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Introduction

In 2018, the R&A published a report, Women’s, Girls’ and Family Participation in Golf: An Overview of Existing Research (2018) which highlighted the financial opportunity for golf of up to $35billion through increased participation from the 36.9 million latent female golfers (page 5).

The report highlighted that women:

“found the opportunity to be outdoors, relaxing and unwinding with friends, as the most appealing factors for playing golf. The main reasons given for non participation were cost (37%), the impact of family responsibilities (30%), and amount of time taken to play (17%).”

“are the key decision makers in regards to what families do with their leisure time and money (Whaley, 2016).”

Since 2018, there has been a focus by the golf industry to attract more women and their families in to golf, through women focused initiatives

and the new family orientated  GOLF-IT initiative outside Glasgow.

Each campaign is focused on golfer acquisition, trying to attract more women, and in turn their families in to golf, however there appears to be limited research in to the existing women’s golf experience or the development of retention programs for existing golfers.

The research below demonstrates:

  • the gaps in the women’s golf experience,
  • women’s interest in new golf experiences
  • women are looking to address gaps they have identified in their own golf experience through new initiatives

and offers ideas and concepts to address the gaps in the women’s golf experience.

RESEARCH METHODS

The research undertaken had 2 main elements

Qualitative, quantitative & desk research

  • research and initiatives from the International and National Governing Bodies
  • followed the new and ongoing initiatives from across all areas of golf to get more women in to golf
  • review of  multiple county associations competitive and social offerings from across England
  • research in to the history of women’s golf FOREWomen from 1893-1914
  • research in to established and new self organised women’s golfing associations, societies and groups
  • listened to a range of women golfers, lifetime, adult returners and new players across the UK

Personal Golfing Experience of a returning golfer interested in playing competitive and social golf

  • membership of 3 clubs,
    • 9 hole local club to get re-started
    • 36 hole to develop skills, meet and play with more competitive women
    • county membership during lock down to play a links course and meet other golfers
  • compete in
    • Club competitive and friendly teams,
    • County team & individual match play competitions and senior county championships
    • Wales and England Senior Open Championships
  • participate in club social and fun games and events, and play in other clubs social team open days

OBSERVATIONS

  • The majority of women’s golf is played Monday to Friday
  • There are very few
    • opportunities for women to play golf outside their club or county
    • open qualifying competitions for women during the week (there are mens individual opens available)
    • open qualifying competitions for women at weekends (there are mens individual opens available)
    • open non-qualifying competitions for women at weekends
  • There are limited opportunities for women between the ages of 21 and 49 to play golf
  • There is minimal incentive for women between 21-49 to be a member of a golf club, they generally work and/or have a family therefore they are time strapped and do not get many opportunities to play in competitions or fun events
  • 7 day memberships are the most expensive but they do not cater for working women or women with families
  • The majority of club competitions are 18 holes, which take from 3.5-5 hours to play depending on field size and format
  • The world of golf opens up to women golfers at the age of 50, with senior series, senior events and senior championships – most of which are during the week
  • There is a lot of information available to golfers about rules, handicaps, competitive and fun formats, county and national playing opportunities and industry news however this is hard to find as it is spread across multiple websites
  • There are a number of initiatives to get more women to learn to play golf, which are attracting women from different backgrounds and abilities:
  • There are new entrants to the golf market, which are attracting different women (and men) in to golf
  • There is a predicated uplift in revenue for the global golf business of $35bilion if all the women who have tried or shown an interest in golf take up the sport, this is a driver for the acquisition of women in to golf
  • Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) are key performance indicators for organisations across all sectors and as a sport which offers so many health, fitness and social benefits, it is a focus of many organisations both within golf and across other sectors.

There are a lot of initiatives to get more women in to golf but the world of golf is not prepared for the needs of the varied golfers who they are attracting in to golf through these new programs.

New Technology

In addition to research into the women’s golf experience, research was carried out in to new technology available on the market which offer golf the opportunity to create more varied golf experiences for players of all backgrounds, these include:

  • Golf Genius – an flexible and feature rich tournament platform
  • Trackman  & Toptracer– who provide golf simulators for driving ranges, studios and golfers home’s, plus swing analysis and the opportunity to “virtually” play hundreds of courses and play in virtual leagues with other golfers.
  • Websites and content management platforms provide the means to bring together information to a central point , making it easy for golfers to find.
  • Marketing platforms which can be used to communicate and engage the golfing community
  • Online community platforms which can be used to bring golfers together online.

MAIN OBSERVATION

The world of golf is focused on acquisition of new players, and in so doing, have taken their eye of the ball of retaining players, from beginners, working women, social golfers and competitive players from club to elite amateur golfers of all ages.

