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Today's Golfer Column May 2014

23-March-2015 9:23
in General
by Admin

I haven’t checked yet, but I think I can safely assume that Derek Heath is not on the front cover of this month’s magazine, scantily-clad and leaning provocatively on a driver with a come-hither stare.

Now, in case you are wondering who Derek Heath is - and let’s be honest, most of those not in Derek’s immediate circle of family and friends will be - he is the fiance of Paula Creamer. So why should he be in a state of undress on the front cover of this month’s magazine? The answer to which is, of course, no reason at all. 

So, logically, there’s no reason why Dustin Johnson’s fiancee Paulina Gretzky should have graced the front cover of Golf Digest in April. As well as 13 separate photos on the inside pages. Apparently.

Except, of course, that the editor of Golf Digest clearly knows the old adage that sex sells and is also perfectly aware that his audience will be overwhelmingly male. Me man. Me like golf. Me like attractive woman. Me buy magazine.

This is not startling news to anyone. Golf magazines are generally aimed at men. Golf media, golf products, indeed golf as a whole is generally tailored towards those possessing a Y chromosome. 

Women in golf are dealt with separately. I remember a magazine which had its five-page women’s section illustrated by a golf glove with painted nails. Now at least women have entire golf magazines, but there is a clear segregation in the game.

This is not as dreadful as it sounds. I recognise that the sexes differ greatly and probably want different things. Men are from Mars, women from Venus after all. (Note - I’m not sure this is true. There’s nothing on Venus and all that can be found on Mars are two exploration rovers, wandering around, slowly performing very basic and limited functions. Not entirely dissimilar to men, I grant you, but not technically a man).

So separation is not necessarily a problem when the respective sides do it willingly and naturally. Men quite often like to play sports with men and women with women. The men talking about manly pursuits and women their interests which often confuse and intimidate me.

A far larger problem than the divide within the game is that girls and young women don’t seem to be taking up the sport in any great number at all.

Perhaps you think there isn’t a problem and you may be right. But it does seem a bit odd when I go to a driving range or to any course and rarely see young girls hitting balls or enjoying a round. That’s not healthy for any sport. Golf is a sport that all can play, but it doesn’t seem that everybody is taking the opportunity.

Perhaps you also think it unrealistic that girls will ever come to love golf. It’s just not their thing. Well take a trip to South Korea or to Sweden (expenses paid by Today’s Golfer) or, in fact, to many countries on continental Europe where girls and boys take up the game with equal enthusiasm.

Countries with shorter golfing histories tend to have a more modern approach. In this old country the old image remains. So how does it change?

First you need role models, which is why the emergence of Charley Hull is interesting. Still a teenager herself, colourful and engaging, quick and entertaining to watch. She is someone that girls in this country might want to follow and emulate.

But then Hull herself, if she reaches the very top of the game, has to be given the same kind of prominence that we would afford our men’s stars.

The sports that have the highest profile for women’s stars are tennis, athletics and swimming. Is it a coincidence that these are the sports where men and women compete in the same championships and share the same stage?

Difficult though it is logistically, perhaps there is something that golf can do to have men and women compete at the same time in certain events.

Show girls what women they can be. They can be great achievers at sport. They can be great achievers in golf.

If you show them that their way to succeed, that their only route to the top, or to the front cover of a golf magazine is by being attractive, then that is all they will believe they can achieve.

Women‘s golf as a sport in itself will forever be a subset, in the shadow of the men’s game. 

And men’s and women’s golf will always be like Mars and Venus, many millions of miles apart.