Editor’s Note: Once again, it’s my pleasure to introduce a new addition to the guest bloggers of The Golf Chick Golf Blog! As our next alternate perspective, I happily present to you Mary, a.k.a. Breadchick. She had a long running, highly regarded food blog, and now brings her fun perspective and sassy opinions to us in the golf arena! Gather what you may from Mary’s bio, her previous writings and her awesome presence on twitter (@breadchick), but she comes to us relatively anonymously to share her unrestricted opinions. Not that any of us pull punches here, but her anonymity might provide her with an ability to speak more freely from her world. This should be fun! Welcome, Mary, and thank you for contributing on TGC!
So, you boys say you want to save golf. If so, you better start thinking like the girls.
Once again, I am leaving a pro shop; having dropped close to $100.00 on balls, gloves, tees and a new shirt, feeling like I’m a third class passenger on the Titanic locked below decks while all the swells in first class have been serenaded into their waiting lifeboats. What has me clinging to the flotsam of the ocean of golf wondering if there is any safe harbor for me you ask? The total lack of regard and respect for the largest untapped segment in golf, women.
For all the talk about growing the game with “Tee it Forward” and “Golf 2.0” initiatives and the lamenting by the golf industry over the ”down economy contributing to the loss of players”, there has been little if any real on the ground and in the trenches initiatives to help show the good ole boy network behind the counters in the thousands of pro shops, starter shacks and golf retail super stores across the country that every day potential golfers, in the form of women, walk through their front door only to be turned away by a blank stare, a condescending action, or by ignoring their existence.
A prime example of this attitude happened two weeks ago when I was shopping for two new wedges so I could play a round with my back-up clubs. I had been separated from my normal sticks because after a golfing vacation I decided to try the “ship it home” option with that well-known shipping company that sponsors the PGA playoffs. I am also in the market for new wedges since I’m still playing with a pair of non-conforming grooved Mizuno MPTs. So, this was a perfect opportunity to kill two proverbial birds.
On my way home from work on a Tuesday afternoon, I stopped by one of the national chains of golf retailers to try out a few different wedges and buy a new 56* and a new 60*. Since it was late afternoon mid-week the store was basically deserted. There were three men working around the front restocking and watching the Braves on the TV in the shoe section of the store. In the back, there was one gentleman working with a customer in the club repair department and two male employees hitting balls in the bays. Five of the six employees saw me and one even said, “Welcome to So-So” but didn’t offer “Let me know if I can help you with anything”. After wandering through the club section for about five minutes looking for the wedges (and in full disclosure, fondling the RazrX irons that will soon be taking up residence in my bag), I found the wedge brands I was interested in and proceeded to pull a few from the slots to get a feel for how they felt in my hands, the weighting of the club, and gently feeling the bounce on the carpet. Not one employee came up to me to offer assistance or suggestions even though two employees, including the one that greeted me, were working in the area arranging clubs.
Narrowing down my choices, I took the three I liked best and proceeded to head back to the area of the store set up for trying out clubs. Where I proceeded to stand around and stand around and stand around some more despite the two guys hitting balls in adjacent bays who clearly saw me holding clubs in my hand, one guy heading back to the storeroom who made every effort to ignore that I was standing there holding clubs in my hand and the guy in the club repair who stared right through me.
It wasn’t until I went into the wedge area to retrieve some balls so I could hit a few that someone finally came up to me. However, it wasn’t to offer help but rather to say “You can’t go in there without an employee helping you”. To which, I replied, “Well if an employee actually cared about the fact I had been standing here for almost ten minutes waiting to be helped, I wouldn’t have gone into the wedge area”, handed him the clubs and walked out.
I’d like to say that the incident described above was a one-off experience but it isn’t.
Too often I’ve stood around in club sections of stores all over the country with clubs in my hands to try out for long periods of time, only to be told “The women’s section is over here” or to have to actively seek out someone for assistance, even after being seen or acknowledged. I’ve been subjected to seeking out the very back corner of pro shops for a meager selection of women’s gloves and softer compression balls. I’ve been glared at when I have walked into pro shops inquiring about “getting out as a single” and I’ve been directed to women’s locker rooms that were the standard of gas station bathrooms. I’ve played from tee boxes so crooked, over-grown with weeds and crabgrass and un-level that I’ve had to take funny stances to stay balanced through my swing or have played from tee boxes that have been placed so close to a hard dog leg that I’ve taken a pitching wedge off the tee to avoid hitting the ball OB. All to play a game I love so passionately and want to help grow so much it hurts and that I’m so obsessed by that I’m sure my family and friends fantasize about wrapping a five iron around my neck sometimes.
