by Dawn Woodard
Grow the Game… it’s a saying we hear almost daily in the game of golf. Every organization from First Tee to LPGA Girls Golf to state organizations to executive organizations to local clubs has made a push over the past several years to somehow begin to replace the growing number of golfers that are giving up the game and moving on for numerous reasons.
The numbers prove that over the past several years women’s golf is on the rise, despite the fact that, overall, more golfers are leaving the game than joining the game. Mike Whan, LPGA commissioner, reported in February of 2015 that 180,000 new young girls joined the game last year and that there were 300,000 more females in the game last year than males. The efforts that have been made to grow the game have been very successful at all levels, but the question still remains…How do we keep women golfers in the game for a lifetime?
Golf is said to be a sport for all ages, and through the game of golf, many lessons such as etiquette and integrity are learned. It offers exercise, fresh air, challenges, rewards, and lifelong friendships. We could list benefit after benefit to being involved and playing this sport, but yet the question still lingers…Why do women leave the game? And more importantly, what can be done to not only grow the game, but to keep them involved in the game for a lifetime?
Girls are flocking to the sport in record fashion at early ages. Manufacturers are making better equipment for them, women’s clothing and shoes are now much more appealing, and organizations are making the game fun and exciting. Women’s college golf couldn’t be buzzing more after the recent NCAA Championship dramatics, the LPGA is on the rise, senior women players are very involved and active in the game at all levels, but what about those women who didn’t turn pro, and are out of college but not yet a senior? How do we keep them involved in this game? Jobs, families, and life in general seem to steal them away and hold them captive for about 25 years, and then only some of them return to the game as seniors when life seems to slow down a little for them. We should most definitely keep making efforts to grow the game, but just think of the possibilities if we also focused on not letting life completely hold them captive for so long. Golf for women and everyday life can coincide.
The longer they stay away from the game the harder it is to come back. Confidence deteriorates, and it becomes easier and easier to not make golf a priority. For many women in this age range, golf could become their escape from everyday life, and give them a chance to refresh and reenergize to tackle the stresses of their normal everyday life. As it is now, most see it as just one more “thing” to try and squeeze into their already hectic lives. Getting involved in team or partner events where the pressure of playing their own ball and posting a score isn’t looming, 9 hole events that can be played in less time, or more organized events on the weekends to allow those who work and can’t play during the week are some of the ideas that get tossed around. Ideas obviously have the potential to become actions and make an impact on this sport.
The whole “growing the game” was just an idea or brainstorm at one time, but it has become an entire “movement” that brings more girls and women into this sport every year. Women’s golf has a solid foundation, but we need to continue building on that foundation and finding ways to keep those girls involved in a sport they love and can play for a lifetime. Who’s ready to transform ideas into a movement? Who’s ready to help rescue some mid-amateur players from the stresses of everyday life and get them back involved and active in a beneficial sport?
Dawn Woodard is a three-time USGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Medalist, two-time USGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Quarterfinalist, three-time USGA Women’s State Team Participant, two-time Carolina’s Women’s Match Play Champion, recipient of the 2012,2013, and 2014 Tuft’s Award for Player of the Year in the Carolinas, five-time South Carolina Women’s Match Play Champion, and five-time South Carolina Women’s Stroke Play Champion.
Her clients include several men’s and women’s collegiate teams, tour players on the Symetra Tour and the LPGA, and many other competitive amateur golfers, including several past USGA Champions. She also works with instructors and sports psychologists and has done presentations and seminars as part of the continuing education program within the PGA sections.