Golf Club Membership

13th October 2014

Two articles in the news caught my eye last week.

The first was England Golf’s announcement that they had appointed Lauren Spray as their new ‘Women and Girls’ Participation Manager’.  This is clearly a positive step which should help to attract more females to play the game.  A targeted programme and advisory group to support Clubs and Lauren will also be launched in 2015.  Golf is a male dominated sport in the UK with over 85% of players being men.  This is very different to all other establish golfing countries where woman and girls are much more strongly represented.

The second related to FA chairman Greg Dyke’s call for English football to adopt the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule’ to help address the lack of black coaches and managers.  Of the 92 professional teams in England just two employ black managers – Chris Powell (Huddersfield) and Keith Curle (Carlisle).  The ‘Rooney Rule’, used in the NFL since 2003, says that teams must interview at least one black or ethnic minority candidate when hiring a new head coach.  Of the 32 teams in the NFL, four currently have black head coaches in charge.  This made me think about the lack of black and ethnic minority men (and women) paying golf and whether enough was being done to encourage their participation in golf too.

The positives that support golf participation are well known – health and fitness, the countryside and being outdoors, the handicap system and numerous course and competition options, to name just the main ones.  Therefore, in theory it shouldn’t be too difficult to persuade either women, girls or ethnic minorities to give golf a go.

Given the well publicised financial difficulties at many British golf clubs in recent years it is hard to understand why clubs haven’t been more proactive in driving both of the above membership areas to date.  The reason they haven’t and sadly why I don’t anticipate too much progress in the short-term is fairly obvious.  It is that they simply don’t want to.  Most private golf clubs in Britain are very traditional and dominated by male members whose average age is normally close to 60.  Sadly that demographic are anti-change – they know what they like and like what they know.  Whilst a generalisation, and few would openly admit to it, I believe a great many of these individuals are both racist and sexist. Until they become too infirm to play or have died and the next generation of members come through, more open-minded people who have been brought up and worked in a society where diversity and equality are taken for granted, I personally foresee little progress in these areas.

I hope I am proved wrong but without a change in the people who run private golf clubs and make membership policies and decisions I fear real progress in both areas is still a long way off.


Copyright © 2014, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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