7 Things Golf Clubs Could Improve For Women

Carly Frost considers the simple ways in which golf clubs can be more female-friendly

Women Golfers
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Being a woman in a male-dominated sport can be tough. It is easy to feel that we are an oversight or afterthought, especially when courses don’t cater for the basic everyday needs of life, like having adequate toilet and changing facilities. Golf clubs have come a long way in the last decade to improve the equality, but there are still things that could be done, as Carly Frost explores.

1. On-Course Toilets

The lack of toilets on some golf courses is one of my big complaints. Courses that have none are really doing their female members and visitors a disservice. We are expected to ‘make do’ with an emergency nature stop behind a tree, but it’s so indignant. What if a young woman is on her period and has to change her sanitary product? I remember it happening to one poor junior girl when playing with me in a national competition a few years ago. There were no toilets and we had no tissues or sanitary supplies in our golf bags, so she ended up having to wear her waterproof trousers over the top of her white cut-offs to hide her embarrassment.

I had this argument with the owner of the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, where I am an away player. There are no on-course toilets at all. His argument is that the golf course comes close to the clubhouse after seven holes. The truth is that from the 7th green back up to the clubhouse is further than walking a par-3, uphill and across the 18th green to get there. So, he’s expecting women to interrupt their round to make that trek and then back to the tee without holding up play behind - ridiculous - it’s impossible. What makes matters worse is that the club has recently had a redesign and stripped away massive areas of gorse, bracken, bushes and trees. You can now see clearly through across a massive expanse of holes, virtually unobscured. It’s spectacular scenery but also spectacularly inconvenient as the all-important hiding places for women caught short are virtually all gone.

2. Equality Of Tee Times

Can someone please explain to me why at the majority of golf clubs in this country men’s competitions are played on the weekend and women play theirs on a weekday? It’s clearly one of those antiquated club decisions that originates back to the days when men were the sole breadwinners of the family, working weekdays and women, who were fortunate enough to play golf, were just stay at home housewives. Nowadays, there are so many more working women and they are simply not catered for on the time sheet.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a couple of guaranteed tee times on a Sunday in amongst a whole host of fourballs out for a friendly knock. I did this for most of my twenties as an alternative day player, entering the same competition (and trophy) as our Tuesday ladies on a Sunday. Naturally the weather and course conditions were invariably different. Sometimes it worked to my advantage but often it didn’t. I always wondered why I couldn’t just put my name down to play in the Saturday competition with the men, playing the same course set-up on the same day, my handicap getting fairly adjusted. I think that clubs should be more open to this option, allowing working women the same rights as working men.

Women Golfers

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It also applies to young mums, junior girls and students at school during the week, all of whom are unavailable to play a competition or mark a scorecard until the weekend. My home club, Parkstone in Dorset, say that it’s simply not possible to add women to the men’s competition as there is already a shortage of tee times. In fact, the overflow is such that many competitions are now open to golfers playing on either Friday or Saturday. I still say that we’re only talking about one or two women, a handful at most, and it would be nice for them to have the option.

3. More Thoughtful Tee Box Locations

I relish the opportunity to play a new course, the excitement of treading new turf, but so often I walk off the 18th green disappointed because the women’s tees were in such stupid places. I’ve played hundreds of courses all over the world and I can honestly say that many treat the women’s tees as an afterthought. They just put them 50 yards forward of the men’s tees and that’s that. No thought given to the playability or enjoyment of the hole from the reds. It’s always sad to see the women’s tee markers shunted to the side of a lake so that we haven’t got the fun of getting to hit over the hazard, or positioned on uneven ground at the side of a hole. It’s also shocking how often the reds point in completely the wrong direction! I’ve seen red tee markers point at right angles to the direction of the hole, so that you literally have to aim across them with your feet alignment to hit a shot straight down the middle. This is one of my pet hates.

Women Golfers

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I recently met golf course designer John Hunt who was telling me about his latest project, redesigning and moving the location of Staffordshire Golf Club. I asked him whether he was setting the ladies course up to be shorter and easier? Quite the contrary, he told me. He’d had a number of consultation meetings with lady members on the course and they had unanimously asked for the design to be more challenging. How refreshing to hear! Sadly, too many course designers leave us as an afterthought. They assume that because we don’t hit the ball as far we don’t like a challenge. It’s simply more fun to see the hole from where it is supposed to be played.

4. Stock Women’s Golf Apparel

I know that this is a contentious subject, but in my opinion, women are woefully under-served by pro shops. Many clubs don’t stock women’s apparel at all. Those that do offer a small selection in very limited sizing. I’m well aware of the reasons behind their decision, women are super fussy when it comes to clothing. We want fashionable, functional outfits at a great price. We don’t like to be seen in the same outfit as our friends. The sale rail is always very enticing. We love a bargain! We want choice - not just the same old navy-blue cut-offs and pink t-shirts. We want stretch fabric and we want easy wash/non-iron tops that flatter.

Women golfers

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The obvious solution is for pro shops to stock a sample selection of women’s apparel, ideally from a minimum of 3-4 brands at varying price points. We can then find the style we like, try a few different outfits on for size and the shop keeper can simply order in what we want. It’s what many clubs do with team uniforms. Another great concept are pop-up shops that travel around the country to opens and various other events. These are always popular and add that fun element of shopping to an away-day outing.