There are not many, if any, programs aimed at retaining women golfers.

Women Pioneers in Golf 1893-2022

1893 – Womens Golf Gets Organised

In 1893, Issette Pearson, a pioneer in women’s golf, was the first honorary secretary for the Ladies Golf Union, in 1910, she launched the Pearson Trophy, a team match play inter-county knockout competition, still played in Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex today.

Women to the Fore 1893-1914 a research paper published with permission of the authors, outlines the early history of women’s golf, the inception of the LGU and also the creation of the first universal handicap by Issette and Mabel Stringer, 2 prominent women in golf’s history.

Over the last 130 years, women have continued to support each other through continuing to run competitions and associations, created by these and other women pioneers in golf.

This continues today, through new initiatives setup over the last few years by women looking to address the gaps in the women’s golf experience and bring like minded women together to enjoy a variety of golf formats across different courses.

UK Womens Golf Ecosystem 2022

In 2022, the club focused model has matured with the R&A and the national governing bodies along with regional associations and individual clubs focused on the members experience, where each club offers its own unique experience.  The governing bodies and regional associations offer competitive and elite players the opportunity to participate in competitions and events outside of their own club(s).

The R&A have launched their Women in Golf Charter, which is a great initiative to focus national governing bodies, county associations, commercial organisations and individual clubs, on both playing and employment opportunities in the golf industry.  It is a great initiative for WOTT and other women’s initiatives to support and be associated with, as it encompassed everything WOTT was setup to do.

Women’s golf experience beyond clubs

While the focus of the women’s golf experience is mainly up to individual clubs to provide, outside of clubs, there are county associations who offer additional, club, team and individual playing opportunities and independent associations, alliances, golf societies and friendship groups enhancing their own golf experiences.

Each group is providing a valuable service and experience for its members, however there is an opportunity to enhance the overall women’s golf experience through supporting these groups and identifying ways to augment and compliment their offerings to create a fuller women’s golf experience.

Brenda King Foursomes

Brenda King was the first Senior British Womens Champion in 1981.  A national 2 day medal foursomes competition was setup in her memory.

Up until 2020, England Golf ran the Brenda King Foursomes, when they decided to remove the tournament from their schedule, the belief is that this was due to lack of entrants and there not being an equivalent mens competition.

Determined not to keep the competition going, a committee of senior women from across England, who have played in the BK4’s and other senior tournaments for a number of years, came together to take over and run the event.  The website is  HERE

In 2020, the first post COVID competition was held at Minchinhampton in the Cotswolds, and attracted 66 pairs from Devon, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, the Midlands and North of England.

The Brenda King competition continues to be very popular with women golfers; this enthusiasm is reflected in the number of entries and the speed at which the event fills up.  In 2022, the Brenda King Entries opened on the 1st Feb and it was full with 88 pairs signing up within 3 weeks.

This in itself, shows there is an interest and demand for more national playing opportunities for women to come together to compete and enjoy golf.

At Minchinhampton, a number of women golfers shared their golf experiences, their interest and challenges in finding new playing opportunities beyond the club, county and national offerings. 

These conversations confirmed that there was a gap in the women’s golf experience and a belief in the community, that the governing bodies had little or no interest in supporting existing women golfers.   

NB: There are other regional competitions played in memory of other pioneering women golfers across the UK.

The Survey – November 2020

Following the initial research carried out and discussions with groups of women golfers, in November 2020, an online survey ran to gauge the level of interest in women golfers for different playing opportunities.

533 women responded within 48 hours of receiving a link to the survey.

An amazing response!

The survey clearly shows an interest in more varied playing opportunities in women’s golf.

New Womens Golf Initiatives

In the last few years, women have been creating new initiatives to address different needs based on their own experience and those around them, in the UK and overseas, some of the initiatives are below:

Women initiatives - nov 2022

The key insight from these new initiatives is that there are areas of the women’s golf experience which are not being met by the golf institutions and associated organisations and there is an opportunity to work with and support women to create a richer golf experience which has the potential to extend beyond women.

Golf Empire along with other websites provide a directory of playing opportunities, open events and amateur tours.  Carrying out research in to the playing opportunities for men, women and mixed, shows a discrepancy in the number and variety of playing opportunities offered for men and women.  There is a growing number of mixed events and mini tours.

Women on the Tee

The objective of WOTT, was to create an online destination, and mobile app where women and girls could:

  • learn about all things amateur women’s golf, from beginner to elite national championships
  • access a calendar of events to learn about and support elite amateur competitions
  • meet and connect with other like minded golfers both on and off-line
  • find out about and enter WOTT scratch, nett, individual and team competitions
  • learn about other women and mixed competitions and events around the UK and overseas

And to identify gaps in the women’s golf experience and create new playing opportunities to enhance the women’s golf experience.

