Building on growth: catering to the growing market of women’s golf

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Since the reboot of the game—three months into the pandemic, starting in June 2020—600,000 women have joined the sport. In all, the total number of women playing the game throughout the U.S. is now 6 million. Both are amazing numbers. How can you as a property leader serve these new players and manage this growth while building new ideas in adding even more women to your tee sheet or membership roster? We have seen great growth in sheer numbers of golfers before. I believe this is different. When you look at that number of 600,000 women joining the game you sense a different golfer. An independent person, she is not only playing with her partner and friends, she is playing the game with co-workers, clients and prospects. She expects, no, she demands the same service expected from a high-end restaurant. Are you and your team ready for this new growth in golf?

As the tee sheet slot remains a hard-to-get ticket, many operators are pushing up rates, looking to maximize each and every sunny day. They are looking at today, tomorrow. This post is about the future far beyond tomorrow. All golfers want to improve their score, to get good enough to play with the best golfers they know. New golfers have other, more basic goals before they attack those more audacious benchmarks. New golfers want to know the language of the game, know why they have 14 clubs and how to use each one. They want to understand course layout, the golf cart, and how they fit into this very unique world. This post is not about a player development program to grow new golfers. It is about taking the initial interest in the game, turning it into a deep passion for this sport of a lifetime. Today’s post is about a program to operate over two seasons in order to grow loyalty into this new community. Here are my three thoughts for keeping the passion for the game alive:

  1. Develop a “pre-game” program for all: Look at creating weekly programs to provide group instructional time, practice time, and classroom curriculum that always includes a Q & A, as well as information about your property. This is phase one: time spent on the range and classroom. The purpose of phase one is to get the players comfortable with the golf swing before they move onto the golf course.
  2. Playing with purpose: This second phase is all about playing the game. My belief is the more you can get a new golfer on the golf course early-on, the better the chance to build a long-term golfer. From positioning students together to the instruction staff joining for a few holes of observation and play, the course is the place where your students can blend together their new interest and friendships.
  3. The long game: This one is not about a three-iron, but about developing a long-term mentoring program for these new players yearning to play with confidence. Have discussions with several loyal players, the women who have played your property through the years. Develop a yearly program of discounts and perks in trade for playing golf with and mentoring these new golfers. In the beginning I believe it makes sense for the operations team to set the tone and an initial schedule of 9-hole events. Once a bit of chemistry takes hold, allow the mentors and their mentees to work out the schedules. Many women do not know other golfers they can join for a game. A mentorship program can ensure that every golfer has a friend who plays the sport. Being able to find a game has been the conundrum of the past. When your team owns the initial process, your new guests can feel confident and safe about their new pastime. They have new friends, new golf people in their rolodex, and a place to experience and create memories.

I believe new golfers need an extra-long runway to succeed. If the property is happy just to take the tee time, the credit card, and maybe money for rentals, that player is left to decide if they are willing to overcome the frustration that comes with the game. With two seasons’ worth of support, training, listening, and mentoring, the odds that the majority of your new women golfers will continue to play at your club are high. New golfers want to play. They also want to learn and understand so they can feel the same enthusiasm as you and me.

Jack Dillon writes the In My Opinion post for Golf Inc. Jack is a business and communications coach. He is available to grow your team, your golf shop and your operations. Reach out to Jack at jackd@careerdividends.com or at 407-973-6136. Jack lives in Orlando. He is standing by.

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