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Why women leave golf, and why they should come back

Jennifer MarioBy Jennifer Mario,

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- I have a friend who was the captain of her golf team in high school. I only found this out by accident, and when I asked her to join me for a round some time, she only shook her head and said no. She'd be embarrassed because she hasn't played in years. Another friend of mine used to go out and break 100 at will. Her rives were a sight to behold. But lately? Not so much.

It turns out that although women make up the fastest-growing group taking up golf, they also make up the largest group that's leaving it. What's going on here? What happened to all these golfers? Curious, I asked around. And here's what I heard:

1. Children. While one can play while pregnant (I did it myself, playing right up to my due date), toting around an actual infant on the course is not good for one's game. For this reason, many women put golf on the back burner for one, two, three, or more years. Do dads do this? No, they generally feel no guilt leaving the kids behind to go play. Perhaps women could take a page from their husband's book and either a) let hubbie do his fatherly duty once in a while, or b) get a babysitter and go out and enjoy a golf date with said hubbie. I have three kids of my own, so I know how this goes. But I also know that it's not insurmountable. Yes, Virginia, you can be a mother and play golf too.

2. Work. If you're working 9 to 5, often putting in overtime and maybe even traveling, it's hard to fit in a five-hour round every week. This is a tough one, because unlike the first reason, you can't hire a babysitter to do your job for you. You can, however, play nine holes after work, or just hit a bucket of balls to stay in practice. In my area of North Carolina, we have Knights Play-a lighted par-3 course that's open until midnight. If you're lucky, you have something similar. Something like this should fit with anyone's work schedule.

3. Time. This is actually an encapsulation of the first two reasons; however, it's a top reason why women stop playing. Sounds like an excuse to me. Only three of the U.S. presidents of the last century didn't play golf. If they can find the time, chances are you
can too. (FYI, those three presidents were Hoover, Truman, and Carter.)

4. Pride. Not playing becomes a reason all by itself. Perhaps you had to take time off to have a baby, or go on a trip, or maybe you were sick. And now that you've been away, you're virtually guaranteed some embarrassment when you return because your game is not up to snuff. Take heart-a long hiatus doesn't have to mean the end of your golf career. Think of it as a new beginning. Take a lesson or two, stay on the range your first few times out. Ease back into the game slowly, and you'll remember what you've been missing. You might discover that you're better now than you ever were. And even if you discover the opposite, who cares? Just ask the folks at badgolfer.com-you don't have to be good to enjoy golf!

5. Lack of playing partners. Your regular golfing buddy moved away, and you can't get your husband out on the course. I'm familiar with this one. However, you might be surprised by how many opportunities are out there to find new golfing friends. If you're a member of a club, you're probably already familiar with ladies' day. And many other possibilities are out there just waiting for you to discover them, even if you don't have a home course. The Executive Women's Golf Association, for example, has chapters all around the country, offering eague play, outings and tournaments. What a great chance to meet some new playing partners! Check out www.ewga.com for more information. Love means never having to say you're sorry, and joining a group like this means never having to say you can't play.

So now we know why women quit golf. Why should they come back?

1. Fun. If you have children, you know how important it is for them to have free time to just play. But why should they have all the fun? Don't you deserve even just a few hours of fun yourself? A happy mom makes for happy kids. Don't feel guilty for having some fun of your own.

2. Stress relief. Had a bad day? Feeling tense? Nothing clears your mind better than a good round of golf. Even a bad round of golf can do the trick. Fresh air, exercise, picturing your pointy-haired boss's head on the little tee while you swing away-all these can do wonders for your mental health.

3. Exercise. Walk eighteen holes and you've just walked five miles. If you carry your clubs, you're burning more than 600 calories per round. 600 calories! Step aerobics, Pilates, and Tae-Bo can't hold a candle to the kind of fitness you can achieve with golf. So park the cart, buy some comfortable shoes, and get out there.

4. Relationships. Can you think of any other sporting activity where you can talk for four or five hours straight? Golf naturally fosters close relationships. And it's tailor-made for couples. The handicapping system means a woman who drives 140 yards has just as good a chance of winning as her husband who belts it 300. And vice versa.

5. Networking. How many deals have been made on the golf course? Men aren't the only ones who should take advantage of golf's networking opportunities. You can work your way into your boss's good graces by inviting him or her for a round at your home course, and get to know your colleagues better at a company outing. And the beautiful thing is, you really don't have to be good! You'll get respect just for being there, and we all know letting the boss win is probably your best bet anyway.

Whether you're 25 or 65, these might be the best golf years of your life. Don't let them go to waste! No more excuses-come back to golf and see how good you are now.


Jennifer Mario has worked as an editor and writer, both full time and as a freelancer, for almost ten years. She began playing golf four years ago, became addicted immediately, and now plays to a 16 handicap. A graduate of Duke University, she resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband Jeremy and three children, Gretchen, Reid, and baby Charlie.

Jennifer Mario is a regular contributor to the TravelGolf Network and the author of "Michelle Wie: The Making of a Champion" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2006). A graduate of Duke University, she lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina with her family.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Golf Clubs for Women?

    affirma wrote on: Nov 18, 2005

    I am a female beginner and inherited a set of clubs from my brother. I wonder
    should I get golf clubs for women?
    Would clubs for men and women make
    a lot of difference?


      • RE: Golf Clubs for Women?