Women on the Tee Events

Women on the Tee created new golf experiences for women golfers, the first of which was an individual stableford at Mill Ride Golf Club on the 25th May 2021, 25 players travelled from the Berkshire, Kent, Midlands, Sussex, Surrey and Wiltshire.

The event was captured by Phil Inglis, leading golf photographer.

4 other events took place:

  • 4BBB team competition at High Post Golf Course
  • WOTT and Legends Tour Master Class (see below)
  • All female Pro-Am at Bowood Golf and Country Club (see below)
  • An individual event at Leamington and County in Warwickshire

WOTT Legends Tour Masterclass
Formby, 31st July 2021

Women’s golf is a focus of the mens game and the Legends Tour created a unique experience, a Master Class for 12 WOTT members, hosted by them at their European Master Championship in Formby on the 31st July 2021.

The Masterclass demonstrates how new experiences and opportunities can be created in partnership with other golf tours and associations.

WOTT members head to the Legends Master Class across Formby Golf Course.

WOTT members enjoy the Legends Masterclass.

Ladies Pro-Am

In 2018, the first all female Pro-Am in the UK took place.  Historically, the price point and prizes for Pro-Am’s are aimed at attracting male golfers, who spend money differently to women golfers.

The main purpose of the Ladies Pro-Am is to provide a pro-am experience for women to play with and support WPGA members providing an opportunity to compete and play for a prize fund, paid for through the amateur player entrance fees.  Women are keen to play and support PGA Pros and to were happy that their entry fee paid for the prize fund.

The first Ladies Pro-Am was held in September 2018, attracted 27 teams from across the UK.  The original Ladies Pro-Am website is HERE  in 2021, the Pro-Am page moved to the Women on the Tee website HERE

Since 2018, other all female pro-am’s have taken place in the UK.  The all-female Pro-Am format can be adopted by clubs.

WOTT Press and Radio Interviews

A combination of the increasing level of activity by the R&A and other national governing bodies, and the up take in golf during the COVID Pandemic, there is a lot of interest by the press from local and national, to print, radio and online publications in womens golf.

As a new initiative WOTT got a lot of press coverage in the early stages of getting up and running and in May 2021 was interviewed on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire about the initial launch, and again in August 2022, with a BBC Scotland interview about women’s golf in general and the first time, the Women’s Open was played at Muirfield.

BBC Radio Coventry & Warwick with Lorna Bailey
4th May 2021

BBC Radio Scotland with Stephen Jardine
13th July 2022

WOTT Initial Achievements

WOTT got up and running and made an impact quickly, coming out of COVID meant that people were interested in something new.

The following document was put together to introduce WOTT to a broader audience in the golf industry; showing the interest of women golfers in new playing experiences and their responsiveness to new initiatives.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

  • In 2018 the R&A published a report showing 36.9million latent female golfers around the world, which could increase golf industry revenues by $35billion.
  • Since 2018, the R&A, national governing bodies and industry suppliers have focused their efforts on attracting latent female golfers
  • Individual golf clubs are the main delivery vehicles for the women’s golf experience, which is unique to each club
  • County associations & national governing bodies provide additional playing opportunities for members of clubs within their region
  • Independent associations, societies and groups self-organise and self-fund additional playing opportunities for their groups members
  • New initiatives are springing up, created by individual women, who have identified a gap in the women’s golf experience
  • There is a growing focus on women’s sport within the press industry, who are willing to support and promote new initiatives
  • There is an interest in golf as a sport as it can benefit the health and well being of players across all ages and abilities

RETAINING WOMEN GOLFERS

The Women’s Golf Experience

The majority of national and county initiatives are focused on attracting new golfers (acquisition), however there is little in place which enhances the existing players experience, both club and independent golfers.

However, marketing and business research shows that retaining customers (golfers) is more cost effective than acquisition, however it is not a case of doing one and not the other, it is about investing in both.

Forbes Magazine discusses the value of retention versus the cost of acquiring new customers (golfers) HERE the key points are:

“According to Bain & Company, improving customer (golfer) retention by 5% can increase profits (participating/revenue) between 25% and 95%”

“Retention is far more affordable than customer acquisition; a business may pay up to seven times more for a new-to-brand purchase versus a purchase from an existing customer”

“loyal customers are more likely to repurchase, forgive errors, refer a product or service, and test a new product offering. They’re also 67% more likely to spend more than new ones”

With the golf industries investment in new players, they are missing an opportunity to enhance the golf experience of existing players and create new playing opportunities and experiences which will increase their participation, one such initiative would be to make:

GOLF – #FOREeveryone 7 days a week

GOLF CLUB MEMBER EXPERIENCE

Today, the golfers experience is focused on their membership of a club, however with the introduction of the World Handicap System the ability for national governing bodies to offer independent (non-club members) the opportunity to obtain and maintain a handicap through the igolf system.

