Women in Golf: Progress to Celebrate, Hurdles to Clear


By Michael Williams, Contributor, Golf Business 

Earlier this June was Women’s Golf Day, a global celebration of women in golf and an invitation for more women to connect to the game. And last week, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was held at the historic Congressional Country Club just outside my hometown of Washington, DC. One of the five majors on the LPGA Tour season, the event is not only a symbol of excellence on the course; it is also about acknowledging the accomplishments that women have made and those yet to come. As it says on the KPMG website, the event “demonstrates KPMG’s commitment to the development, advancement and empowerment of women."

These events have their roots in the Golf/2020 summit meetings held in the late 2000s to consider ways to grow the game of golf and hold onto the interest in the game brought by the still-ascendent Tiger Woods. The summits produced some of the player development ideas that are at the foundation of the industry now; one of those ideas was Women’s Golf Week, where the industry would focus on welcoming women and girls to the game.

When I was in course management, we held one of the very first Women’s Golf Week events at East Potomac Golf Course in DC, now part of the National Links Trust. The inaugural guest speaker was Fran Mainella, who at the time was the first woman to hold the position of Director of the National Park Service. Ms. Mainella stood on a chair in our snack bar and spoke with courage and passion about how she had fallen into severe depression after the death of her husband. She reached the point where she considered taking her own life when some friends convinced her to come to the golf course with them. She didn’t play at the time, but her friends managed to convince her to join. Mainella found the combination of the natural beauty and warm fellowship to be therapeutic. Over time she rebounded and acknowledged to our audience that golf “helped save my life.”

lmost twenty years later, women are a powerful force in the growth of the game. Course owners and operators understand that programming for women and girls is a critical component of a successful facility. Women are now in positions as head professionals, general managers, and owners. The women who are in the leadership of NGCOA are some of the savviest individuals in the industry, and the number of women who are a part of the NGCOA membership in the organization is on the rise.

There are still hurdles to overcome, though. The leadership in most of golf’s governing bodies is overwhelmingly male. Parity in compensation for women in the golf business and for touring professionals is a long ways off. And at some courses, women are still treated as second-class citizens, with “special” times available for women foursomes play, courses designed and set up with forward tees that are uninteresting or unfair, and even having a marked disparity at some clubs in the amenities offered to men and women. There is plenty of work still to be done, but last week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship I took a moment to stop and celebrate the progress that has been made. To quote the old TV commercial, you’ve come a long way, baby.



Michael Williams is the Executive Director for Cyrano Communications (Washington, DC). He is also a contributor for Voice of America (Washington, DC), a member of the USGA Golf Journal Editorial Board, and a contributor for PGA.com. In 2005, Michael launched his first radio show on FOX News Radio Sticks and Stones, a critically acclaimed show that covered golf, business and politics. Since that launch, Michael has established a reputation as a savvy broadcaster and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Michael has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, business, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world.
** The views and opinions featured in Golf Business WEEKLY are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the NGCOA.**