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…
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!
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.