Each club has its own unique member experience, which is based on the type of club, the members committee who create and deliver the club competition and social diaries and the allocation of tee times to the different groups within the club.  There is no national model or recommendation for clubs to adopt to provide a more equal and uniform member experience throughout clubs.  While, it is important that clubs do maintain their culture they should consider adapting their member experience, where necessary, to embrace the changing expectations of new and existing players of all ages and abilities.

When developing a golf club member experience, clubs have the opportunity to learn more about their members and to create a richer, varied golf experience based on their members demographic and also create new experiences for new members entering the club at different levels.  Central to this, is understanding the different profiles of golf club members is key to creating pathways based on their current playing level and interest and aspirations for their golf going forward.  Understanding where members are today and where they would like to be, time they have available to commit to learning and playing provides clubs with the information to develop member experiences.  An example of member profiles and pathays is below:

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Golf has the potential to offer a richer experience for players of all ages, gender and abilities, while this research is focused on Women, there is a clear gap in the playing opportunities for some, not all women, there are also learnings which can be incorporated in the broader world of Golf.

Women’s Golf Portal

When learning about golf, the internet has lots of information, however it is widely dispersed and you need to know what you are looking for, be it rules, handicaps, competition and fun formats, opportunities to play golf on different courses with groups of women in a competitive and fun environment.  Navigating the world of golf online and offline is not an easy task.

Women golfers are a passionate bunch and find ways to enjoy their sport, whatever level they want to participate.  In the UK, the club golfer experience is focused on a members individual club, however many golfers look for other playing opportunities outside their club and are also interested in going to watch elite and professional golfers compete in different championships.

Finding playing opportunities and also information on events taking place takes time, having a one stop shop with information and links to external websites has the potential to enhance the golfers broader experience.

An online destination for all things women’s golf offers the opportunity to enhance golfers experience, making it easier to learn about women’s golf and to find playing opportunities beyond their club and local area.  An outline concept is offered below:

National Club Competition Platform

The primary golf experience is played on a 9 or 18 hole golf course, there are 2,270 across the UK, (38,864 in the world), most of which are individual clubs, which offer their members a club based experience, be it through their own club diary, friendly and competitive matches and via reciprocal arrangements with other clubs.  There are some groups who own and manage multiple clubs.

Through this research, there is a potential opportunity for clubs to come together as a connected network, offering new competitive and social playing opportunities for players of all ages, genders and abilities, and utilising technology to enable players to learn about and participate in new activities.

Currently, there are NO national or international initiatives which facilitate or encourage players to play outside the club, county and national initiatives.

As new players come to the sport, some are joining clubs and going through the learn to golf initiatives, others are just playing golf by booking tee times where they can, Golf Now and golf Empire are 2 websites facilitating this.

With the WHS in place, then there is an opportunity to create competitions at any club across the country/world and for players to be able to sign up and play

There is an opportunity to address this through combing Membership and Tournament Technology, with a well designed website and online player community.  The following document puts forward some ideas as to how this could work with benefits to both clubs and players.

The Future of The Womens Golf Experience

There is an interest and appetite for introducing more women to golf and enhancing the overall women’s golf experience, while women have been pioneers in golf since 1893, there is still a long way to go to create an all round golf experience for women of all ages and abilities.

There is a huge amount of interest in introducing women to golf, however there is a gap in the retention strategies for new and existing players and if retention does not become a focus, alongside the acquisition strategies in place, there is a risk that investment of time and money may not deliver on the long term goals of the international and national governing bodies and other organisations involved in the creation and delivery of the golf experience.

The information on this page is offered as learnings from  research and personal experience which comes with a passion and commitment to work towards creating a better womens golf experience for players of all ages and abilities, the key for moving forward is finding the right partners and model to be able to develop an offering which compliments and augments the current golf experience for players of all ages, abilities in a fun and inclusive way, not just for women, but players of all ages, genders and abilities.  Lets make

GOLF – #FOREeveryone 7 days a week

Interested in any of the research, learnings or concepts?

Please contact click HERE to email or call +44(0)7887 644799

To provide feedback on your own golf experience and areas where you would like to see improvements, please complete the survey below:

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