Guest Post: Where have all the Women Golfers Gone?

This spring a women’s golf club near and dear to my heart (Golf Fore Gals) closed its doors.

GFG closes after 16 years

Sadly, like in many parts of the world, women’s golf in BC is on the decline.  I have struggled to figure out how to turn this trend around and turned to a colleague of mine from British Columbia Golf to understand the facts and potential future.  This is the first of a 3 week series* on Women in Golf by Jim Lee of BC Golf.

Participation of Women in Golf in BC

British Columbia Golf has been tracking and reporting on changes in the golf market for several years, primarily using data from the Print Measurement Bureau (PMB).  As with many sports, and with golf in other provinces, participation in golf has been declining since reaching a peak in about 2004.

women in golf BC GolfSince 2008, the number of females playing golf in Canada has declined by 25% to just over 1 million (from 1,402,000).   In comparison, the male market of golfers has declined by only 2.5% in this time frame (from 2,836,000 to 2,767,000 golfers).  This means that almost all of the decline in the Canadian golf market over the past 6 years has been due to the loss of female golfers.  The number of female golfers in BC has declined since 2011 from 244,000 to 123,000 in 2013, a decline of 50%.

Two thirds of the loss in female golfers in BC has been the decline of Infrequent (those who play 1 -2 times per year) women golfers.  One third of the loss in female golfers is from Casual golfers (those playing 3 – 9 times per year).  While this may sound trivial (that a loss of golfers who don’t play much is unimportant), Infrequent golfers represent a pool from which to develop golfers who will play with more frequency.

It is far easier to get someone to try something a second time than a first time, providing the product and service meet their needs.  This may be the reason why the golf industry is losing the female Infrequent (and Casual) golfer is that their needs and interests are not being met by the game or golf courses in their first exposures to it.

Interestingly, there has not been much of a decline in Core women golfers over the past several years.  This suggests that once women become engaged in the game, they stay with it.

The key then, is to find out what needs to be changed about the game, or the services provided by golf courses, to retain women who are just getting exposed to golf.

Your thoughts?
*Weeks 2 and 3 will cover:  “What Turns Women On – to Golf” and “Golf Programs for Women”

About the author

Jim Lee practiced the science of marketing during his 10 years with Tourism BC and has enhanced his knowledge of marketing tourism, sport and recreation in nearly 100 consulting projects since forming his own consulting practice. Jim currently works on a contract for British Columbia Golf on marketing and business development projects and formerly was the Executive Director of the Canadian Golf Tourism Alliance. He lives with his wife on the sunny shores of Port Alberni, unless the weather is bad, in which case they retreat to Victoria.

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