        Owen wrote on: Nov 25, 2005

        Yes, by all means get your own, unless you have tried out your brother's clubs and feel comfortable with them. Women's clubs are generally a bit shorter and designed for slower swing speeds. Also, a new set, even a cheap knock-off, will probably be more up to date from a technology standpoint. You will find that a starter set with a couple of woods, a putter, and 4 irons will last you long enough to decide whether you want to get more serious about the game, will serve you well, and won't break the bank.


  • Presidents who did not play golf

    Barbara Bell wrote on: Jul 17, 2005

    Somehow I don't think Franklin Roosevelt played while he was President!


      • RE: Presidents who did not play golf

        Jen wrote on: Sep 20, 2005

        No, but FDR was an avid golfer before being struck with polio, and he claimed it as his favorite sport.


  • setting women's tee markers

    Beverly Goodwin wrote on: Jun 19, 2005

    Not even women pros play from the men's tees. At my home course the women's tees are placed on the men's tees or dropped in front of the men's tee and lose the elevation that the men have. Someone send Park Mammoth Resort Golf Course a guideline for setting tee markers to be fair to women.They are driving all women gilfers off of the course. Even Sorrenstam couldn't compete from these tees.On a 620 yqrd par five the women are hitting from 610 yqrds! even seen a hole like that on the pro womens tour? We're amateurs. Give us a break!


      • RE: setting women's tee markers

        tobycc wrote on: Jan 31, 2006

        it will be wonderful when everyone learns there are NOT men and womens tees but THE Teeing Ground.....that is you swing from the tee markers that would be appropriate for your playing ability.
        The USGA has a wonderful video called Spirit of the game that every old new and junior golfer should watch to learn this valuable information....


  • Why I left golf

    Berniece T. King wrote on: May 13, 2005

    Thank you for the website and article. I left due to divorce and financial and lifestyle changes. I had hoped to find a partner that would share my interest. Going back to work has been an issue both timewise and energywise. Now, having weathered through some of the aboveand ending a relationship, I am very inspired to get back into the game. You're right, take a few lessons, hit the driving range, buy some new clothes and book a vacation!!!! Thanks for the timely article.


  • Women leaving golf

    Gomerpyle wrote on: Mar 29, 2005

    You probably forgot to mention the most important fact. Money. The courses fees are unbelievable.


  • Executive Women's Golf Association

    Debi Ladig wrote on: Mar 8, 2005

    As a member of EWGA, I can attest to ample opportunities to play. From twilight and Saturday leagues to clinics, competative tournaments and weekend trips, there's something for the "wanna be golfer", beginner and advanced players alike. And the opportunity to learn to take advantage of business on the course -like men have always done - has been the most valuable benefit of all! Check out EWGA.com


  • Women leaving golf

    Pam Denton wrote on: Feb 9, 2005

    What a great article!! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Hope we hear more from Mrs. Mario!


  • Women Leaving Golf

    Ivory Rubin wrote on: Feb 2, 2005

    Each of the reasons listed in this article, clearly with the exception of "children", seem to be issues that are relative...meaning, there is a practical solution that is based on an individual's choice and planning style.
    However, children present an entirely different and more emotion-ladened decision-making process. But, perhaps there could be a movement to have qualified and effective child care services become part of the amenities of golf clubs/courses. Also, is it possible for an appreciable number of women golfers with children, living in a common geographical location, to work out a golf-specific program with existing child-care facilities?


      • RE: Women Leaving Golf

        Tom L wrote on: Feb 16, 2005

        Interesting comments. My wife considered the child-care facilities when she joined a gym. How hard would it be for a club to set up child care in a seldom used "banquet room"?


          • RE: RE: Women Leaving Golf

            Barbara Bell wrote on: Jun 20, 2006

            Dads bring their kids to the course at a fairly early age to teach them the game. Why can't Moms do the same? Bring your daughter at age 4 with her own small clubs (buy used ones) and let her putt on the practice green or hit a small bucket of balls. From then on, she will enjoy sharing time with you and learning the game.
            Both my grandchildren (a boy and a girl) play with us when they come to visit. We bought their first clubs for them.
            You may need to find an executive course or municipal course while they are still learning, but it will give you a chance to get back in the game as well.


  • Women growing in golf?

    Jim Koppenhaver wrote on: Jan 26, 2005

    Would be interested to know the factual basis for your comment in the recent article about Women in Golf that women are the fastest-growing group in golf. I run a golf information and insight company and we do an annual golf consumer survey which has shown for the past 3 years women as a component of the total golfer base has actually declined! Various trade organizations (National Golf Foundation, Executive Women's Golf Assoc. etc.) continue to publish accounts of women being a "growth" engine for golf however, to the best of my knowledge, not one of these groups has produced factual numbers which support this claim.
    I agree with the points you made in your commentary and many of them apply to males as well in explaining why the golfer base has declined over the past three years. Being a fellow journalist, it is important however to have a solid fact-base as the jumping off point for intelligent discussion.
    Jim Koppenhaver
    President, Pellucid Corp.


      • RE: Women growing in golf?

        Lorraine Scicluna wrote on: Jun 11, 2005

        You have a point, and the numbers back it up over here in the UK. So much so that there is a major review going on into the sport and in particular why women are leaving it. But not only women, seems there's a broader issue about time and money, and therefore who joins and who stays. Too expensive to play and too much time. Take gyms for example, they're running 30 minute speed classes to cater for changing customer needs. How do you see the future of golf participation unfolding?


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