When will golf be a truly inclusive game?

When I told a new friend (who happens to be male) that I loved golf; he replied “You know what golf stands for?  (I thought here comes the joke all women hear when they say they have an interest in golf; wait for the punch line.  Here it comes.)  “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.”  I just rolled my eyes.  He laughed and said “I guess you’ve heard that joke.”  If you are curious…The origin of the term golf (according to the USGA Museum) is the Dutch word “kolf” meaning club.

I have a good sense of humor and know he was just joking but later in the evening I did think about the old Russian proverb — In every joke there is a bit of truth.  And, I would be in serious denial if I did not recognize the fact that there is still an exclusive aspect to my favorite sport.  Women are still (in many ways) second class citizens.

This year, Augusta National’s policy of not admitting female members, hit home even more.  Why?  Because IBM was the key sponsor and their CEO is a female; and all past CEO’s of key sponsors were offered membership at Augusta.  Of course, playing Augusta (let alone being a member) is just a dream for most of us (man or woman); but it would have been the perfect year for Augusta, “America’s mecca of golf,” to exemplify that golf is an “inclusive” game.

But what about the rest of the golf world?  Overall there are many great courses, instructors, and organizations that recognize the benefits of catering to women golfers.  But there is still a long way to go before women can go to any course and feel that they are as “valued” as their male counterparts.  And by “valued” I mean that women are not an afterthought.  Too often, my friends and I have tried a new course only to be disappointed by lousy amenities and poorly laid-out forward tees.

I do hope for the day when it is the norm that …

  1. All pro shops cater to women golfers.  Simple things like stocking ladies gloves and balls so I can grab them on the go.  Or decent rental clubs available specifically for women.
  2. All courses have forward tees that are as nice as the back tees (e.g. well marked, level, and well manicured.)  And, that ball washers and water at located by the forward tees too.
  3. All golf stores have an equal amount of “shelf space” allocated to women’s clothing, accessories, and equipment.

And although I have played with many very nice men there are many men that really don’t like women golfers.  It would be wonderful to have a future where men do not openly show disdain when a woman is put with their group.   After all, golf is a gentleman’s sport and being gracious to any additional member to your foursome is the decent thing to do.

Now, I am an optimist and do believe that the day will come when we no longer debate if golf is a truly inclusive game.  I do hope that it will be in my lifetime!  Until then, I will reward the courses, instructors, and stores that do make me feel welcomed by spending my golfing dollars with them!

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