There is a common misconception that golf is an acronym for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden.” While this is far from true, the statement is not so far off base. The origin of the sport itself has often been attributed to a way for gentlemen to get away from their wives and female friends. Golf has been a male-dominated sport for far longer than women have been allowed to play, and this has made it difficult for women to wedge their way into the game without confronting prejudice today.
While many women players who I’ve spoken to acknowledge and face the stereotypes men have of their game, most feel like trying to change attitudes is hopeless. “The only thing we really can do, is not pay attention and let our games show for us.” said Colleen Leveille, the only woman on the University of Georgia club team.
Nationwide stereotypes about women’s golf are hard to break, but the NCCGA and its players have a broad scope and can have an impact towards the state of women’s golf in the United States. Here are common misconceptions that need changing:
Women only play to socialize
A widespread stereotype about women golfers is that they only play golf to socialize. Adam Englehorn, our very own NCCGA Director of Campaigns, said that he often heard men describe women’s golf as “an extended social hour.” Yes, golf is a wonderful time to spend with friends and family, but women aren’t alone in taking advantage of this time to converse and meet new people. Jon Rennard, the NCCGA Coordinator for the Central Region, expressed his love for golf among other things because it enabled him to “travel and build relationships with people on the golf course.”
There are as many social golfers among men and women, just as there are competitive players of both genders. Felicita Rich and Lauren Lauterbach, two players on the Wake Forest women's golf club team, said they played golf because they “love being challenged competitively” and “compete not only against others, but also against yourself.”
Women aren’t sociable on the course
At this point, you’re probably a little confused. Yes, many men critique women players for socializing too much on the course. The opposite, however, is true as well. Often times, men will assume that women golfers will be quiet and unsociable the whole round.
While in this case I will not make a generalization and say that all women enjoy talking while competing, it is much harder for them to engage in conversation in a situation that seams uncomfortable to them (a statement that can surely apply to men).
Imagine yourselves as the only woman in a regional tournament of 60+ men golfers who, most of the time, don’t understand why you are playing with them. Discretion is what most would consider their best bet in that situation. The only way to change this is to make sure that women feel welcome playing among the men.
Women have a slow pace of play
For many, women golfers are slow and will reduce pace of play. Walking up to the tee-box to meet my round partners at my first NCCGA tournament, I overheard one whispering a little too loudly to another that I would surely add an hour to their round. Leveille has also encountered this stereotype on the course. “One of the major stereotypes that has bothered me” she said, “was that girls can’t play fast.”
We’ve all played with that one person, be it woman or man, who takes five practice swings before changing their club twice. Still, no one assumes that all players their age or gender plays with the same pace. Some men play slowly just as some play fast, the same applies to women.
Women don’t know rules (& won’t care if you break them)
Men golfers often misperceive women golfers as ignorant with regard to USGA rules and regulations. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been in tournaments where my playing partners will shoot a ball out of bounds and then just assume that I will let them drop one at the exit point.
Jamie Ehrhart, the President and one of three women on the Saint Louis University club team, recalls a tournament where players were surprised at her knowledge of hazard ruled. “They were astonished when I corrected the non-regulatory ball-drop options they gave me,” she said.
Women don’t know how to play
Last but not least, men often assume that all women golfers play more poorly than men do. Yes, it is a lot more difficult for women to field a team with all excellent players—not because they are in general worse players, but only because there are that many less to pick from. In the United States, only 19% are golfers according to the National Golf Foundation. That is also why among the 184 NCCGA teams, only one is an all-women team and just three are in the making.
Still, women who enter the men teams (co-ed teams once they join), do so because they have successfully gone through tryouts against their men peers. You might remember players like Laura Kanouse from the University of Florida who won three regional titles in 2014-2015, in a field of almost all men.
As the Fall 2015 season begins, I encourage all NCCGA players to keep misconceptions and stereotypes aside while enjoying a great round of golf. Let’s make our niche of non-varsity collegiate golf a welcoming and competitive environment for all!
**Olivia de Fouchier is the NCCGA's Director of Women's Golf, and President of the Wake Forest women's golf club team. Contact her on Twitter @NCCGAWomensGolf.