‘Thank You, Michelle!’

By: Nancy Berkley


So, what do I think about Michelle Wie’s decision from the standpoint of women’s golf? I think it is great. To use the new buzz word, it is one more “tipping point” in a series of tipping points that are responsible for the increase in women golfers and, particularly, younger women golfers.

Following the logic of Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-seller “The Tipping Point,” the decision of Michelle Wie (and what will follow from it) will generate the contagious behavior the golf industry is looking for – more golfers who play more golf. It should also generate more women golfers.

The number of women golfers is, in fact, growing faster than male golfers. Women now represent over 25% of all U.S. golfers. If we add the number of women who try the game at driving ranges and short courses, the increase in the number of women golfers would be even greater.

What is more relevant, however, is that women golfers are taking up the game at earlier ages. Based on recent National Golf Foundation figures, in 2004, 23% of women golfers were between the ages of 18 and 29 compared with 2001, when only 15% of women golfers were in that age group.

The younger female celebrities like Michelle, Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer are sustaining the interest that Anika and Suzy Whaley sparked a few years ago. More women – young and old – consider golf a game for them.

With dangly earrings, short skirts and youth on their side, today’s female golf stars give women’s golf a young and fun image. If a young girl could play soccer in short shorts and a tank top, why would she choose a sport with old-lady skirts and shirts? For women in their teens, 20s and 30s, the game of golf has enough rules. They don’t want fashion rules.

Years ago in the 1970s, a few LPGA pros (Jan Stephenson and Laura Baugh in particular) thought that women’s golf could be juiced up with sex appeal. The broad market of women golfers – a much older crowd than today – could not wear or accept those fashions.

Today’s young golfers are different. They don’t promote sex-appeal, they offer style-appeal. And women of all ages like that.

Will dangly earrings continue to be the rage? I’m not sure. One of the characteristics of the teens and 20s group is their willingness to take up a fad – and then drop it. But, interest in women’s golf will stick, even if the earrings don’t. (If they start wearing circle pins, I have a few of those!)

However, growth among younger golfers is a challenge for the industry. Young women play less golf once they hit college, work and babies. The 2004 NGF statistics also report that the number of occasional women golfers – seven or less rounds annually – is significantly up.

Let’s stop wringing our hands and recognize the challenge and figure out a way to stem the drop-out rate. Let’s figure out how to blend golf with the busy schedules of young women.

I don’t think there is anything on the horizon that will dampen the interest in women’s golf. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The industry wants more golfers. Golf professionals are learning how to attract women golfers and more golf professionals themselves are younger and less tradition-bound. The LPGA’s new commissioner comes to the position with a marketing background and can be counted upon for forward-looking decisions. And, the baby boomers are coming.

So, congratulations, Michelle, and from one women golfer to another, “Thank You.”

For more information about how women golfers can help their facility become more women-friendly, see www.berkleyconsulting.com or write Nancy a question using her Free Help Line at info@nancyberkley.com.

Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf. Her book, “Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women’s Golf,” published in 2003 by the National Golf Foundation, is the industry reference on how-to attract and retain women golfers. She updates her research and best practices on her website www.nancyberkley.com.

Nancy consults with facilities on how they can increase participation and revenues from women golfers and is a frequent speaker at industry events. Nancy also reviews courses for “The Golf Insider,” an international golf and travel newsletter, and “Ladies Golf Journey,” a golf publication for women. She’s contributed articles to “Golf For Women” magazine and is the author of the 2004 PGA Magazine cover story about women golfers.

A respected resource in the golf industry, Nancy participates in Golf 20/20, the annual strategic invitation-only conference sponsored by the PGA Tour, the PGA, the LPGA, and the World Golf Foundation. At the November 2004 Conference, she moderated the panel discussions on player development with a focus on women golfers. She has addressed the National Golf Course Owner’s Association at their National Conference as well as at numerous marketing seminars for the PGA and LPGA professionals. Nancy serves as a consultant to the Golden Links Advisory Board of Corporate Meetings & Incentives, a PRIMEDIA Business Publication. Nancy is an experienced golfer and has competed on the Metropolitan Women’s Golf Association (N.J., N.Y., Conn.) interclub matches. She’s served on the Board and Golf Committees of her golf clubs in Florida and New Jersey.

In 1998, Nancy founded Berkley Consulting and The Woman's Only Guide® to Golf to share her long-time passion for golf and to help grow the game. Prior to working in the golf industry, Nancy was an attorney for a Wall Street firm and then held a number of senior executive positions with Prudential Financial, including Assistant General Counsel and Vice President of Corporate Marketing & Business Integration. Nancy began her professional career as a high school teacher.

Nancy holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Minnesota; a master's degree in teaching from Harvard University Graduate School of Education; and a law degree from Rutgers University School of Law, where she was a member of the Law Review. She is a graduate of the Program for Management Development at Harvard Business School.

Nancy describes herself as a bogey golfer and plays on her home courses in Florida and New Jersey. To contact her, write, call or email Nancy at: Nancy Berkley, Berkley Consulting, 242 Eagleton Estates Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 561-776-7243 or at info@nancyberkley.com.

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