Without such ideas I think that our pro shops may die and it would be a great shame for women to be forced to buy online, simply because there’s no stock elsewhere. The club pro is part of the history and heritage of clubs. We need to support them. Thinking outside of the box is the way forward. Ideas like Golf Monthly contributing professional Katie Dawkins has introduced. At her club, Hamptworth in Hampshire, they host fashion shows with drinks and canapés for the women who attend. Bravo!

5. Shorter Competition Formats

Women lead busy lives. We work, we’re housewives, mums, grandparents and we have other activities we want to squeeze into our week. The trouble with golf is it is a time-consuming sport, taking on average, four hours to play 18-holes. That’s not including the time before you tee off to arrive, sign in, hit some shots in the net and putt. Then entering your scores into the computer afterwards.

It would be really fantastic to see golf clubs offering shorter competition formats, especially as we move from the spring into the summer and the night’s draw out, it stays lighter much later. A 9-hole competition that tees off from 6pm onwards in twilight or a “six after six” fun format that takes just an hour to play would be a great addition. I’ve visited many clubs in America where these shorter formats of the game are really popular with women. They are less time-consuming and yet still allow us to get our golfing fix. They can also be incredibly sociable and a great way to relax after a long day in an office or just being a busy mum chasing after the kids. The “9 and dine”, where you play 9 holes followed by a meal, is something my club started running on Friday evenings last summer. It was really popular.

As for weekend golf, I’d like to see golf clubs becoming more progressive and offering more general play competitions for anyone - men, women or juniors. Any age, any gender. Why not scrap men’s and women’s competitions entirely and just make them trophies that are open to all to enter - very controversial I know!

6. Get Into Golf Initiatives For Women

I’ll never forget the first time I went to a Zumba class. It was in my local church hall and they had a billboard sized poster hung outside the hall advertising the class. What particularly caught my eye was the sentence “with free crèche.” What a brilliant way for us sleep-deprived new mums to get an hour of exercise in the day, away from our little ones. It’s amazing what just a little bit of exercise can do for the mind, body and soul. I used to relish that class. 

Why Women Should Play Golf

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Thinking about the difficulties of getting young women into golf, particularly stay-at-home mums, we are expected to take our kids to countless toddler groups, yet there are so few options that give us any pleasure. How about encouraging the ladies section at your club to run a crèche for a couple of hours one morning a week? Do this in conjunction with your club professional who can set up some ladies group lessons. I imagine that many mums will stay on in the clubhouse afterwards for a sociable coffee with other mums and their kids, spending money behind the bar and bolstering the catering coffers too.

7. Lunch Options For Ladies

Historically golf club menus have been similar to pub grub, serving traditional food like bacon baps, sandwiches and chips. Wouldn’t it be lovely to mix the menu up with some healthier options like delicious salads, interesting wraps, soups or even rice/noodle bowls. I’m not saying that these dishes will only appeal to women, but as a sex we do tend to enjoy eating more delicious, nutritious food than men. Many guys still love a good fry up or a bowl of cheesy chips with a pint after a game. The women I play golf with would definitely prefer a menu with more variety. It’s so boring when you can only pick from sandwiches, chips or cake for match tea. I think it would encourage a lot more of us to stay on for a drink and a bite to eat after we play.

Carly Frost
Golf Monthly Contributor

Carly Frost is one of the golf industry’s best-known female writers, having worked for golf magazines for over 20 years. As a consistent three-handicapper who plays competitive club golf at Parkstone and the Isle of Purbeck courses in Dorset every week, Carly is well-versed in what lady golfers love. Her passion for golf and skill at writing combine to give her an unbeatable insight into the ladies game.  

Carly’s role at Golf Monthly is to help deliver thorough and accurate ladies equipment reviews, buying advice and comparisons to help you find exactly what you are looking for. So whether it’s the latest driver, set of irons, golf ball, pair of shoes or even an outfit, Carly will help you decide what to buy. Over the years Carly has been fortunate to play some of the greatest courses in the world. Her view ‘from the ladies tee’ is invaluable. She ranks Sea Island, Georgia, USA, where she met her husband, world-renowned golf coach Dan Frost, among her favourite golf resorts. Their aptly-named eight-year-old son Hogan is already hitting the ball as far as Mum and will undoubtedly be a name to watch out for in the future. Carly is a keen competitor and her list of golfing achievements are vast. She is a former winner of the South West of England Ladies Intermediate Championship, a three-time winner of the European Media Masters and she once beat an entire start-sheet of men to the title of Times Corporate World Golf Champion. She has played for both the Dorset and Surrey County Ladies first teams and is known for her excellent track record at matchplay.

Carly holds the ladies course record (68) at her home club Parkstone and her lowest competition round (seven-under-par 65) was carded in the pro-am of the Irish Ladies Open at Killeen Castle, playing alongside Solheim Cup superstar Anna Nordqvist. Although her current handicap index has crept up to 3.7 since Covid she has her sights firmly set on achieving that elusive scratch handicap and hopefully playing for her country when she’s 50.

Carly’s current What's In The Bag? 

Driver: Callaway Epic Max, 10.5° 

Fairway wood: TaylorMade SIM2, 15° 

Hybrids: Titleist TS2, 19°, 21°, 24° 

Irons: Mizuno JPX900, 5-PW 

Wedges: Cleveland RTX, 52°, 56° and 58° 

Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura X5

Ball: 2021 Callaway Ladies SuperSoft