Charley Hull, one of the top 20 female players in the world, talks to GOLF RETAILING about how she first got into golf, her ambitions for 2017 and why everyone involved in golf should support National Golf Month.
How did you first get into golf?
I was introduced to the game at the age of two – my Dad bought me a plastic golf club and ball and I’d hit them around the back garden. The boy that lived next door was keen too, so that’s what we did for the first couple of years. Then my Dad took me to the local golf club when I was about four and I was able to start playing in competitions and get my handicap down. I was playing off scratch at 12, and soon got picked for some county and then National teams, before eventually turning Pro when I was 17.
What barriers (if any) did you feel you faced when you started playing golf?
When I started playing at my local club I was the only girl. Playing golf is all I have ever known and wanted to do, so the opportunities were always there for me to take part and enjoy the sport. However, there are clearly some obstacles for women and I think there are some misconceptions about what golf is like both on and off the course which I think we can definitely overcome.
Why do you think the golf industry should get behind National Golf Month?
It’s a big opportunity for golf businesses of all types – whether you are a self-employed pro or you run a golf club. National Golf Month this year is all about making the sport as freely available to as many new participants as possible in clubs up and down the country – so that has to be something that the industry buy into. It’s a chance for them break down some of the participation barriers and come up with creative ways to bring in female members. I think the fact that the taster sessions are so easily accessible is a big bonus as well and will help bring in more new faces.
Do you think golf is changing and becoming a more inclusive sport?
Yes, it certainly seems as though women and girls are playing the game more than they used to so that has to be encouraging – but so much more can be done. Things like golf being in the Olympics and the TV exposure make people more aware of the fact that the game is gradually changing and becoming more open to more people. National Golf Month’s focus on getting more women golfing this May can only paint a more positive image and help us move away from stories like Muirfield. I think it’s all about talking positively about getting outdoors, doing more exercise and enjoying the social benefits which will help make it more inclusive.
On a personal note, what are your aims and ambitions for the year ahead?
I’m not really one too look too far ahead but I think if I perform as well as I did last year and keep the momentum going then I should end up in a good place. 2017 is obviously a big year for women’s golf because of the Solheim Cup – so first and foremost I need to play well enough on the Tour to make sure I qualify for the team. I first took part in it when I was seventeen and the buzz around the event is just amazing. If we (Europe) can come away with a win then that would be massive!