What Golfgals Want

For years I have been writing golf course reviews based on the criteria Golf For Women Magazine used to rate courses as “women-friendly”.  

Golf has come a long way since GFW turned its last page in 2008, and so I was delighted when I saw a golf architect ask women what they wanted to see in golf course design on LinkedIn recently.

There were some great suggestions and I recommend you join the discussion and add some of your own.  But before you do, check out my top ten things this golfgal wants on a golf course (beyond architecture) and let me know what you think.

This list is in no particular order…
#10:Women-friendly Yardages

I’m not hung up on an exact length, but I do have the most fun playing holes where a “Green in Regulation” is achievable and carries are a challenge, but possible.

My home course is 5,685 yards from the forward tees and there are 5 holes where I know I just can’t get there.

As a bogey golfer, my ideal course is about 5,400-5,500 yards.  But I also like a really good short game challenge, so I often enjoy playing “executive” tees around 4,600 yards.  It is not only an excellent way to improve anyone’s inside-100 yard play, it’s a terrific option when you’re playing with a beginner (and every public golf course should be designed with players of all skill levels in mind).

#9: Sexless Tees

Most golf courses have at least 4 tee boxes and typically 3 out of 4 them are rated for men only.  What really burns me is how many men/boys who play from those markers do not belong there. 

I realize that the male physique gives men a distance advantage, but that’s not a valid reason for them to be hitting off tees meant for low handicappers.

I would really like to see the red tees at the tips and black tees forward. Shake up the colors people!  And I’d like sex to play no part in how tees are labeled on score cards.  I know the USGA would have something to say about this, but a golfgal can dream, can’t she?

#8: Smart Starts

As a sequel to #9 above, I wish that Starters would ask golfers what their handicap was before they tee off, and then make them hit from the right marker based on their skill level.  No handicap? Then play it forward folks!  Call it a local rule.

I realize that many players wouldn’t conform to that rule after the first hole, but at least it would send a message to golfers who think muscle is all that matters in golf. And it would speed up pace of play on at least the first hole.

#7: Tough but Fair

Women are not looking for a cakewalk on a golf course.  We want what golfguys want – tough but fair challenges, risk/reward shots and opportunities to improve our physical and mental games.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of courses where the forward tees are designed for no one.  I’ve seen championship courses in my province with tee markers plopped in the middle of fairways with par 4’s under 200 yards and all the hazards of any consequence behind us. What fun is that?!

#6: Pace of Play Enforced

Regardless of sex, age or handicap, if you can’t get around a golf course in 4 hours, pick up, skip a hole or get off the course.   Zero tolerance – no exceptions!

#5: Players’ Assistants Marshals

I want to see Marshals at least as often as I see the cart girl during a round.  Sure, they should offer assistance (like returning forgotten clubs to their owners), but the best thing they can do for me is to enforce #6 above.

#4: Flushing Facilities
 Clean, well-stocked bathrooms near the 6th and 12th holes.  I don’t understand why this is even on the list, but sadly the quality of sanitary stations on many courses leaves much to be desired.  Enough said.

#3: Pay By the Hole

When I ask people why they don’t play golf, or why they’ve quit, many say it takes too long (AKA they don’t have time) or it’s too expensive. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could choose to play only 9 holes at any time, or spread 18 holes over 3 days?

What if you could buy a bunch of holes using a discount/loyalty card and play them anytime in any number? 

Golf courses need to offer a lot more flexibility to attract and retain golfers. I know it’s hard, but Some courses are breaking down these archaic paradigms and setting an example for others to follow.  Now it’s time for the rest to start thinking outside the traditional tee box.  

#2: A Good Walk Unspoiled

There is a ton of evidence that walking is a great form of exercise.  But walking also helps your golf game.

Walking the fairway puts your head in the right place.  It gives you time to enjoy the scenery and live in the moment.  Walking relaxes you and keeps you from over-thinking.

On your approach, walking lets you see the slope and elevation changes on a green, which are often missed when you have to drive the cart off the fairway, 50 yards from the putting surface.

Walking is good for your heart, your head and your handicap. 

#1: More women on and off the course

It goes without saying that I would love to see more women playing golf, which is why I’m working with a women’s multi-course golf club, Golf Fore Gals, in British Columbia to grow women’s golf in this province.

But it’s not just about who’s welcome off the tee, but also who’s hired as pro shop, guest services and maintenance staff, Starters and Marshals.  I have seen a few women in pro shops, but it’s rare to see them at the first tee, at the range or enforcing pace of play rules on course. 

When I retire, I hope golf courses where I live are more open to hiring women in the traditional male roles, because there is nothing I’d like better than to politely suggest to those guys who are hitting from the tips, losing balls left and right and slowing up play take their game either to the forward tees or the range.  😉


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  1. I love #3 …yes, it does take a long time to play so why not have options?

