Social and Gender Discrimination in Golf Sphere

Have we still got a corner of our society that does not want to adhere to social norms or social justice in the modern world where equity is expected?

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By looking more closely at the reasons why people do and do not take up the sport, we can speculate on what the future demographics of golf may look like and suggest ways and means of increasing participation across social groups. By increasing our understanding of the barriers related to why individuals do and do not take up golf as linked to social class, we can reassess strategies to mainstream the sport.

Traditionally, golf is perceived as an elite sport and belongs only to a specific social class, typically stereotyped as a rich middle – aged man. This concept of social class greatly impacts and effects female participation within the sport. The extent of this male domination is highlighted

In December, Judge Jarret handed down in his findings in the case of Barnett v Royal Queensland Golf Club FCCA 3697, in which Barbara Barnett, a Full Member at RQGC, claims that the Club discriminated against her on the grounds of her sex by “limiting or denying the Applicant’s access to its course on Wednesdays to play 18 holes of competition golf and/or 18 holes of golf concurrently with the men’s single-sex competition.”

Many people, including women, still perceive golf to be the sport of the privileged. The Royal Queensland Golf Club reinforce this by such practices as having waiting lists and the need for new members to be ‘approved’ prior to joining. Having to pay significant joining fees in addition to annual membership fees can be daunting for many who want to start playing golf and to join a club. These rules/policies of exclusion impact the equity and access for female golfers and in turn affect the participation rate.

Suzy Whaley is used to breaking down barriers. In 2003 she was the first woman in 58 years to qualify for and play in a PGA tour event. 11 years later the former PGA player became the first woman to be appointed as a PGA of America officer, taking on the role of PGA secondary. Since then her passion and player development has shone through and in November 2018 became the first female president of the PGA of America. When Whaley assumed presidency, it had been 40 years since the first woman elected PGA membership. Whaley fell in love with the little white ball when she began playing with her mother, her own experience highlights why woman of all ages need to be attracted to golf to bring new life to the sport.

There are a variety of factors that impact on levels of golf participation, which is affected by structural issues including time, access, and cost, as well as factors such as perceptions of image, normative gender roles, and socialisation into particular tastes

The male and female divide in golf can sometimes manifest itself in extreme ways. McGinnis and Gentry, for example, found that all of their sample of professional and amateur female golfers had suffered some type of ‘territorial discrimination’ (such as being rushed to play or hit into by men) and verbal discrimination. The result is that women felt less able and confident in the golf environment.

In May 2018 the R&A has introduced its ‘Woman in Golf Charter’ in a concerted bid to tackle gender imbalance in the game. Launched in London, the charter has the full support of the Ladies European Tour, the European Golf Association and the Professional Golfers Association, as well as the amateur governing bodies of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. ‘Signatories call on everyone involved in golf to play their part in developing a culture that values women’s involvement in every aspect of the sport, from participating to pursuing a career,’ states the charter. ‘ Our aim is increasing the number of women and girls playing and working in golf. To achieve this goal and to enable woman to flourish throughout golf, we recognise the need for a fundamental shift in culture. ‘there is clear ethical need for change and the potential economic benefits or growing the sport through more woman and girls playing are substantial.”

What does the future hold for golf? This social injustice can be avoided by opening the game to female players by removing barriers such as rules/ polices. This would encourage female golfers to take part in the game and turn would increase the participation rate for this social group and evidently see a diversification in Golf consumers, whereby Golf can free itself of elitism.    

29 April 2022

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