Katie Rule, PGA Pro at Mullion Golf Club, talks about her difficulties growing up as a lady pro within a ‘man’s world’ and the future of ladies golf.
I have always competed against my two older brothers in every sport imaginable throughout my childhood… Anything you can do I can do better, right? There was always that boy-girl fight and I never wanted to lose because I was a girl. I’ve kept that competitive edge running through me and have now taken it into the business world. This has definitely helped me as I’m not afraid to go after a goal or work towards something new.
Being a PGA professional golfer couldn’t be any more enjoyable as a career. But there’s no denying the fact that the ratio of men to women in this game is very high and the daily question that seems to be asked to me of, “do you play golf?” grates upon me each day. I even get male golfers saying to me that if they lost to a girl in a sport it would break them, but the seven year old me wouldn’t have given this a thought. I’m used to competing against men and women and that’s exactly what I’m doing on a daily basis within my career.
There is no doubt that being a female golfer within my profession can come with its difficulties, but I think over time you find out which department within the golf career is truly best for you to excel in. As a PGA assistant and trainee I worried about not being able to lift heavy parcels and panicked over the thought of club repairs (which caused more scars on my hand than I originally wanted,) but I found a passion for technology, coaching, business management, marketing and tournament play.
At the start of 2016 I joined Mullion Golf Club as co-head professional and business partner to the pro shop. I wrote a business plan for my business and one for myself. Having a full time business didn’t mean that I wanted to give up my playing career and practice schedule. I also invested in a TrackMan which has not only been fantastic for coaching but has also enhanced our club custom fitting within our studio. Personally I felt that this gained me respect from the members as it showed how passionate and involved I am. I believe the more qualifications and learning that you complete can only be an advantage for your career, which is why within the first year of being qualified I have already obtained the golf management theory qualification and am currently completing the Director of Golf qualification.
In my eyes the image of golf is changing for ladies; it’s becoming fashionable and it’s becoming athletic. There’s far more to golf than just playing golf, it’s becoming a lifestyle and I think the awareness of this is increasing all the time. Nationally there are many competitions for lady golfers to participate in. I spent about five years playing in numerous county, regional and national events as an amateur and it was great fun. The courses that you got to play were an experience and I would encourage anyone to take part. The WPGA are now giving amateurs an opportunity to play in our events too which will be a fantastic experience for them. Also, the launch of England Golf campaigns such as #thisgirlgolfs is a move in the right direction.
I think the possibilities for lady golfers is endless, I can almost imagine the fashion for fitness classes and coffee gatherings becoming golf related happenings. It all starts with being motivated to play, whether it’s where you want some ‘me’ time or joining in with a new social group. Over the last four years of being Professional my weakness as a lady pro was definitely noticeable at the start, but as I have grown within the PGA I feel my only weakness now is being surrounded with top of the range golf apparel and trying to resist buying it all. For all golf professionals it is important that we keep improving as golfers, keep learning as business people and all support each other equally. Always carry an inspirational thought with you – my one is something that my Mum and Dad always used to say to me every day before school: “Show them who’s boss.”
Katie Rule is a Qualified PGA Professional and enrolled on the PGA Director of Golf course. She is currently Co-Head Professional at Mullion Golf Club. Katie is highly ranked on the WPGA Order of Merit and was former British Girls Table Tennis Champion. Follow Katie on twitter @PGAKatieRule to keep up to date with her latest news and blogs. Or contact Katie on email firstname.lastname@example.org
Can the UK boost female participation?
The team at GolfSupport.com examine why just 14 per cent of UK golfers are female and what can be done to encourage more female players.
Whilst the UK is known to be the birthplace of golf, we are desperately lagging behind other European countries when it comes to female participation in the sport. In spite of the UK playing host to approximately 3,000 golf courses and clubs and having over 678,000 players, only 14 per cent are women. If you take Germany as an opposing example; a wholesome 35 per cent of their 639,000 plus recorded golfing members are female, and the sport continues to grow rapidly in appeal. Elsewhere Austria (35 per cent), Switzerland (33 per cent), Slovenia (32 per cent) and the Netherlands (32 per cent) are all easily surpassing the UK’s feeble female count.
Last year, Muirfield golf club was told it will not host the Open Championship after members voted to continue its men-only policy. Yes, the result was narrow – just 3 per cent short of the number needed – but the result nonetheless conveyed a message. While it is positive that the decision was overturned in March the fact that such a debate is even happening in the 21st century is an issue in itself.
A consequence of such debate no doubt breeds animosity and perhaps one of the reasons the UK has such a limited number of female golfers is the simple fact that they do not feel that they belong or are welcome. Golf remains a male-dominated sport and it requires the efforts of both genders to make changes. A recent report claimed men can play a huge role in encouraging women to participate in golf; to exercise their potential, free of fear and judgement as it seems one of the top reasons for female golfers taking up the game is due to influence from a male peer. Furthermore, more than one in two male golfers say their sons often play golf, but just 12 per cent say their daughters play. Are fathers taking the time to encourage their daughters, as well as their sons, to join them on the green?
Certainly, the report found that only a quarter of male golfers are interested in playing casual golf with female counterparts. The same report found only one in two women who play golf do so because of influence from a male partner – with 78 per cent of male players stating that their partners do not play. Certainly, there could be a number of reasons why women do not play including work, family commitments or genuine lack of interest – but it’s also likely that husbands and boyfriends alike will simply assume that it is a sport for men and will not attempt to encourage their spouse to join them. Indeed, one in four women admitted that they have experienced ill feeling and poor treatment by men on the course before.
If we don’t act now, it seems the next generation of female golfers in the UK will suffer. Last year, England Golf released statistics stating that the average golf club in England has 25 members under the age of 16, but less than three of these will be female. Again, despite having a golf market fit for mass junior participation in the UK, we fall behind numerous European countries – with Turkey achieving the best results for junior golfers at 45 per cent. The other top five junior golf countries are: Greece 32 per cent, Serbia 27 per cent, Slovakia 24 per cent and Latvia at 23 per cent.
Despite the UK having an approximate 56,205 junior golfers – junior golfers account for just 8 per cent of those actively participating in the sport. In fact, in a list of 34 countries, this figure was only slightly higher than junior golfers in Germany (7 per cent), Denmark (7 per cent) and the Netherlands (4 per cent.) It is clear that much more needs to be done in encouraging not only the UK’s women – but our junior players too. If we don’t, the limited participation cycle is likely to continue.
A positive sign that we’re on the right track comes from the Country Golf Partnership (CGP) who have reported that 54,000 people were inspired to get into golf in summer 2015 – 35 per cent of which were women. However, though this information shows an increase of 47 per cent on past summers, the key is to actually get those potential new players hitting the course. It is important that we all do what we can to encourage female participation: we all have to recognise that sport isn’t gender specific, but a personal preference that many girls – and boys – will favour.