When I was 5 years old, I moved to Jacksonville—a place that’s home to more than 70 golf courses. I grew up in Ponte Vedra Beach—home to the PGA TOUR headquarters, just northeast of St. Augustine’s World Golf Hall of Fame—and just down the street from the driving range and a golf course. As a child, I would go out and play nine holes with my father after he was done working for the day. I even attended some golf day camps and had years where I’d play a lot of golf, interspersed with ones where… not so much.
But honestly, despite being literally surrounded by it during my formative years, golf never really got a grip on me. Something about the tedium of standing over a little white ball and trying to figure out how the smallest, nuanced change to a swing might impact the trajectory of said ball didn’t quite appeal to hyper, 6-year-old me.
Still, whether consciously or subconsciously, golf and I remained connected. During my senior year of college, I took an internship with the Golf Channel and, before I graduated, started working for the PGA TOUR. Since then, your girl has watched a lot of golf.
And with those experiences came a new appreciation and new understanding of the game, as well as plenty of time to reflect on my own orientation to the sport.
There are plenty of women, like me, who maybe played a bit growing up, but struggled to find reasons to stick with it. And there are many more women who never even gave the game a shot. The thing is: Golf is not exactly the easiest sport to pick up. It’s difficult, expensive, frustrating and requires a special type of mind body connection. And if you’re a woman, especially from an older generation, you were literally not allowed to become members with the boys at some of the world’s most prestigious clubs.
Augusta National—a course that’s synonymous with golf—has only allowed women to be members since 2012, when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and banker Darla Moore became the first two women to join. Former Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne called it a “joyous occasion.” An occasion that only came to pass after Augusta had, just a few years before, denied IBM CEO Virginia Rometty membership to the club, despite offering historically offering memberships to the executives of title sponsors in the past.
In 2017, the oldest club in the world, Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland, followed suit, but only after a vote against letting women in the year prior and the Open Championship pressured the club by threatening to not hold the event there in future years.
It’s certainly a big step forward for the most prominent clubs in the world to open their doors to female players. However, such a development does little to make the game more accessible or appealing to women outside of the elite clientele who have the resources or connections to ever play at these destination courses.
Enter organizations like the LPGA Women’s Network and its recently launched #InviteHER campaign, which is encouraging golfers to invite the women in their lives out to play. The thinking here is that people don’t typically attend parties they aren’t invited to, and every woman deserves to feel like she belongs wherever she goes, especially on a golf course. The Women’s Network, which went live in January, publishes content from golf’s female voices and provides access to golf’s most innovative brands. According to Ashleigh McLaughlin, a manager of digital marketing and brand strategy for the LPGA Women’s Network, 29 percent of 13,000 women polled want to get into golf, but don’t know how. The network aims to act as a hub to connect women who are interested in playing with women who already play.
Then there’s Women’s Golf Day. Taking place once a year, during a four-hour window, Women’s Golf Day encourages women around the globe play golf. Forty-thousand women in 46 countries participated last year. Pretty wild.
And there are more organizations popping up all the time, all prompting women who currently play to serve as ambassadors for the sport. Essentially, the responsibility to help grow the game among the female crowd falls on those women who already play.
And it shouldn’t be a hard sell. After all, golf is addictive. It’s an activity that can be shared among friends. It’s a way to connect professionally and spend time outside. And you can drink. (The drinking part is fun, too.)
Taryn Bray, 25, is the digital and social media coordinator of Championship Management for the PGA TOUR. And she’s also the perfect example of a woman who both the LPGA Women’s Network and Women’s Golf Day want to reach. For Women’s Golf Day, Bray created an entire Instagram story dedicated to her worst shots—the times she completely shanked the ball, hit it in the water, or just straight up whiffed. It was fantastic.
“I got like 10 DM responses to that video of people dying laughing and asking for more, so I actually ended up putting together another compilation video,” Bray says. “I didn’t expect people to love it so much, but I think the reason I got such a good response was because it was so relatable and you don’t often see people posting videos of their bad shots.”
And isn’t that the point? We all start somewhere. In this age of female empowerment and women saying “You CAN sit with us” it makes sense that organizations see current female players as the ones to help get more women out there.
If a group of women of all different skill levels can get together on the course, play nine holes for happy hour and video each others’ good and bad shots, it’s going to make things a lot more fun and a lot more approachable.
“I think just seeing that other girls are out there having fun and not caring as much about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ helps,” Bray says. “Everyone starts somewhere, some people just started earlier, but everyone started out shanking balls. Even Tiger Woods.”
This article originally appeared in Void Magazine Vol. 9, Issue 5, The Sports Issue.