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Women's Mailbag

What can you wear to the range? Does a female golfer need a female instructor? Your questions answered

October 29, 2021

Stephanie Noritz

There’s this recurring conversation I have with other women in the golf industry. We talk about being that friend for the female golfers in our lives. Any question a friend, cousin, friend of a friend, whomever, has about the game, the text comes to us because, well, this is what we think about all day. Golf can be a tricky game to get into and having that friend you can hit with any golf-related question makes starting out—and staying with it—that much easier. Especially for women, in a sport where they’re outnumbered three to one, it can be helpful to seek guidance from women.

This got us thinking. If I’m fielding questions from my circle of family and friends, these questions must exist everywhere, including among people who have no one to ask. So, I’m here to be that friend to as many golfers out there as possible. (Yes, this is designed with female golfers in mind, but guys, if you have questions, we won’t ignore them.)

Send in your questions (you can do it here), no matter how simple or complex, no matter how directly or tangentially related to golf, and I’ll seek to answer them the best that I can. If I don’t have the answers myself, I fortunately have access to people in golf who do. Every other week, we’ll publish a selection of our favorite questions and the answers. We want to hear what you’re thinking about and help make this wonderful, tricky game a little easier.

My daughter wants golf lessons and would like to go to a female teacher. Does it really matter? —Jenny, from Massachusetts

This is something we hear about a fair amount: women seeking instruction from other female teachers. Plenty of women get lessons from male instructors, and there’s no reason a man can’t be a great teacher for a woman, but if your daughter says she prefers a female teacher, Golf Digest teaching professional Erika Larkin says follow her lead.

“I think there is a benefit for women teaching women and young girls,” Larkin explains. “We can relate to body shape, swing speeds and the emotional and hormonal response to our successes and failures, and social aspects that may be different than a male’s experience. For a young girl to work with an established female coach is also such a great model that there are opportunities in the sport at every level. We can relate to what it’s like competing against other females or being a part of an all-women’s golf team. I think those experiences are unique and there’s a comfort level for the student to open up and be honest with somebody that may understand them better. There are some fabulous male coaches that do a great job of relating with their female students, but I would tell any mom out there to get their daughter in with a local female pro and test the waters to see if she likes the coaching experience better!”

A friend was gifted a few clubs and we want to go to the range. It’s our first time going and we don’t know what to wear. —Ellie, from Virginia

We’re guessing you’re heading to a public range as opposed to a range at a private club. The great thing about public ranges is that most anything will go wardrobe-wise. I always tell friends who haven’t been to a range before to just wear whatever they’d wear if we were going for a jog, a hike or a workout class: leggings, running shorts, a workout top or a T-shirt are all appropriate for a public range. (If the range is attached to a resort or a pricey daily-fee course, there’s a chance they might have more of a traditional golf dress code). If you have a skirt and collared top that you’ve purchased with golf in mind, you can obviously wear that, too.

Why is the slope/rating different for men and women? —Fallon, from Wyoming

This is a great question, and one I consulted Cindy Cooper, Manager of Handicapping and Compliance at the USGA, for an answer.

The course rating you see on a scorecard is the scratch male player’s rating—the scratch player’s projected score. Each course also has also a male bogey rating (which isn’t often published on scorecards), as well as a female scratch and female bogey rating.

“A lot of people think slope is the absolute difficulty of a course. It’s not,” Cooper explains. “It’s actually the difference between bogey and scratch. The larger variance between the scratch rating and the bogey rating, the higher the slope. It’s the relative difficulty: How much harder it is for the bogey golfer than the scratch.”

What you will often see published on a scorecard along with the scratch golfer’s rating, however, is a difference in rating for men and women on the same tees. That’s the scratch female player’s rating.

The answer to why men’s and women’s ratings are different all comes down to distance.

“When we’re rating a golf course, the raters go out to certain yardages and figure out the obstacles—are there bunkers around, are there trees around, is there out of bounds, is there a hazard in play—it’s all done in accordance with the length these four model golfers hit the golf ball. So, for a male scratch golfer, they’re going to go out to the 250-yard range to determine how much they are impacted at that point. They literally go out to that spot and say, OK, how are these obstacles impacting this player. They do the same for the bogey golfer. The male bogey golfer hits it 200 yards. The female scratch, we rate her as having an average of 210 yards. The female bogey golfer is 150 yards off the tee.”

(These yardages were determined off of the yardages players were hitting their drives in U.S. Amateur Championships in the 1980s, Cooper said.)

When slope and rating are calculated, they’re calculated with these yardages. Since female players, on average, hit it shorter than male players, the obstacles that they face are different. Having a different obstacle score in the calculation results in a different rating, so that’s why you’ll see different ratings for men and women from the same set of tees.