Why Don’t More Women Teach Golf?

womenWhen a golfer seeks out lessons from a teaching professional, chances are very strong that the lessons will be given by a man. Even 30 years after the passage of Title IX, which gave girls and young women greater access to athletic opportunities in the United States, the golf teaching business remains primarily a male- dominated arena.

Why aren’t more women teaching golf?

A look at some cold, hard, statistics gives us some initial insight. While it’s hard to say what handicap standard a teaching professional should play to, let’s start with the assumption that a single-digit handicap is reasonable for a fully-certified teaching professional in general. According to the USGA, 20.4 percent of all men’s handicaps meet this standard, while just 2.1 percent of women’s do. If we allow the standard for women to rise to a 12 handicap, this gives us a ratio of approximately 4.6 men for every woman capable of passing a playing ability test. This doesn’t seem too bad. However…

According to the National Golf Foundation, only 24 percent of all golfers are women. This means the actual number of men with single-digit handicaps to women with 12 handicaps and below is about 14-to-1. This ratio is also close to what we see in the USGTF certification classes.

To encourage women to get into the golf teaching industry, the USGTF makes two allowances during the playing ability test: women may play from the forward tees, and their target scores are four strokes higher than the men’s. For example, the target score for two rounds is 166 for men under 50 years old and 170 for women.

Unfortunately, the game is more difficult for women than men throughout the general population, although this isn’t true at the highest levels. It seems likely that, as more women who played sports during their school days take up the game, the average handicaps for women will decline. This should bode well for female participation in the golf teaching industry in the future.

But what about right now? Despite being outnumbered by their male counterparts more than 3-to-1, women golfers take about half the lessons given in the United States, according to several sources. Since many women would probably feel more comfortable taking lessons from a female instructor, this means that women who want to get into teaching golf for a career should be quite successful immediately.

Do the numbers tell the whole story? Gail James, a USGTF member from Los Angeles, thinks there’s something else.

“I think, even more than the numbers, women aren’t encouraged to teach,” said James. “On tour, you are now just getting women to play in larger numbers. Before, they didn’t see the opportunity.”

USGTF Trish Buecher, from Palm City, Florida, has a slightly different take.

“Unfortunately, I think a lot of it stems from the fact that PGA means ‘men only’,” said Buecher, herself a former PGA professional. “There’s also a lot of stigma and stereotype from being a female athlete and golf teacher in general, I believe.”

Certainly, Annika Sorenstam and younger stars such as Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie are serving to create popularity in the women’s game. Programs such as The First Tee are introducing the game to both boys and girls who otherwise would not be exposed to golf.

“One of the things the USGTF has done for me is open doors,” James also stated. “What the USGTF is doing, giving people an opportunity, is great.”

USGTF National Coordinator Bob Wyatt also sees all of this as a good sign for women’s participation in teaching golf in the future.

“The opportunities for advancement for women in the golf teaching industry have never been better,” said Wyatt, “due the fact that the awareness factor of women’s golf has never been higher. But, like in any business, you must be a self-starter and take the initiative. Today, the percentage of women teaching is somewhat low, but I definately see that changing in the future.”

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