Is Gender Free Golf the Way Forward?
A growing number of clubs have scrapped ladies and men’s tees in order to push forward the prospect of gender-free golf in England. These tees are being replaced by ones where any golfer can play from, be it a male or female member, to suit their inclination and ability. It is regarded as the perfect way to encourage improving golfers while retaining ageing golfers as well as a great way to promote social golf.
It is often harder to socialise while playing mixed golf in the UK as the majority of the ladies tees are placed a good 10-30 yards further forward. This new concept makes the game more sociable and removes the awkwardness of making the lady member wait at the men’s tee before moving forward to the women’s tee. This will ultimately save a small amount of time for a round as well.
The concept is in-fact extremely popular in the USA with a large number of golf clubs removing gender specific tees. The idea is gaining great attention here in England and Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s Handicap and Course Rating Manager, said: “It is still very new here but I know of over 30 courses which have rated at least one course for both genders.
“This is all about making the best use of your golf course for all your members and for newcomers who want to take up the game. You’re not building new holes or tees, you’re just rating what you already have.”
Sheringham Golf Club in Norfolk was one of the first clubs in England to jump on board this new concept. There are three courses at Sheringham Golf Club, the blue, yellow and white courses, which have all been measured and rated for both men and women. There is also an additional black course that has been rated for just the men on the advice of the ladies’ county association.
Neal Milton, the secretary/manager, said: “It’s been a great success, particularly with our senior gentlemen and higher handicap ladies, who now have the opportunity to play a shorter course.
“We have increased participation in our competitions and I believe we have better retention of members. We want people to play and to be part of the club for as long as they can.”
Another advantage of the gender-free tees is both men and women can compete against each other in special competitions, something which was previously frowned upon due to both sets playing different lengths.
At Trentham Park Golf Club in Staffordshire, they have abandoned the traditional tee colours associated with the men’s and women’s game. The club now has a black course (6390 yards), blue (6188), green (5255) – with each of the four courses measured and rated for both men and women - as well as white tees further down the fairways, for junior beginners.
Trentham Park Club manager Jon Farmer said: “We’re probably typical of the average golf club and want to retain the members we have and bring in new members. We’ve developed the course so that anyone can come and play the game and that’s important to us.
“This is just fantastic. We can give longevity to the ageing player who might have left because they were losing length and didn’t feel competitive. The complete beginner, who feels embarrassed teeing off in front of the clubhouse, can use the forward tee which is about 100 yards away. As players improve and want a greater challenge they can move back.”
Staffordshire County Development Officer Gareth Shaw added: “I believe gender-free tees tick all the retention boxes.”
With golf clubs across England beginning to stand up and move towards the ever-increasing popularity of gender-free tees, it looks as if golf is set to head in a new, exciting direction.
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