Teeing off on gender inequity in golf: We can do better

By Skylar Fromm, Columnist

When people ask what sport I play, they are always surprised with the answer: Golf. Are they surprised because they still think of the sport as a “man’s game”? Because they see more men playing it than women? Their favorite movie is Caddyshack?

While golf has been male-dominated since the Scots invented it in the 15th century, there is nothing about the game to suggest that it should be exclusively or even mainly for men. Nonetheless, men have long regarded it as their sport, women not invited.

The results of this “men’s only club” not surprisingly include stereotypes, misconceptions, social prejudice and gender discrimination. These social ills are communicated in policies and unwritten rules and, perhaps most pervasively of all, through attitudes.

A junior Communication major at Berry, the author is also a member of the golf team.

As a female golfer, I have experienced many negative stereotypes.

The most common of these perceive women as too slow or too weak. We are women, so how could we know the rules of play? We’ll tear up the grass on the golf courses because we don’t know what we’re doing. Men playing behind us will spend most of the day waiting.

Women golfers have to put on brave faces every time they step onto the golf course to push through the opposition, both passive and active, from men and women. For me and many like me, we persist, because this is the sport we love.

There are so many skills that a player must master to get a small, white golf ball into the tiny cup, and these start with a good drive off of the tee. Now, there are so many male golfers who do not hit their tee shots all that far. There are so many male golfers who can’t routinely make the fairways. But, provided they keep up a good pace on the course, no one would dare classify them as slow. When a woman hits a short drive, suddenly she’s slow and, because she’s representative of all women, all female golfers are slow.

I remember playing in the Junior Club Championship at my local country club course. My tee time bumped that of a bunch of grumpy old men. When my playing partner and I teed off, we could hear loud and clear the ugly comments these curmudgeons were making to the head golf pro complaining that we were going to be slow. We did not let their negative attitudes affect our performance; we crushed our drives right down the middle. The ill-tempered, sexist old men? They never caught up.

The microaggressions toward female golfers and the double standards rife throughout the sport frustrate me because they show how society so typically underestimates and undervalues women athletes.

Most private country clubs in the U.S. protect tee times from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for their men. The women have to wait, which in the South means playing in the heat of the day. In other words, women get the least desirable time slots.

This “men first” policy is a remnant of an era when men who worked during the week expected to get an early morning tee time to prevent any worries of ending up behind a group of “slow” women.

I found that in 2022 there are still some golf clubs that only allow men to become members. Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts The Masters, did not allow women until 2012. In New York, my friend played a course that had only one small bathroom and no locker rooms for women.

In my opinion, these clubs are filled with misogynists who believe women golfers lack skill, strength, financial stability and social status. I have a hard time understanding how these golf clubs can be so discriminatory, even by law. Imagine if the tables were turned.

Another way women golfers are unfairly treated is that at most amateur and professional golf tournaments, men are given the opportunity to play the nicer, better known courses. For example, The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club is a tournament put on by the PGA and played by some of the best professionals. Augusta is one of the most famous golf courses in the world. Unfortunately, the LPGA tour does not get this opportunity.  In 2019, Augusta finally announced a women’s amateur tournament for the best qualifying amateurs to compete in a week before The Masters.

Is this the best they can do? 

One of my personal experiences of this type of discrimination occurred in a junior tournament at the PGA National. The junior boys playedThe Champions course, home to the PGA Tour Tournament, The Honda Classic, while we played the third-nicest course, The Fazio.

In golf, women have to work twice as hard, if not harder, just to be seen as equal to the men. Women often give up the sport because of the pervasiveness of negative attitudes.

All golf clubs should allow women as members. The women should have equal number and quality of amenities, such as bathrooms, locker rooms and tee times.

Move aside men, we’re playing through!

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