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How Golf Misses the Mark on Women

June 1, 2010

There are a lot of business tips we can learn from golf. The advantages of good planning, avoiding costly mistakes and adjusting to the unexpected — just to name a few. But how not to market to women, who now make up about half the workforce and are the single most powerful consumer group throughout the world, may be golf’s biggest business lesson.

John Paul Newport, an avid golfer and author of a weekly column in The Wall Street Journal weekend edition, sheds some interesting light on the disconnect between what the golf industry perceives about women golfers and what women actually want from their golf outings.

“This is a vexing problem for the stagnant golf industry, which sees in women a vast untapped market,” writes Newport in Golf Searches for its Feminine Side. “Women who do play spend just as much on golf equipment and apparel as men do . . . But despite a variety of recent initiatives that have helped introduce more women than ever to the game — in 2006, for example, nearly two-thirds of all new golfers were women — the overall percentage of women players just sits there.”

Newport notes that the proportion of female players has barely budged since the 1980s, growing about one percentage point to the 21-to-22-percent range, based on National Golf Foundation statistics.

Golf as a Business Case Study

Nancy Berkley, president of Berkley Golf Consulting, is quoted in the WSJ article and created her own blog on the topic: Winning Over the Woman Golfer. The problem, she notes, is that the golf industry doesn’t understand the level of customer service required to bring more women into the game.

Here are some of her suggested fixes to give women golfers more of what they need:

  • Create opportunities where women can meet other women.
  • Always spend time on introductions at any women’s event.
  • Pick tournaments that are team-based and fun.
  • Let women pick friends as cart-mates.
  • Be creative: try new things but always involve women in the planning.
  • Clean the restrooms . . . Often!

“Learning how to treat women golfers falls through the cracks of the [PGA’s] golf professional training program,” writes Berkley. Although PGA training materials include excellent guidelines for how to deal with customers, she said, “the criteria aimed specifically at women is pretty slim.”

Understanding Women Means Profits

Understand women’s needs and your company stands to grow is the theme of a new book, Women Want More, that provides data and advice on capturing the women’s market. The book suggests that the female economy will have a global impact greater than the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) combined. (See our review of Women Want More.)

“Women want a better handle on time, more connection and fulfillment in their lives,” write the book’s authors, Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, both with the Boston Consulting Group. “Suppliers that focus on the dissatisfactions of women in their categories will generate growth and value.”

June is Women’s Golf Month

For women who do want to golf in female-friendly environments, June is the American Express Women’s Golf Month, a month-long series of golf and golf-related activities for women.

Go to Play Golf America and search by state to find participating courses near you.

In Your Shoes is created by Johnston & Murphy, offering quality shoes and outerwear for women and men. We welcome your comments and contributions.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 20, 2011 7:50 pm

    How Golf Misses the Mark on Women

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