Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

The State of Diversity and Inclusion in Golf

The State of Diversity and Inclusion in Golf

Although golf has come a long way from the days when it was an exclusive sport for rich, white men, much still needs to be done in terms of inclusivity and diversity. For many years, women, youths, people living with disabilities, communities of color, and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds have felt underrepresented in the world of golf. As of 2021, only eight black women had held full-time LPGA membership since its inception in 1950. The fact that golf is an expensive sport requiring costly equipment, club memberships, and green fees has also kept out many interested participants, especially the youth. Nonetheless, recent years have spelled hope for many golf enthusiasts as golf organizations, the media, pro golfers, and other stakeholders have come together to make the sport more diverse and inclusive.

How is Golf Advancing in Diversity and Inclusion?

Outreach Programs

Many outreach programs targeting traditionally underrepresented communities in golf, such as women and youths, have ben established. Programs such as The First Tee, PGA REACH, LPGA USGA Girls Golf, Youth on Course, Golf Fore Everyone, and Women’s Golf Day have all stepped up to promote golf inclusion and diversity. They offer free clinics, golf lessons, and equipment to deserving target groups, inculcating beneficial life values and fostering character development through golf.

Accommodating Players with Disabilities

A milestone towards achieving diversity and inclusion in golf has resulted from making the sport more accessible for those with disabilities. Measures include providing adaptive equipment such as single-rider golf carts and specialized golf clubs and ensuring all facilities, such as practice areas, restrooms, and the clubhouse, are wheelchair accessible. Course modifications may also be necessary in some cases, as well as offering flexible rules and inclusive training.

Scholarships and Grants

Several scholarships and grants targeting students passionate about golf have also now been established. Notable programs supporting underrepresented or disadvantaged students include the PGA WORKS Golf Management University Scholarship Program, the John Shippen National Invitational, The First Tee College Scholarship Program, the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars Foundation, and PGA REACH Scholarships.

Promotion and Representation

People get inspired by the success stories of people who rose from challenging backgrounds and defied all odds to reach the top. The media has highlighted successful golfers from diverse backgrounds, such as Annika Sörenstam, who has inspired many women to pick up golf. Others include Se Ri Pak, who set the path for Korean golfers on the LPGA Tour, and Lee Elder, the first African American to play in the Masters.

Building Stronger Relationships with Communities of Color

Racism has been a very bitter thorn in the evolution of golf, with an example being a player of Tiger Woods’ stature falling victim to racist slurs during the 2017 Presidents Cup tournament. People of color have struggled to gain acceptance in golf circles, with John Shippen becoming the first black golfer to play in the U.S. Open in 1896. The John Shippen National Invitational Scholarship was established in his honor to fund disadvantaged youth seeking to pursue golf business careers.

More Support for Adaptive Golf

Some golfers living with disabilities have defied all odds and excelled in golf. A good example is Dennis Walters, who became paralyzed from the waist down and won the 2018 USGA Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship. A new league could be established for such golfers, enabling them to play under flexible rules as they get media coverage and financial gains for their efforts. Other well-known golfers with disabilities include Tom McAuliffe, Manuel de los Santos, Brenda Lawrie, Chad Pfeifer, and Tony Bennett.

Offering Affordable Programs

Most golf enthusiasts shy away from joining the sport, fearing its hefty costs. Golf clubs can develop affordable programs for junior players, women, marginalized communities, or golfers with disabilities, giving them the nudge they need to learn the game. Sponsors can also step in to ensure more accessible events to people from all backgrounds and income levels.

Parting Shot

The golf industry has come a long way in terms of diversity and inclusion, and now we have many successful golfers from diverse backgrounds in the professional tours. For instance, the PGA TOUR made a $100 million commitment to support racial equity and inclusion efforts over a decade. Many other organizations like the LPGA are burning the midnight oil to see women’s golf propel even further, and adaptive golf is also gaining traction worldwide. The future seems to be bright.