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To coincide with #BreakTheBias, the campaign theme for International Women’s Day (8 March), we spoke to three-time Ladies European Tour winner Carly Booth who believes that women’s golf has made significant progress in terms of becoming a more gender-neutral sport, but there is still work to be done.
The 29-year old Scottish golfer, who burst onto the amateur scene at the tender age of 11 and played in the Curtis Cup at St Andrews aged 14, said: “When I was growing up, opportunities for young girls were non-existent. I had to play with junior boys or the ladies, and although this helped me to improve more quickly, it wasn’t always what I would have chosen.”
Speaking fresh off the back of a two-day shoot with International Leisure Group (ILG) which incorporates golf retailer and leisure brands American Golf (opens in new tab) and Online Golf, for which Booth has recently become an ambassador, she enthused about the shoot as an example of how companies are helping to change the face of golf to make the sport more inclusive.
“It was so much fun because there was myself, two male models of varying age, and 8-year-old Maybel Brooks, an up-and-coming golf star who American Golf is supporting in her golf journey. That is what I love to see, the diversity and different generations, showing golf is for everyone.”
This is just one of many small but meaningful changes that Booth, who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery before she kickstarts her LET season at the Madrid Ladies Open in May, has witnessed since turning pro aged 17.
“I feel we’ve made so much progress, women are no longer made to feel that it’s a masculine sport. Men are starting to respect us more and many golf clubs are changing their attitudes towards women, and that has been a really big thing. Some people will always be stuck in their ways, but that’s just the way it is.”
There might be more opportunities for girls to get into golf compared to Booth’s junior days, as well as them feeling more comfortable playing a game that was traditionally a male sport, but she strongly believes that there should be more investment at grassroots level if we are to encourage greater participation, referring to girls in particular.
“As a country we need to invest in providing more opportunities at school to play golf, as generally kids are only encouraged to play traditional sports like hockey, cricket, netball, tennis etc. Why not organise an after-school bus to take kids to a golf course? Golf clubs should be more open-minded about these ideas, then the club pros are more likely to get on board – organise a 3-hole competition, something to get kids interested.”
In a sport that is constantly talking about increasing equality and diversity, she added that mixed golf at all levels is crucial.
“Henrik (Stenson) and Annika (Sorenstam) did a great job in getting the Scandinavian Mixed off the ground to show that we can actually play golf together, but mixed golf should be introduced to juniors too, as this will help to change traditional club culture so it becomes the norm for future generations.”
Alison Root has over 25 years experience working in media and events, predominantly dedicated to golf, in particular the women’s game. Until 2020, for over a decade Alison edited Women & Golf magazine and website, and in addition to writing, overseeing all content and developing industry relationships, she was the go-to voice for TV and radio to comment on breaking women’s golf stories. Alison is also the Editorial Director of Glorious, the new digital platform devoted to elevating women’s sport and that includes golf! She is a 14-handicap golfer (should be better) and despite having had the fantastic opportunity to play some of the best golf courses around the world, Kingsbarns in Scotland is her favourite.