By Keely Levins
The Solheim Cup, one of the LPGA's most well attended events, starts next week at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, CO where over 125,000 spectators are expected to live up to the event's standard of unconventionally boisterous cheering. With the pre-tournament buzz circulating about women's golf, now seems as good of a time as any to bring up this conversation: How can we get more young girls to play golf?
It's no secret that more boys are playing golf than girls. This year, 1,079 girls signed up for the USGA Jr. Championship compared to 2,860 boys. Often there are fewer girls in junior clinics and fewer junior female members at golf courses. The problem feeds itself: When there are fewer girls playing, less girls want to join- the less girls that join, the fewer girls play.
Trying to push the idea that it's cool to do something original and different doesn't always work. And asking your eight-year-old daughter to pick up the game under the pretense that it will be a skill she'll be happy she knows at some point in her professional life demands a foresight most young girls just don't have. (By the way, Mom and Dad, you're right. Golf has come in handy.)
It's easy to sympathize with a young girl trying to learn the game alongside a group of boys. It's harder, but definitely more worth the brain power, to think of a way to make golf more accessible and more popular for young girls. If your daughter is looking to play golf but is a little intimidated, Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Erika Larkin has some advice:
Make it Social
The buddy system is one of the first places to start. "Girls are social, they like to do things with friends. If you can get a friend involved, then they have a practice partner and a playing partner," says Larkin. Even if your daughter is motivated to learn the game on her own, it doesn't hurt to have someone her age, and gender, around and ready to play, too. It's more fun to have someone to play with, but you also can learn a lot just by watching someone else's game progress alongside your own.
Take Lessons, Preferably in a Group
In the northern Virginia area, Larkin has expanded on the buddy system, and teaches group lessons for young girls. "I do a series of lessons through the year with a group of 7-10 girls who are all in a similar age group. If you can get them together in a lesson, friendships start to form in that setting. They feel more comfortable and start to pursue friendships and the game more."
Watch the Pros
There are a lot of options for young girls looking to be active- many classmates paly soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and other popular sports. For a young girl to want to choose golf, Larkin says that you have to "introduce the game in a way that appeals to them. Keep it light and fun." One of the best ways to do that is to show just how fun the game can be: take your daughter to an LPGA event. It's impressive to watch these women play on TV, but actually going to the venue in person brings an excitement that any young girl even slightly interested in golf is going to get energized about. Maybe she'll be inspired to go the range after seeing Lexi Thompson crush a tee ball, or maybe Paula Creamer's outfits make it all look more fun. Bring your daughter's friends and make a weekend out of it- you could find yourself looking to play a few more rounds of golf, too.