'Let's embrace R&A's women's charter' - Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris

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Ivan Morris

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Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris - The voice of Limerick Golf

IT is not that long ago that the main bar and lounge in almost every golf club was reserved exclusively for its male members. No woman would dare enter!

Nor, would any female be seen playing golf on the day of a men's competition even if there were gaps on the timesheet. The assumption was that women were free to play golf during the week when the men were busy earning a living.

That misconception no longer holds credence and while the majority of clubs now do make an effort to share tee-times between ladies’ and gents’ competitions, more could still be done to ensure that men don’t get more than their fair share of the prime slots on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The most potential for growth in golf participation lies in attracting more women into the game. Golf is the ideal game for females because it can be as competitive as anyone might wish (without being physically violent or even be competitive at all).

One doesn’t have to be strong or tall or even especially athletic to play golf reasonably well, while the social side of golf is highly enjoyable and appreciated. If a mother plays golf you can be sure so will her children.

That is what happened in our house and it created a bond that never weakened.

Three cheers for the R&A, the game’s governing body, and their newly announced, £80-million (spread over ten years) women's golf charter!

CEO, Martin Slumbers hasn't been at the helm for very long, but he is certainly shaking things up and has swung into action.

With his eyes firmly fixed on the future 'good of the game' after a worldwide study revealed that 37-million potential female golfers are waiting in the wings as ready and willing golfers - if only it were made more accessible and welcoming towards females. It is also worth mentioning that those 37-million women could be worth as much as a $35-billion (not million!) boost to 'the golf industry.'

The potential economic benefits of growing the sport through more women and girls playing are substantial but, there is a clear ethical need for change too.

The £80 million stg figure has been set aside to be spent over the next ten years aimed at getting more women and young people into golf participation as recreational players and paid careerists.

Currently, females make up a far from satisfactory 14 per cent of total club membership in Ireland. The involvement of more women in key decision-making roles is seen as vital.

Women in senior management positions in clubs would, no doubt, help to change the way golf clubs have traditionally managed their affairs.

Mr Slumbers has made no secret of his intention to make golf more inclusive.

“We are asking the golf industry to recognise the importance of increasing the number of women and girls playing by empowering more women to enjoy successful careers at all levels of the sport.

This is crucial to growing participation in the years ahead. We are asking our affiliates and partners around the world to pledge their support and commitment to achieving this vision so we will have a thriving sport going forward, that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can enjoy."

R&A has already provided an initial three-year funding package of £375,000 to its affiliates in Scotland, Australia, England, Ireland and Wales to support the appointment of new development managers to work on increasing participation by women and girls. Of course, the women's charter is as much about self-preservation as anything.

Many countries are seeing a fall in the number of both males and females playing golf. The importance of establishing the optimum environment for family participation through direct links between equality in sports participation and wider measures of gender equality cannot be denied any longer.

It should also be recognised that while parents are the chief factor underpinning the likelihood of a family playing golf, the family who plays golf together will stay together because it often turns into a lifetime commitment with fun, fitness, health and developing friendships all a big part of 'the game.'

Women who have not grown up in a golfing environment often find its rules and rituals off-putting but golf really, really is the perfect game for females. So, let's embrace this long overdue, “fundamental shift” in golf’s centuries old culture.

Closer to home, we heard the announcement that the ILGU and GUI have agreed to merge as 'One Governing Body' for golf in Ireland.

Preparations to hold separate EGMs to vote on the matter are already under way and will be completed by the end of 2018.

If the members of the ILGU and GUI support the proposal, a transition phase will commence during which the GUI, ILGU and Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) will be wound down and the new body will be established to carry out all activities currently undertaken by the three organisations.

Why am I not deliriously happy then? Too many misgivings that the women may not receive a fair portion of the responsible positions to be able to exert the badly needed cultural and attitude changes necessary, I suppose? It's a start. Be positive!