So, I have a few suggestions for the golf industry on getting the largest untapped market, women, on your courses and spending our hard-earned money in your pro shops and retail box stores.
- Don’t assume I’m in your store or pro shop to buy something for my husband/boyfriend/father/etc. You wouldn’t assume my father was shopping for anyone but himself so don’t assume it of me.
- Don’t assume that I’m going to be shopping for women’s clubs if I’m in the club section of your shop. Of all the women I play with on a regular basis, only three play women’s clubs. The others are like me and play men or senior flex shafts and clubs. You would never dream of directing a man of a certain age to the senior clubs without asking him “what do you play”. Do me the same courtesy.
- Don’t assume I don’t know anything about golf equipment technology. I’m a tech geek. I subscribe to every golf magazine and haunt the golf equipment forums online. I know my Trackman numbers. I know about shaft flex, tips, and torque. I play high-tech graphite in my driver and fairway metals and steel in my irons. I’m a feel player but I also want the best technology to help my game.
- While we’re on the subject of talking about golf technology, don’t talk down to me if you do explain something or I ask a question. I’m not a five year old child. I’m a woman with an advanced degree in engineering from MIT and I’m guessing when you are talking to me about composite material engineering or ball flight trajectory I could tell you a thing or two about both.
- Having a few more shirts, balls, gloves and hats for women in your shop isn’t going to kill you. I like to buy a shirt and/or a hat from the courses I play but too often all that I have to choose from is a visor or two and sleeveless collared shirt in two sizes (xs and s). I lose balls and have to buy a sleeve at the turn but that sun faded box of Wilson Hope from five years ago isn’t a soft compression ball selection and I’m not paying $5 for them.
- Speaking of women’s clothing, not all of us are flat chested, no hipped, Lady GaGa biceped women. Stock a few styles and sizes for those of us with normal chests/hips and with sleeves . I’m not asking you to have a HUGE selection of women’s clothing, etc. I know you have to turn your stock but more than a glove or two and one xs short-short skort would be nice. I’m also betting if you had a little better selection for women, you’d move more women’s stock.
In regards to on course suggestions for bringing women onto the course, here a few ideas:
- Don’t assume I’m playing from the forward tees. Unless I’m playing with my mother, I play from the tees between 5100 – 5600 yds. Sometimes this is the forward tees, sometimes it is the senior tees and sometimes it is the members’ tees. If you are the starter, ask me what tees I’m playing from or what my typical yardage is and suggest the appropriate tees.
- Don’t assume it’s the women on the course slowing down play. I have yet to play in a group of all women that haven’t had the sense to “pick up” when they get to a certain number of shots (usually six) or just shrug when a ball is lost in the woods. I’ve never played with a woman who has taken endless practice swings to then top a ball and send it skittering 20 yards forward or hit six putts on a green to hole out. However, I’ve stood behind countless groups of men taking every shot, even when they are on their tenth shot halfway down the fairway or taken fifteen practice swings to duff one off the toe of the club. I’ve watched four men spend 20 minutes looking for a duck hook into woods so deep Bigfoot probably lived there and watched endless groups of men putting out like the US Open was riding on the fifth putt from 1’. (Exception to picking up and putting out: tournament play and handicap rounds).
- Take as much care with the maintenance of the forward two sets of tees as you would with the back tees and the tips. If you wouldn’t want to tee off from that box because of the condition and slope of the box, then I probably don’t either.
- A one stall bathroom with a naked light bulb and a floral box of tissues is not a woman’s locker room. I’m not expecting dark wood paneling and a fully stocked bar ala Sea Island’s legendary men’s locker room but if your webpage says “locker room facilities” I’m at least expecting a place to sit down, change my shoes, and maybe even take a shower.
- Finally, be happy to see me walk into your shop/onto your course. I’m there because I love golf as much as you do and want to spend my money in your facility. If I have a good time on your course or if I am treated well in your shop/store I’m going to be back and I’m telling my golfing friends about you. If you don’t treat me well, I promise, I’m going to let all my golfing friends, male and female, know about my experience. And anyone else who will listen…
Another editor’s note: Even though you may be somewhat anonymous, I still know who you are and hereby present you with your first day chip!
We’re not anonymous, we are identified. We’ll talk about golf to anyone who will listen. We’re addicts and our golf tans are badges of honor. Happy to know you. Welcome, Mary!
One shot at a time. Keep coming back!