Research reveals significant improvements in participation rates across Great Britain and Ireland
By Ed Hodge
The future looks bright for women’s and girls’ golf across Great Britain and Ireland, with new data revealing a surge in the number of females becoming involved in the sport.
Fuelled by an exciting group of female professionals, national media campaigns and the efforts of golf’s governing bodies, golf participation among women is on the increase, as the sport continues to work hard to attract new players to the game and convert them into membership.
Over the last decade, females have made up only approximately 14% of golf club membership in GB&I, lagging behind other European countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden, but significant progress is being made according to new data from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
In recent years, all of the amateur golf bodies in GB&I have put a renewed focus on attracting more women and girls to play and the latest participation figures are encouraging.
For example, Get into Golf, a national campaign supported by the amateur bodies, The European Tour, The Ladies European Tour, The PGA, The Golf Foundation, The R&A and recently backed by Sky Sports, appears to be having an effect.
The Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) is running its ‘Get into Golf programme for Women’ for a third year, with the average conversion rate into membership 60% in 2015. In Scotland, over 120 clubs across the country are now running Get into Golf coaching programmes and 86% of the participants in 2015 were women.
In Wales, over half the participants in their ‘New2Golf’ beginner schemes are female (54%), with over 50% converting to club trial membership. Meantime, across the border in England, their initiatives in 2015 attracted over 1,200 women to coaching and over 360 became club members. Five counties reported an increase in women’s membership, and 15 counties saw an increase in girls’ memberships.
As well as the continued work of the golfing bodies, national campaigns such as the #ThisGirlGolfs video and positive support from high-profile figures and avid golfers such as Denise van Outen and Naga Munchetty are helping to change perceptions of the game once dominated by men.
A group of leading female GB&I pros including Charley Hull, Amy Boulden, Pamela Pretswell and Rebecca Codd are also inspiring girls to pick up a club.
Major events in 2016 such as the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Woburn and the return of golf to the Rio Olympics next month will also provide opportunities to build on the work achieved and profile and celebrate women’s golf yet further, with the Solheim Cup – golf’s leading women’s team event – also returning to Scotland at Gleneagles in 2019.
Jackie Davidson, Scottish Golf Club Development Manager, said: “We are delighted with the impact our Get into Golf programme is having across Scotland.
“There are some real success stories where clubs are embracing the need to diversify, broaden their appeal and are attracting new audiences. Supported by our eight Regional Club Development Officers, clubs are working hard on creating a great customer experience, opening their doors a little wider and are reaping the rewards.”
Stirling Golf Club, located in the heart of the country, is enjoying recent success with its Get into Golf programme. Having worked with Scottish Golf to promote their new activity, 18 women signed up to their introductory programme of six weeks’ coaching. The women will take part in the coaching and then be paired up with a buddy who will look after them and take them onto the course.
Muriel Young, one of the ladies actively involved in supporting the activity at Stirling, said: “Our goal is eventually to try and get some of the ladies into membership, but we’re not forcing that on anybody. We’ve invited them to come to the coaching, we’ll offer some buddying and we have a play package for three months, which is a reduction of the actual full year membership and only available to people who come along to the coaching.
“We are hoping through that process we will encourage, inspire and get them hooked to return as members for next year. For now we are focusing on being supportive, encouraging, friendly and showing how fun the game is to take up.”
For more information on Get into Golf in Scotland, visit getintogolfscotland.org