PGA offers, opportunities (most importantly) aside from playing and coaching.

Women have carved out fantastic careers in the industry – in retail, in marketing, in tourism (I could go on) – and the PGA has undoubtedly facilitated that.

They have provided a community of likeminded individuals, a solid support network to rely on.

And they make sure that members have access to different resources to keep learning and keep growing.

But most importantly we need to make sure we showcase those benefits and opportunities to the right people. We know we have a huge dip in participation when girls reach their teenage years – the perfect age for them to start considering a future with the PGA.

Hannah Crump, Golf Professional at Stonebridge Golf Centre, shared a great thought: “We need to make sure girls are supported from the age of 15 onwards and make them understand there could be a career in golf, even if it’s not just playing.

We need to be talking to teenage girls making university choices in the next couple of years and use successful teaching professionals to showcase the potential for a fantastic career.”

I’m not under any illusion that any of this is a quick fix. But I do passionately believe there are steps we can take and should take to increase the number of women in the PGA.

Women’s participation is a problem that’s deep and long routed within the industry.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t change it.

What do you think? Share your thoughts and ideas with us by emailing [email protected].