Golf courses making effort to be more appealing to women

I continue to crank away at the same old saw, singing the same tune, marching the march. Now a new study funded by the Little Family Foundation and conducted by the National Golf Course Owners Association, backs up what many of us have known for years: appealing to women is a prudent path to economic health and well being. Facilities willing to make the investment to woo and maintain women stand to benefit financially.

Why? Simple stuff. Women surveyed said they would pay a premium price to play their “ultimate” facility. They’re not playing the game now because they say, it takes too long, is too expensive and too tough a game.

The study points out the obvious: the golf industry needs more players and the largest untapped, underserved portion of the golfing public is women. Not to go after the women is to ignore a great economic opportunity.

So what’s the big deal about getting women to play? Hey guys, you already know, deep in your soul, the answer to this one: follow the money. Who is the shopper in your family? Women have discretionary money to spend and typically make the decisions on how family leisure time is spent.”

Arthur Little and his wife, Jann Leeming, who owned Province Lake Golf, the course from 1996 to 2005 in Parsonfield, Maine, one of Golf Digest’s “Top 50 Courses for Women” actively pursued women, juniors and families investing $80,000 up front then $20,000 annual in marketing and special programs resulting in an improvement of their bottom-line by $200,000.

A study carried out by Jon Last of New York-based Sports & Leisure Research Group, has now prompted Little and Leeming to produce a “how-to” guide for the golf facilities to help them achieve economic success with women. They have also produced a new web site focusing on ways women and families can enhance a club’s revenue.

Little and Leeming estimate it will take two to three years to see results but the efforts will be well worth it. Noting how perceptions of golf course operators differed with women on what made a facility truly women friendly, the following conclusions were reached.

• Almost one-third of golf facilities are currently charging higher fees than the $50 women expect to pay even for an “ultimate” facility.

• Those that describe their facilities as “woman friendly” have no more sets of tees than facilities in general.

• While fewer than one quarter of golf facility customers are women, nearly all facilities consider women important to their financial success and to the overall environment at their facility. Yet only two-thirds of facilities consider themselves as “women friendly” and only a very few of them provide the features that women want in a golf facility.

• The game’s difficulty did not rank as highly by women as the inability to reach greens in regulation, which is a result of limited tee positioning.

• Removing the intimidation factor is critical. That means providing tees at the proper yardages for the full range of swing speeds. Properly designed sets of tees reduce round times and makes the sport much less difficult and more enjoyable.” For example, for an average woman golfer with a 65 mph swing speed (140-yard drive) the optimal tee yardage is 4,200 to 4,500 yards, and for women with 75 mph swing speeds (165- to 170-yard drive) the best total yardage is 4,800 to 5,100 yards.

Old Macdonald, the newest course at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is cited as setting a new standard in the proper positioning of tees.

• More flexibility is needed in providing play options that address both time and cost, such as nine-hole rates, pay-by-the-hole and low junior fees that are part of a family play plan.

• Childcare must be provided at a reasonable cost.

• Personnel, especially in their pro shops, should be receptive to and completely supportive of the issues that are of greatest importance to women.

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