What is limiting the growth of women’s golf? Parts 1 and 2 of this series addressed potential solutions to reducing the attrition of women golfers through: improved course design for women, improved research on women’s golf, increased presence of female role models in the golf industry, and improved choice and access to quality golf equipment for women. Part 3 is the final instalment of this series and will discuss the impact positive media exposure for women’s golf can have on recruitment and retention of women golfers.
Coverage of women's sports in comparison to men's is only four percent of all coverage. Research carried out by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport in 2015 (see YouTube Documentary produced by the U of M in partnership with Minnesota Public Television titled “Media Coverage and Female Athletes www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVqHsMP-GTM), found that only four percent of all sports coverage was devoted to women’s sports, including golf. Early in 2003, Sports Illustrated published an article titled, "Under Covered." The article highlighted the disparity in media coverage of the 2002 seasons of Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods by pointing out that although Annika won 13 of 25 tournaments and Tiger won 6 of 22 starts in comparison, most of the media coverage went to Tiger.
According to Donna Lopiano, former CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation, the reason women's sports don't get coverage isn’t really driven by market demand. In a 2008 speech, Lopiano explained that the major networks pay the PGA millions of dollars to purchase media rights to air their golf tournaments. In contrast, the LPGA pays the networks to air women's events. According to Lopiano, the reason this situation exists is due to an "over-investment" in men's sports by the networks. The networks pay a lot to air men’s events and therefore, they have to put a lot back into the investment to make a return. Because so many resources are spent promoting men's sports, women's sports are left with relatively few promotional spots, non-primetime program placement, and minimal exposure.
One bright spot that may help women share the limelight in the future is the rise of social media and digital streaming where women can create their own voice. Still, the best solution is to push for networks to purchase the media rights for women's golf. Improving equal access to media coverage, and increasing meaningful research related to media coverage of women's golf would take us one step closer to a more inclusive golf industry.
Marketing, advertising, and public relations campaigns are designed around the messages that entities want to send to their target markets. These messages are delivered in many forms and are designed to educate, influence behavior, inform, persuade, etc. In the golf industry, there is a prevalence of non-verbal messages that I believe negatively influence behavior of women patrons. Following are just a few of the non-verbal “you’re not welcome here” messages that are delivered daily.
Women get the message to “go home” when their locker room is used for storage, when the pro shop looks like a men’s clothing store, and when the club pro doesn't show up for ladies day. Women get the message to “go away” when forward tees are not maintained, overhanging with tree-limbs that limit a good drive or block sunlight for good turf health. Negative messages are sent when tees are offset so far to one side of the fairway that a good angle to the landing area is improbable. This is one of the most grievous negative non-verbal messages that can be easily avoided by thoughtful architectural design. It should be noted that these “messages” are actually overt demonstrations of disrespect that devalue women as patrons. New messages must be sent to repair and improve relations and reduce attrition.
Even though golf is the perfect lifetime sport for women from a physical and social perspective, there are gender-based issues that are keeping the golf industry from thriving. Women may decide that there are too many other options competing for entertainment dollars, options that are more inclusive of women, more inviting, less expensive, and that make it easier for women to participate. In my opinion, reducing the marginalization and creating a more inclusive golf community is the key to reducing the attrition and growing the game of golf.
Copyright© 2017 by Kari Haug
Click here to read more about Kari.