  2. Another good article with good points made Gayle. I believe that Golf Courses in America are going to have to adopt some new methods of operation if they want to survive in a post baby boomer society that is also becoming less active and less inclined to participate in outdoor activities. I am surprised that there is any resistance at all in introducing change to the industry. For a long time now, I have felt that if you don’t get people out on your course, you don’t have an opportunity to further sell them anything. You are correct in mentioning changes that make the game more accessible to people that are restricted in time, cash,etc. The golf industry is fairly well connected coast to coast in America, so maybe it is only a matter of time before someone steps up and begins a reformation of golf as it impacts the average player on a public course. I hope that soon, we, as public players, will see more playing options open to us. In the mean time, I will be pushing for reform down here in Florida where I am enjoying some sun and golf for the month of March. YeeHaww!

  3. I loved reading this post! While I think all of your points are great there are two that I felt compelled to emphasize.
    First, sexless tees. I agree that it’s frustrating to watch high handicappers play from the wrong tees. I find it even more frustrating when, as a female with a zero handicap, I can’t post my scores from the “men’s tees” because the yardage hasn’t been rated for women. If I can beat my dad on the golf course, I should be able to play the same tees as him without feeling like I’m crossing gender territory!
    My other favorite point was about washrooms. Maybe this is a girl thing too. One of my favorite female pros always jokes that LPGA scores would rival PGA scores if only they put a washroom on each hole. Either way golf course architects need to change their attitudes so that they consider women equally versus feeling so generous to consider us at all.

  4. Great article. Love the sexless tees. Tees should be determined by your driving distance and not your gender!

  5. Tees can be rated for both men and women and still conform to the USGA handicap math. Although my course isn’t public, all of our tees are rated for both men and women. One set for instance is 5887 yards. Men are 69.0/123. Women 74.7/132. the stroke holes are different for men and women but that’s a different issue and is determined by collecting and analyzing cards–long process.

  6. Gayle, just saw your article on my Inside Golf enewsletter and had to smile as we are just putting in a set of “black” tees here at UGC which will be a little under 5200 yds!! And yes, all 4 sets of our tees are rated for both women & men. Thought you & your readers would appreciate seeing this. Here’s to a great golf season in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Cheers. Michael Mather, General Manager @ University GC.

  7. Loved the article. Sexless tees…watch the Jumbomax commercials, it makes me so mad. It is the most sexist commercial around golf that I have seen.

    Also I had a older golf pro who is no longer with us say “if more husbands would leave their wives golf game alone, there would be more better women golfers.” Same guy told me you can tell someone how to golf in six pages…he was an excellent teacher of the game.

  8. I’m with you Sylvia! 🙂

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. Women golfers would not only be better w/o their husbands “help”, there would be more of them still playing.


  9. My husband just gave me your article to read. He could not have agreed more. He has always encouraged me to play a yardage that makes the game enjoyable but gives me a challenge.

    Sexist tees … watch the Jumbomax golf grips commercial were John puts on a dress and plays from the ladies tees…makes me so mad. I even went to their web page and women were commenting that the commercials were funny. Not in my books.

    I play in a city league were every Tuesday we play the second set of tees, something over 5700 yards. I asked why we do not play the forward tees at 5400. I got the longest explanation and an unwillingness to listen. This league consists of mostly senior women. Why would they not like to play a round of golf they could enjoy and have better scores. The answer I got was they seem to shoot the same score no matter which tee they play and the low handicap ladies want to play the longer course. I am one of the low handicap women, in fact I have the second lowest hdcp in the group. I just don’t get it.

    We have the same problem when we play the City ladies tournaments. The longer and harder the course the better. The better for who? Why can we not play a course where the low handicap players shoot par or just under. I think that when you show scores way above par it does not reflect favourably on women.

  10. Hi Sylvia,
    I’ve seen that commercial and think it sucks. One of the reasons I don’t post my comment is I don’t want them to see that I even pay attention to them. But…I’ll never buy their products 🙂

    It’s amazing how many people play from tees that are too challenging for them. I guess they feel they are getting the money’s worth (or maybe it’s ego). I saw a commercial this week with Jack Nicklaus saying he now plays it forward. I hope that wakes some people up.

    Thanks again Sylvia! Great comments and I hope to see you here again.

    If you have a topic you’d like to see me write about, I would love to hear about it 🙂

  11. The USGA has talked about “play it forward” but hasn’t done all they could do to achieve it. There are forward tees rated for men who are seniirs, but for senior women, there are mostly NO forward tees for the lad I es to move up to, giving them a real disadvantages. Why is this so hard for them to understand. I’m a Course Rater for Louisiana and I’ve never rated a course that had senior ladies tees.

    • Thanks for your comment Golfing Lady Bug!
      It’s certainly frustrating how women are in this day and age still second class citizens on the course.

      But we still love the game so hopefully someday the game will love us back. 😉


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