Are golf clubs welcoming to women and juniors?

Are out-dated rules and the attitudes of stuffy members still pushing women and juniors away from Golf Clubs?

Junior golfers
Junior golfers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Are out-dated rules and the attitudes of stuffy members still pushing women and juniors away from Golf Clubs?

Great efforts have been made in recent years to attract women and juniors to golf. Organisations and schemes like the County Golf Partnerships, the Golf Foundation and Get into Golf have been successful in encouraging thousands to discover how enjoyable it is to hit a ball.

Upon catching the bug, an obvious next step for women and kids is to join a club, but this is where many lose their enthusiasm. Certainly the cost can be a discouraging factor, but is there more to it? Are clubs still unwelcoming places for women and juniors?

Ladies day, archaic dress codes, the junior room, Gentlemen’s evenings: The prospect of handing over a large sum of money to be constrained by such club rules and regulations will, understandably, not appeal to all.

In an article for The Independent, written after the announcement of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s impending vote on accepting women members, the shoe designer and keen golfer Emma Hope stated she felt it wasn’t sexism, rather the innate bossiness and “small-mindedness” of golf clubs that pushes women away.

Almost every golfer has a story of being scolded like an infant for breaking some out-dated club rule, for wearing the wrong pair of socks, for taking a guest into the members’ locker room, for chipping on the wrong section of practice green. Who would pay for that?

Women members (just like the men) can be officious guardians of petty club rules and this combined with the, often, cliquey nature of the small ladies section, can make it very difficult and unappealing for new lady members to integrate.

Juniors are often viewed as second-class citizens at golf clubs: only permitted on the course at certain times, only allowed in certain parts of the clubhouse. The fact some older members take great pleasure enforcing such restrictions is bound to turn rebellious youngsters off the sport.

If clubs are to provide an inclusive welcome, established members must remember they are leisure, not correctional, facilities.

What we think: To make clubs welcoming to women and juniors it’s the duty of all members, male and female, to be helpful and friendly rather than questioning and pompous.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?