Closing the (gender membership) gap

golf ballLast month, we received a letter which highlighted a growing concern by many golfers. The letter (Why 7 isn’t 7, Letters section) explained how a typical 7-day women’s membership, for example, doesn’t generally allow women to play golf on Wednesdays or Saturdays (men’s-only comps days); effectively making their membership a 5-day membership.

Since then, I’ve received a variety of letters on this subject, with most in support of this viewpoint. A few letters, however, argued the contrarian viewpoint that it’s the 7-day Male members who get shorted, as they cannot play on Tuesdays (women only) or Fridays (during Vets comps at some courses), etc.

And what about juniors? While they certainly pay far less, I hear numerous stories (from a variety of juniors) about how they struggle to find any time to play.

Regardless of the viewpoint, it’s clear that many club members feel that they may not be getting the best value for their membership dollar—which (in addition to time constraints, etc) is one of the top reasons why traditional club membership numbers are currently on the decline.

Over many years, I have argued at length in this column that clubs, members and committees need to wake up and take dramatic, swift action to change their mindsets from the old, traditional models into a new way of thinking. Without swift action, more and more clubs will (I guarantee) be forced to close or amalgamate.

So, in the same vein as my recent “colour blind” article for teeboxes (which has evidently struck a positive chord in the industry), I reckon it’s time for more clubs to create a gender-neutral membership, with timesheets open to all who are available/willing to play (and pay). Clubs like Magenta Shores Golf and Country Club, for example, give men and women equal playing and voting rights. Another club, Cromer Golf Club, not only adopted a gender neutral membership structure a while ago (which, by the way, was supported by both the Men’s and Women’s Captains) it actually took the idea one step further, hosting its first gender-combined Club Championships.

These two clubs should be applauded for adopting a brilliant, modern attitude that certainly deserves to be examined by many clubs across Australia. Women (our most important demographic for growth of the game) deserve to be treated the same as men, and welcomed to our clubs as full/regular members (not just “Associates”.)

Sure, open timesheets and gender neutrality may not be applicable to ALL clubs across Australia—it could potentially cause some ‘scheduling issues’, etc—but adopting some form of flexibility in our membership models is definitely the way forward, and would be beneficial for the long-term health of our game.

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