The number of women golfers in the US is observed to be steadily growing. As a result, a number of golf resorts have redesigned their courses to become more women-friendly. The Woodlands Executive Conference Center and Resort in Texas has, for instance, modified its North Course by cutting off 900 yards because it has noticed that women golfers cannot hit a golf ball as hard as a man. The resort is also in the process of varying its tee locations in order to provide women golfers the option of playing a hard or an easy course.
Just as women are still a minority at the uppermost levels of the corporate world, they’re also faced with a glass ceiling of sorts on the golf course (which is, in some cases, an extension of the boardroom). Traditionally, the game has embodied the old-boy club, but a growing number of women are taking advantage of opportunities to join in the networking that takes place from tee to green.
Women still make up only about 20 percent of all golfers, but statistics from the National Golf Association in Juniper, Fla., show that they are adopting the sport at a good clip. Nearly 40 percent of new players are women – many of whom will be signing up for business tournaments when they have the chance. Now, it’s up to planners to pull together great golf outings in which everyone – beginning and advanced golfers, female or male – feels welcome.
GETTING ON COURSE
When choosing a resort or club as the site of an event, not many people take into account features that might make it more or less friendly to the women in the group. Some physiological differences in how women and men play golf should be taken into consideration. Basically, the trajectory of a shot hit by a man tends to be higher than that hit by a woman, and he can hit it farther. Because of this, women have a tougher time hitting the ball over obstacles like ravines, lakes and, at a desert golf course, waste areas where there’s no fairway, just sand and brush.
“When it comes to solid contact, for the most part, the club-head speed of the man will be greater than that of the woman,” says former Ladies Professional Golf Association player Carol Mann, who is now a teaching pro at The Woodlands Executive Conference Center and Resort in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston. “Because it does require club speed to carry the ball a decent length in the air, men tend to carry the ball a greater distance.”
With this in mind, Mann recently took on a huge task at The Woodlands: redesigning the North Course, one of two at the property that are open to conference groups, to make it more friendly to those who can’t hit for distance. “Before the redesign, the North Course had long ramps as tees, and the course was more than 7,000 yards long, which was much too long,” says Mann, who also owns Carol Mann Golf Services in Houston with architect Paula Eger. Among other projects, the company redesigns courses and consults with clubs on making their courses player-friendly for everyone – women, seniors, juniors. “Knowing how women play golf, from beginner to advanced, the course needed at least 900 yards cut off.” She also recommended varying the tee locations, giving players the option of playing a hard course or an easy one, depending on the tee they choose. The result? The North Course was recently listed among the top 100 women-friendly courses in the United States and Canada in Golf for Women magazine.
In considering women-friendly sites for a golf event, look for yardage from the forward tees (the ones closest to the hole) in the 5,600- to 5,700-yard range; choose courses where players won’t have to carry the ball over a lot of obstacles and where they can land their balls in front of the green without getting in too much trouble, and look for variety in the tee boxes – where the forward tees are not only much closer to the hole but give beginning players a better angle at the green.
Obviously, if your group is full of expert players, you needn’t worry about all this course advice. But choosing a difficult layout when you’re entertaining a number of neophytes – male or female – could kill their newfound interest in the game.
IN THE CLUBHOUSE
When you’re finalizing your site decision, put these criteria on your checklist. They were compiled by the Sunriver Resort Women’s Golf Forum, which met last year in Sunriver, Ore., to raise awareness of the needs of female golfers and to design a plan to implement changes in golf for women. The words of wisdom come from the attendees: teaching professionals; LPGA, PGA and Executive Women’s Golf Association representatives; equipment and apparel manufacturers, and mental management experts.
- Are the men’s and women’s locker rooms and rest room facilities on an equal par? Are there adequate rest rooms on the course?
- Does the property have a restrictive gender policy on tee times?
- Are appropriate rental sets available for women? Does the facility have left-handed ladies’ clubs?
- How is the overall attitude of the staff? Do you see male and female golfers receiving the same friendly treatment?
- Are there women working in the pro shop? Is it well-stocked with women’s merchandise?
LET THEM LEARN
Remember, while it may be impressive to get your group prime tee times on a challenging championship course, your event could go bust if you misrepresent the skills of your attendees and their knowledge of the game. If your group consists primarily of beginners, say so up front. And arrange for players who want to better their game to take lessons.
“Ideally, you want the teaching ratio to be four to one for your attendees to get the most out of a lesson,” says Nancy Oliver, founder of the EWGA, a Palm Springs Gardens, Fla.-based recreation and networking organization with about 14,000 members. “You don’t want to go over a ratio of one to eight.” Oliver adds that women, particularly beginners, tend to be more comfortable learning from a woman, so if there is no female teaching pro on staff at the site you’ve chosen, talk to the director of golf or the head pro about bringing someone in from a nearby course.