Golf is one of the most popular sports in Australia. In fact, over 393,975 club members take to the greens, making it one of the highest-ranked organized sports in the country, second only to football. But one thing has become apparent over the years, and that is the continual decline of female participation in the sport.
In Australia right now, the overall female participation rate had dropped to a low of 20%, making it the lowest figure on record. By comparison, if we turn the clocks back to the 1970s female participation was much higher at 34%. Australia Golf has decided to do something about this decline and has launched a new campaign called Vision 2025. A new participation program that plans to actively address the gender imbalance in the sport by the year 2025, aiming to increase the female membership rate to 30%.
In the professional world, only 10% of professional golfers are female. This figure includes Australian players like Minjee Lee and Katherine Kirk, who are globally placed at 14th and 54th respectively. But they are few and far between; and unfortunately, limited access to high visibility and representation of Australian female players doesn’t bode well for younger women looking for mentors in the game.
There was a boom in the popularity of golf throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s with players like Greg Norman and Steve Elkington experiencing success on a worldwide scale by winning PGA championships, but that, unfortunately, did not resonate with the female community at the time. In fact numbers of female golfing memberships only grew from 102,000 to 104,000 during that period.
Vision 2025 has outlined four core pillars of their activation program to help improve its image and attract more female players. One is centered on culture and leadership, which is focused on getting more women into senior positions. The second theme is grassroots, which is aimed at making golf more accessible and fun at a younger age. Thirdly, there is the area of high performance & coaching, which relates to having more female coaches and guidance figures in the sport. And lastly, marketing, which revolves around changing the male-orientated marketing image of the sport.
In trying to attract more women into the game, Golf Australia has admitted that one of the biggest problems they face is the prevalence of the male stereotype throughout the sport, which is why the sport is fighting an uphill battle to improve its image. Nonetheless, a lot of people in the golfing community have welcomed the news as positive, in fact, one of Australia's best female golfers, Hannah Green, has put her weight behind the initiative commenting that had it not been for her female friends joining her when she first began she might not have started playing golf at all. But Golf Australia know the amount of hard work they have to put in to achieve positive numbers, which is why they have set the goal of reaching a 10% increase in females players by 2025, rather than by next year.
There is no doubt that Australia has produced many great male players and former world number one, Jason Day, is a perfect example. Even today he is placed exceptionally high in the current rankings, however more female players will be needed out on the greens if Australia is to inspire a new generation of women to pick up a club.