While most would agree that women should have equal access, and the same rights and membership privileges as men in Australia’s golf clubs, a push for gender-inclusive tees in the traditional sport is dividing members, many of whom are resistant to change.
Tees have traditionally been defined along gender lines, with longer tees designated for male players and shorter tees for women, using the archaic rationale that women cannot hit a golf ball as far as men. However, Golf Australia, in its effort to encourage more female participation in the sport has written to clubs recommending that tees should be based on ability, regardless of sex.
Supporters of the proposal say the existing model offers no benefit to the game and creates division between members. They believe that a cross-gender course model would allow skilled women golfers to play off longer tees, rather than being restricted to shorter tees. The move, without causing any disadvantage to skilled male players, also offers the option of shorter starting points to less proficient males as well as older gentlemen members struggling to play off the backmarkers.
Golf Australia’s move towards gender neutrality is primarily aimed at attracting more women into the sport, with latest data showing that only 20 per cent of the country’s 400,000 golf members are women. The move, rather than be extreme, would simply bring Australian clubs in line with overseas clubs, where gender-neutral participation is becoming the accepted norm.
Golf Australia says that today’s game today is a broad church and should cater for all, and while some clubs have begun trialling the gender-neutral tees, many remain resistant as traditionalists argue that, rather than a progressive and timely evolution of the game, it is political correctness gone wild.