This year has seen a huge drive by organisations like The R&A to encourage more women and girls to take up golf. Participation levels across the UK and Ireland were low but thanks to campaigns like the Women in Golf Charter, awareness is being raised and numbers beginning to trend upward. BRS Golf by GolfNow spoke to Jackie Davidson, assistant director of golf development at The R&A, about her pioneering work on the Women in Golf Charter, which launched on 29 May. The Charter is part of the organisation’s global commitment to get more women and girls playing golf and working in the industry.

What is the most important message to communicate?

Jackie says: “The Women in Golf Charter is all about allowing organisations within the industry the opportunity to commit to realistic goals. We are asking signatories to agree with the overarching aims of the Charter but allowing them to select what commitment they would like to make. Pledges are very different, with everyone doing something realistic, something achievable. We want this to galvanise the industry, to allow everyone to play a part in bringing more women and girls into this great sport.”

The Women in Golf Charter specifically aims to:

  • Strengthen the focus on gender balance and provide a united position for the golf industry
  • Commit national federations and organisations to support measures targeted at increasing participation of women, girls and families in golf
  • Call upon signatories to take positive action to support the recruitment, retention and progression of women working at all levels of the sport
  • Set individual targets for national associations for participation and membership and reporting progress annually
  • Develop an inclusive environment for women and girls within golf

Has the Women in Golf Charter seen any successes?

“Absolutely. We have already seen some success when it comes to participation of women and girls in golf – there has been improvement in the numbers playing in the UK and Ireland. This is great to see as we did have low participation numbers. Further afield, Golf Canada in partnership with Canadian Pacific, hosted a Women’s Leadership Summit during the Canadian Open in August and have committed to do the same again next year.”

What can organisations do to get involved?

“The Women’s Charter serves as a way to keep women’s golf in the consciousness of the industry and encourage people to be mindful of the culture of their organisation. Whether they are playing golf or working in the industry, women should feel welcome and know that they don’t have to dress a certain way or memorise a vast number of rules. Many women work so women members should be welcome to play on a Saturday.

“If you work in golf and have strong female role models within your organisation then shout about it! What are the good things you are doing? Tell the industry about them. But don’t rest on your laurels – keep improving.

“Male champions are very important – they have a powerful voice within the industry and will challenge attitudes and behaviour. The Charter is not about marginalising anyone, it is about bringing the industry together with a common goal.

“If your company hosts or participates in corporate golf days, make sure women are represented there. Whether you like it or not, a lot of networking goes on at these events and women should be there to participate. If you have a corporate golf day maybe include a golf clinic alongside for the newcomers so they don’t feel intimidated. Or include some other type of informative experience for those who don’t want to play but still want to attend.

“Websites shouldn’t just have male golfers pictured, let’s see some women there too. And clubs should consider their women members when writing their course descriptions – what is a par-4 for male golfers may be a par-5 for female golfers. Little things make a big difference.”

What kinds of organisations have signed the charter?

“Signatories pledging their support include: the Ladies’ European Tour, the PGA Tour, the European Disability Golf Association, Golf Australia, Golf Canada, England Golf, Wales Golf, New Zealand Golf and the Swedish Golf Federation, with a number of other bodies set to sign.

“We are always looking for new signatories and want to drive the message home within the industry – we’re looking for federations, media businesses, brands, manufacturers. Currently we’re in talks with The PGA and the British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association (BIGGA), and the Golf Foundation has just agreed to sign. We would love to have more manufacturers onboard – we would like to see a change in the imagery and messaging that’s used (both externally and internally) by some of the leading golf brands.”

What big change would you like to see in the industry?

“You never see female golfers launching the newest driver, or whatever it might be, from golf manufacturers. Why is that? It’s certainly not because they don’t know as much about the technical aspects of the equipment. Some might argue they know more! Many female pros don’t have equipment sponsors, so they are picking out clubs themselves, refining their knowledge about all the products out there and making sure theirs are the best of the best. I would love to see a woman launching the next big product from a really big golf brand.

“We would also like to see more events with male and female golfers playing side by side. Of course not all events can run this way, it depends how they are played but there’s no doubting the potential commercial value of these mixed events and we hope to see more of this.”