Women golfers must become less intimidating and more supportive of new players if they are to have any hope of arresting a rapidly declining interest in the game. So says former tour star Lora Fairclough.
The ex Solheim Cup player highlighted the problem after she was informed of an incident at a Lancashire club in which a minority group of female members tried to retrospectively lower the handicap limit for a 36-hole competition.
In the firing line was a ‘rookie’ who won a major prize only to be told later that her 32 ranking was too high - despite the maximum of 36 having being sanctioned by club officials.
The objectors were eventually overruled by a considerable margin but the issue had already caused a good deal of controversy at the club and a certain amount of stress for the player.
Fairclough, who recently stood down as Lancashire LGA coach, said: “I’m glad common sense has prevailed but the case in point is one of the reasons we are losing women golfers throughout the country at a vast rate of knots.
“We know it’s usually a minority group that causes these problems and that they also affect girls under 18 and juniors. It’s totally unacceptable. The fact this case involves an adult underlines what I consider to be a big issue.
“What we’re reaping today is an attitude that was prevalent about ten years ago and we have to nip it in the bud. Otherwise, where are we going to be in another ten years? I think many people will be shocked it’s still going on.”
Fairclough added: “One of the reasons is down to certain women golfers who’ve been around for some time and don’t like change. And when someone comes along and does well in a competition this sort problem can arise.
“What would happen if a 36-handicapper and lifelong member, who had paid thousands of pounds in club fees, won her first board competition only to be told she was not eligible? We need to move forwards, not backwards.”
Fairclough’s sentiments were echoed by Shona Malcolm, a past Ladies’ Golf Union chairman, who said: “I despair at this incident. Ladies get so much adverse publicity and can do without this kind of situation.
“Of course the winner should be entitled to her prize. Everyone has a ‘purple patch’ as they come down in handicap. It used to be a concern when the LGU introduced a ridiculous maximum handicap of 45 but it has generally settled down since the 36 limit has been reintroduced.
“I know of more than one beginner who has given up the game because of the attitude of their fellow lady members who were, of course, once beginners themselves. However we shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush. Most ladies are totally encouraging to newer and higher handicap players.”