Last September was a wonderful spectacle for women’s golf when the United States of America and Europe played out a dramatic Solheim Cup in Ohio.
In edge-of-the-seat style, Catriona Matthew’s European side made it back-to-back victories and claimed just their second away success in the tournament’s history by winning 15-13.
Together with major championships such as the AIG Women’s Open, now organised by The R&A, the biggest events in golf continue to help inspire women and girls to get into the sport.
While we have all endured the daily challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, these are bright times for golf – including for women and girls.
Last December, new research figures released by The R&A and Sports Marketing Surveys showed that the number of total golfers globally has increased from 61 million to 66.6 million in a five-year growth period, surpassing the previous high mark of 61.6 million set in 2012.
Female participation has been part of this growth. In Great Britain, 25% of female golfers were new to the sport in 2020 – and tried it for the first time because of the pandemic.
Across Europe between 2019 and 2021, the combined number of registered women golfers increased by 13,000 (to just over 1 million), even if the proportion of registered golfers in Europe narrowly declined from 27% to 26%. This just highlights the opportunity for more growth in women’s and girls’ participation.
New female golfers have enjoyed positive experiences of the sport supported by a wide range of participation initiatives. The fact that golf could be played safely in a number of countries during the pandemic was important as was the boost it offered to the mental and physical health of participants.
Given health and wellbeing through sport is an important area for women, we are further promoting The R&A’s work across health in 2022.
With more women and girls enjoying time on the fairways, it presents an opportunity for golf clubs to harness the growing interest from this key demographic and to engage in our #FOREeveryone campaign. The campaign encourages clubs to consider how they can attract more women and girls into the sport and challenge unhelpful stereotypes to demonstrate that it is an enjoyable pastime and career for people of all ages and backgrounds.
#FOREeveryone is at the heart of The R&A’s Women in Golf Charter, launched in 2018, where we aim to grow the sport by inspiring more women and girls to follow their dreams to reach the highest levels of golf. More than 1,000 organisations across the world have now signed up the Charter and we continue to work hard to ensure more clubs are engaged.
The Charter is supported by our Women in Golf Leadership Development Programme. More than 100 women have now gone through, or are going through, the programme, aimed at supporting the development and progression of women who have the potential to become future leaders within the golf industry.
The AIG Women’s Open will be staged at Muirfield for the first time this summer and Andalusia will have the honour of hosting the 2023 Solheim Cup, so we look forward to golf again being showcased on a global scale to inspire more women and girls to become involved in the sport – on and off the course.
Jackie Davidson, Director – Golf Development at The R&A