Looking back over a lot of things I have written, I realise that a majority is addressed to men. I will generally say ‘he’ or even talk about things which might be of more interest to male golfers (distance, shaft choices etc) There is certainly no deliberate male bias here and I believe that almost everything that I write is as applicable to women as it is to men. However, I do try to write about what I know and from personal experience, so inevitably this is probably going to affect things. I thought it was time that at least tried to balance things out a little and so this article is aimed at anyone who is thinking about beginning golf for women.
- The basics are the same for men and women
- Eqquipment might be more important for female golfers
- Golf isn’t just a competitive sport
Golf: The Basics are the Basics
When I wrote my article about swing basics, I had neither men nor women in mind, simply because I don’t think it makes any difference. Aside from the obvious physical differences, a beginner golfer is a beginner golfer. There is no physiological or other reason in my opinion why men and women need a different sort of swing. Of course, physical differences exist and we will come back to this later when we look at equipment and other things.
One huge difference (which is happily changing) is the image of golf as a male-dominated sport. When I was a junior golfer in England, women weren’t allowed in certain parts of the clubhouse (neither were juniors in fact.) There were days that were reserved for women and there was definitely a second-class citizen approach to the female members of the club. I would say that this has all but disappeared, at least in the clubs I have played at and visited here in France over the last decade or two.
I don’t want this to become an essay on sexual equality, but it is important in relation to women who want to take up the great game. I am convinced that many women never even give golf a try because the stereotype of a men-only domain still exists for many potential female golfers.
Fortunately, more and more clubs now have thriving junior programmes which mean that girls are able to take up the game early and bypass the potential barriers imposed by these stereotypes for women taking up the game later on.
So back to the basics. As I wrote about in a previous article, if things like grip and stance are good to go, progression comes quickly. This means that starting with a few lessons is probably the way to go. Being introduced to the game by a spouse can be fun but can also be a very frustrating experience for all concerned and going to a pga pro can make this a far less “complicated” experience!
Distance is Important
There is one important difference generally between men and women on the course and it is related to physical strength and how far we hit the ball. There are exceptions, but women, especially beginners who might not be coming from a background in another sport, will hit the ball shorter than their male counterpart. This really isn’t a big deal and certainly shouldn’t put anyone off playing but it is important.
The fact that anyone, whether man, woman, junior or senior, hits the ball short doesn’t stop them playing great golf. The important point is to realise that the course will play a little bit differently for you. As an example, I was playing a while ago with an older woman. She wasn’t an absolute beginner, but hadn’t been playing that long. There were holes where she was hitting a fairway wood where I would be hitting a pitching wedge.
This isn’t to say I hit it miles. Many, many golfers hit it much further than me. Simply that hitting a pitching wedge at a target is a very different proposition than hitting a five wood.
This brings us nicely on to equipment. I would say that this might be more important for women than for men. For example, many sets, even starter sets, are sold with longer irons or even medium irons like a 5, 6 or even a 7 iron. Nothing shocking there, you might think, but these clubs are generally dead weight for the average female beginner. This is one area where manufacturers should be looking to make sets that give the beginner female golfer the best possible chance of having fun and sticking to the game over the long haul.
Carrying around a bunch of clubs that either all go the same distance or are essentially unhittable isn’t the way to do this. I think things like an all-hybrid set would be perfect. Another option would be to have 2 or 3 lofted fairway woods and perhaps only hit irons from 7 or even 8. Basically, use clubs that help to launch the ball and give a bit more distance. Spending time trying to get a five iron airborne because “that”s how it has always been done” just seem like an exercise in frustration to me.
Likewise, I don’t think beginners, and especially women starting out in the game, should be carrying around a full set of 14 clubs. What’s the point? It is extra weight, even in a push trolley or whatever, and there will be numerous clubs that go essentially the same distance. The woman who wants to discover the great game might want to look at a half set for example.
Without wanting to get into anything too technical, it is important to get clubs that are adapted in terms of size and shaft too. In the past, women and juniors used to start out with men’s clubs that were simply cut down. They were generally too stiff and especially too heavy. Nowadays, fortunately, it is easy to find clubs that are fit with a nice light-weight graphite shaft and these will be a whole lot more friendly.
Enjoy the Game
All these things, from lessons to equipment, are only there to help you enjoy the game more. Golf can be an intimidating game, especially for the woman who is starting out. Once again, I find that this is where golf has been making huge strides forward over the last decade or two.
Whereas before female members of golf clubs were almost pushed to one side as an afterthought, nowadays there are lots of events organised to make it easy to integrate. This might be ladies-only days that are there to help new golfers feel more at ease (rather than as a second-class golfer) or the complete opposite, competitions which are completely integrated, there really is something for everyone at most clubs.
This enjoyment also applies to how you play the course itself. All courses now will have a range of tees from the longest/hardest to the absolute shortest/easiest. I have said this many times before, but unless you are playing for a living or in a competition with strict rules, play the tees that will help you enjoy it. If you hit your driver 100 yards off the tee, whether you are a 70-year-old woman or a 10-year-old girl, play from somewhere that will let you get down the fairway with this 100 yard drive. If you can’t carry that water even from the shortest tee, just drop the ball the other side of the hazard, it doesn’t matter.
An example from my home course. There is a hole that has a big bank in front of the tee. From the back (white) tees, this is a tough tee shot. Even as long hitter, you need to be hitting at least a long iron over this big bank and between trees. The women’s tees are right at the bottom of this bank. In terms of distance, this makes sense. They only need to hit it maybe 100 yards to be past the bank on up on the flat of the fairway. Easy, right?
Actually, not so fast. This tee shot of 100 yards also needs to have the trajectory of a 7 iron or higher because otherwise it is just crashing into the bank and virtually unplayable. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched women teeing off there with no chance of getting up the slope and then hacking 3,4,5 or more times before either giving up or arriving in a frustrated mess on the top.
Over the last couple of years, the club has added in a new set of tees at the top of the bank. This has been a complete game changer for many of the older female members as well as the beginners, both male and female. It took a frustrating hole and made it into an enjoyable one.
Golf: Truly a Game for Everyone
I really think that golf is one of the few sports that allows men and women to play together easily. Even something like tennis can be difficult because of physical differences but golf has a built-in system that lets players of both sexes and all levels play together and if they choose, compete against both each other and the course. Golf as an institution has opened up to women and there are many clubs where the female membership is growing faster than the men.
Women’s professional golf is a fantastic spectator sport, perhaps more than men’s golf given it is less dependent on simply over-powering the course. In fact, if you want to copy a swing that will work for most golfers, both men and women, you could do far worse than copy some of the leading women golfers.
There is no reason to feel intimidated when golfing for the first time. Clubs are happy to welcome women and there are many excellent female teaching professionals who can get you started if you prefer.