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Women Are A Great Opportunity for Golf and Vice Versa

ORLANDO, FL – January 22: PGA of America President, Suzy Whaley speaks to Golf Channel host, Lauren Thompson at the Golf Channel set during the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show on January 22, 2020 at Orlando County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

I keep getting asked what I found notable while walking the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando last month.  My answer: women’s golf, particularly apparel, is no longer an afterthought of the major vendors.  Also, new boutique women’s clothing lines, more than one dozen driven out of business by the Great Recession, are again entering the market and seeing success.

That led me to do some research which uncovered these numbers: “While the sport (of golf) has lost overall players since its Tiger Woods heyday in the early 2000s, nearly 1 million more women took to the links in 2016 than in 2010.  Their average age is 40.7 years, younger than the male average, and a third of all golfers under 18 are girls.  Their shopping habits reflect it; golf apparel sales are estimated to grow at a rate of nearly 6 percent annually through 2021.  Expanding the global women’s golf community has been called the sport’s $35 billion growth opportunity.  In the broader sportswear industry, brands like Athleta have succeeded by focusing on a customer demographic aged 35 to 55, with an increasingly active lifestyle and a higher average household income.  Golf has yet to do the same.” write the founders of, a women’s golf apparel line new to me and which just released its summer collections.

Clearly, there’s an opportunity with a new generation of women golfers.

ORLANDO, FL – January 22: The Women’s PGA Cup Team which includes (from L-R); Alison Curdt, Joanna Coe, Women’s PGA Cup Team Captain, Suzy Whaley, Ashley Grier and Seul-Ki Park pose for a photo at the Opening Ceremony during the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show on January 22, 2020 at Orlando County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

Why? A thoughtful student at Santa Monica College, I think, hit it on the head.  She wrote:  “Females who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.  From childhood to adulthood, females who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.”  And if you make par on the course’s most difficult hole or a birdie, you feel even better.

We must recognize we will still face challenges from within our ranks.  Again from Kinona: “When the LPGA waded in to the debate last summer, issuing a new dress code that forbid “exposure of the bottom area at any time…racerback tops without collars, and…plunging necklines,” the controversy came to a head.  Many observers decried this as “body shaming” of the worst kind, a difficult to police set of guidelines that only reinforces the sport’s stodgy image.  As LPGA pro Paige Spiranac put it so well, “What constitutes a plunging neckline? … [A] curvier, fuller-figured woman would be chided and fined far more often than a woman with a smaller bust.  In a world where women are continually and unwantedly sexualized, this new rule serves as yet another reason for women to feel ashamed of their bodies, and a reminder that to be respected, they must alter their behavior because of outside perception.”

That post closed “If this leads to fewer girls and women picking up the sport, it will reverse one of golf’s more positive recent trends.”  We sure don’t want that.  Growth of the women’s game was a clear trend at the PGA Show I found most notable, and exciting.

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