Can brands help level the playing field in women's golf?

by Thompson Brand Partners

By Lucy Eaton, Thompson intern. Lucy plays off scratch.

The Forbes list of the world’s 100 highest paid athletes was recently released, and as predicted, without a single woman to show. Whilst 2018 was supposedly a huge year for women in sport, the list serves to reminds us that gender equality still has a long way to go.

Golf has long been famous for inequality. I’m a bit of an anomaly. I’m 22, female and have been playing golf for 11 years now. First, as a junior at my local club, through county, to national training and now collegiate level in America. Playing at one of the top 25 Division II schools nationwide.

So, how bad is it?
Here are the numbers:

  • Professionally, male golfers earn 4.16 times more per shot ($857) than women.
  • Socially, research has shown that only 25% of men would be interested in playing golf with a woman. Despite the handicap and tee system making golf universally fair for anybody to play competitively.

You might be surprised, but this all too apparent problem in the sport was highlighted last month when the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Golf venue reluctantly admitted its first (and only) three women full members following threats to strip them of the event.

  • This is where apparel comes in…
    Women don’t play golf. Only 14% of the people regularly playing golf are women, and they are a hugely overlooked segment of the market. Even with #ThisGirlCan campaigns everywhere and a specific #ThisGirlGolfs, the numbers aren’t changing.

    I believe that one of the main reasons women don’t get into golf is the apparel. Everybody knows the stereotype: argyle sweater draped over the shoulders, long socks and pink everywhere. It’s a huge deterrence to new players.

    This prehistoric image of women in golf has been continued thanks to clothing brands. Whilst men’s brands create stylish and performance orientated clothing, womenswear is primarily pink and old fashioned. Not to mention the uncomfortable and unflattering fabrics and fits.

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    Women’s golf brands define the sport, they outfit the professionals we aspire to be like. If the majority continue to push the clothes that promote such outdated stereotypes, I question how the sport will ever modernise or become appealing to women.

    However, there are some brands doing it right…

    Röhnisch is a Swedish family business, creating performance sportswear exclusively for women. We can go for a round of golf in sportswear that is modern and comfortable. Through sponsorship of top amateur golfers across Europe, and more recently Ladies European Tour players, Röhnisch is increasing in size and popularity.

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    Foray Golf
    Another company leading the way is Foray Golf. The store went live in 2017, focusing on golf apparel that is fashionable but also performance ready. All clothing is tested on the course before being produced. and there are capsule collection releases every four weeks- in keeping with the fast-paced world of fashion. The brand was founded by two ex-Victoria’s Secret employees with a passion for golf, so style and fit are at the core of everything they do. However, modern golf clothes don’t come cheap- starting at $99 for a sleeveless polo.

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    KJUS are a relatively new brand, founded in 2000 by Lasse Kjus and Didi Serena, an Olympic Ski Champion and an entrepreneur from Sweden. They discovered a gap in the market for comfortable clothes that gave golfers and skiers freedom. Their collection is dubbed the ‘world’s finest sportswear brand’. With a golf, ski and lifestyle collection for both men and women. They endorse famous tour players and ski champions across Europe, with stores across Europe and in Canada. Their sportswear is perfect for elite performance, balanced with style and comfort.

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    The future…
    Women’s brands are paramount to the future of golf. With the average age of the UK active golfer already at 63 years, the need for more female golfers and particularly a new, younger, generation has never been greater.

    Brands like Röhnisch, Foray Golf and KJUS are leading the way with their modern take on women’s golf apparel, putting the user at the heart of the design, not tradition. In my opinion; golf still has a long way to go, and it won’t change overnight. But, if more brands can get on board and create better apparel, then women’s golf will finally be taken more seriously, which is the first step to leveling the playing field in the women’s game.

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