Image courtesy of Pine Valley Golf Club and Yahoo!

It’s been a year full of change, uncomfortable conversations, and steps toward inclusion in the golf world and the world alike.

This past weekend, Pine Valley, the number one ranked golf course in the U.S., announced that after unanimous vote, they would be opening their membership to women—a win, perhaps. A very long overdue win, but a win nonetheless.

The change in membership policy follows the establishment of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019- a golf tournament allowing women to compete for the very first time on the same admired course as the men and also follows their decision to allow female members in 2012. In passing, the club’s 108-year history falls right in line with the history of golf itself. A beautiful history at that; rich with tradition, respect, and stories passed down through generations. But there is a dark side of that history that we often fail to admit.

Golf is a beautiful game in itself. It has an addictive nature that draws people in and drives them to practice until they are out of their minds, a natural beauty and peace about it that soothes the soul, and a plethora of lessons that it’s players can take straight from the course and into the rest of their lives. Golf is a game so beautiful that, in my opinion, should be shared with everyone who seeks to participate.

When does “tradition” begin to tread the line of discrimination? Some believe that lowering barriers to entry somehow sacrifices the integrity of the game. But there are those like me who think quite contrarily- that allowing more to participate actually enhances it.

I love golf. I am also a woman. Regardless of my accolades, social status, financial wellbeing, or athletic ability, there are still a handful of courses in the United States that would consider me unfit for their membership. It is important to understand that as a private and self-sufficient club, these courses are legally allowed to do so. But does that mean they should?

Pine Valley President, Jim Davis stated that the move toward a more inclusive membership policy was motivated by the want to “be on the right side of history.” This is a step in the right direction, for sure. But there is still more to be done to catch up with the rest of the world.

Having daughters, sisters, wives may not make certain men able to see the damage that the barriers we have in place have on our young women.  But if there is a single thing we can agree on, it’s that the lot of us want to play Pine Valley (or any legendary golf course for that matter) if given the opportunity. The issue here is many people don’t know what it is like to feel unwelcome in a game that was so obviously not made with them in mind, yet have so much love for it anyway.

So what else can golfers and golf courses do to make golf more welcoming towards women, specifically who are beginners? I’ve got a few ideas (if anyone is listening…):

  • Remove restrictions put in place to limit female membership, playing times, etc.
  • Provide equal amenities for men and women.
  • Hire female golf staff–representation is important!
  • Implement women’s programs–allow your female players to have access to instruction, tournaments, etc. Provide for a women’s golf group or association at your club.
  • Carry women’s merchandise–having clubs and clothes for women on site makes all the difference.
  • Remove the use of sexist, discriminatory, or just plain hurtful language.
  • Invite her to play! Many women want to learn how to play golf, but feel unwelcomed.