But is it all really Fair Ways on the Course?
I live in a part of the world that’s packed to the lush velvety verdant rafters with golf courses. Welcome to the Costa del Sol – or as it is often more affectionately and stereotypically known, the Costa del Golf. A place where sand in the bunker could rival the contents of the local beach, a place where eighteen hole attire – and its dedicated shops, could rival the complexity of style on anyway catwalk runway.
Naturally, at some point in time, my curiosity was always going to get the better of me when it comes to all things tee and caddy. Just what IS it about this game that attracts so many? When I “happened” to appear on a local radio show last year with Lynn Fisher, a Golf Consultant and the founder of Girls Golf Ladies Society, that was one thing which pricked up my antennae. But when my then five year old son ended up taking up the game in September (then as a substitute for the municipal tennis lessons which didn’t have enough kids in his age group… now because he absolutely loves it), I started to wonder if I too, was missing a trick.
But before I practiced my “swing” with my son’s Driver… or number 8 Iron in the back garden, I decided to meet up with Lynn for a proper chat to delve further into the world of Ladies’ Golf (Lynn prefers to refer to us fairer of the two sexes as “Ladies” and when it comes to golf, I wholeheartedly agree, it sounds and feels so much better… hence that is the way I shall too for the duration of this article). And so, armed with my plethora of questions – somewhat, I must add, disguised as my very personal procrastination, I dove in headfirst with the BIGGIE.
Sexism and elitism: Do they still exist in the game in the year that is 2017?
One would hope not… they really don’t need to…
However, Lynn could not deny that yes, sadly both are still prevalent on and off the green. As is the case in any number of sports, with the “usual suspect” nuances springing to mind; dress code (that much was clear when Lynn handed me a copy of the Costa del Sol Golfing Magazine, sporting ladies’ clothing adverts modeled by Jodie Kidd, some, but not all pictures in a teeny-weeny skirt), derogatory remarks, and differences in prize money/perceived prestige when it comes to Men vs Ladies competitions.
And she puts much of the elitism down to the British stiff upper lip, as well as the geographic origins of the game. You won’t encounter golfing elitism in Germany or South Korea, for example.
But she is adamant that neither of these issues should put a lady off. Quite the contrary. We should be encouraging one another and questioning the current status quo all the way. In fact, this is the very reason Lynn set up both her golf travel agency (back in the 90’s when just about the only rival was British Airways), as well as G.I.R.L.S Golf; to inspire more ladies – particularly from Britain – to play.
So, just how accessible is golf for ladies?
Here in Spain, obviously we are spoiled for choice when it comes to golf courses to suit every budget and level of play. But what about elsewhere in the world?
Well, the U.S is fantastic when it comes to the ladies, Lynn explained. There’s a huge amount of support and encouragement, great coaches and pros, and a lot of golf courses all over the States – not to mention some of the biggest and best championships. But Germany also offers brilliant access and lessons for ladies of all ages (read: from girls as young as 4 years old to seniors up to 90 years old!). So this has been a massive jump for Europe. And then of course, there’s been a significant increase in females learning the game, to very high standards in Asia – notably South Korea. All of this means things can only get better and better as access spreads to more and more countries worldwide.
It’s probably a very obvious question from a fitness point of view, but what are the other benefits of learning to play?
The sky is the limit, Lynn told me. This list really is endless. Golf is one of those unique sports (perhaps the most unique) in that, despite it being an insular sport, which may or may not be so popular with outgoing personalities, it offers the full package. We’re talking social skills, camaraderie, unity (especially in later years), self-respect, respect for others, discipline, self-worth, meeting people from all nationalities – and even learning new languages in the process, not to mention assertiveness.
And when it comes to potentially doing business, there is no better way to “suss somebody out”, and whether or not to go ahead with that contract… or shaking of the hand. People will show their true colours during a game of golf like in no other scenario!
There are essentially four different life stages when a female can take up the game; 1) as a child, 2) as a teenager, 3) the lady who is getting married/has children/is busy carving out a career, and 4) the lady who is asking “What now? What shall I do with my spare time?”
Lynn is an expert at helping those in stages 1) and 4).
Okay, so how many lessons will the average beginner need before they can be let loose to play a round?
Surprisingly, Lynn says this is usually between 10-12 lessons, meaning it’s not essential to pay out vast sums of money to take to the green. The first lesson is the ultimate benchmark as to whether or not a lady thinks she will even be interested to take the sport further, but in most cases this is always a resounding ‘yes!’ Golf just has that magic. Ultimately though, the number of lessons needed to feel ready to tackle the course, will depend not only on the teaching facilities and quality of the coaching at your local golf club, but the commitment of the student to put in the practice. Lynn suggests one lesson a week for the first month of learning, increasing this to two lessons a week thereafter. It’s a little bit like taking up a new language and the more practice you put in, the better you will get. However, it is definitely a two-way thing too. If the student doesn’t learn it is because the teacher has failed to teach.
Finally, can women who take the sport up later in life, realistically get good enough to compete?
Absolutely, Lynn assures me. This has certainly been the case for her and so many of the ladies she regularly plays with.
Well, if that doesn’t persuade me – and the rest of you – to give the game a go, I don’t know what will!
(Note from The Editor: Lynn Fisher is a Golf Consultant based in Malaga, Spain, and founder of G.I.R.L.S Ladies’ Golf Society. Thank you so much Lynn for your time.)