European Solheim Cup Captain and Syngenta Golf Ambassador Carin Koch joined a panel of experts at The Golf Trade Show, Harrogate, to discuss ‘The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female Participation.’ In this interview, Carin highlights the important role of PGA Professionals and the business opportunity of engaging more women in golf.
This is your first golf industry event since The Solheim Cup. Looking back, what are your thoughts on events at St Leon-Rot Golf Club, Germany?
It was an amazing week, filled with excitement, drama and world-class match play golf. Of the 200 holes played, players on both sides made 112 birdies and three eagles. The American team played magnificently in the final singles session, but for much of the afternoon it could have been Europe’s day as well. Ultimately, after three days of golf, one point separated the teams and despite some outstanding play from my team, the Americans outplayed us in the singles. Of course, much was said of the incident in the final fourball match, but this shouldn’t be what the 2015 Solheim Cup is remembered for. Suzann Pettersen apologized personally to American Captain Juli Inkster and made a heartfelt statement on Instagram, expressing her sadness for the part she played. I feel this was the correct course of action by Suzann and I gave her my full support in doing so.
What do you think The 2015 Solheim Cup will be remembered for?
Overall, it was a wonderful showcase for women’s golf. Not just the quality of the golf on the course, but the way in which women’s golf was celebrated throughout the week. There were so many events and functions, including the opening ceremony, where the teams and fans just had a great time together. I believe The Solheim Cup will inspire women and girls to think about golf and take it up as a sport and social activity, and make it a game for life.
Why are you taking part in the education seminars at The Golf Trade Show?
To help encourage the industry to think about how to get more women and families into golf – and to encourage PGA Professionals, who are already doing such a great job. Over the past year I have been working closely with Syngenta on its market research and helping golf clubs and courses better understand what interests women about golf and how they can make the game more female and family friendly – to bring in new customers to golf. Ultimately, if more people are playing, there will be a good long-term future for both the game and the business of golf.
What role do PGA Professionals play in this?
PGA Professionals have an essential front line role to play and many are already doing some excellent work, not just coaching existing players but engaging new golfers, too. In the seminar, as well as presenting Syngenta’s market research ‘The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female Participation’, we are showcasing a new coaching franchise called love.golf which has been inspired and developed by Fellow PGA Professional Alastair Spink. It is proving extremely successful both in the way it appeals to women and how it expands the opportunity for the Professional to make money from the group coaching of players who don’t engage with the game today – a new market for the Professional.
How is this different to other coaching methods and introductory schemes?
It exemplifies the key insights from the Syngenta market research and is focused on creating enjoyable social experiences on the course, not teaching technical skills by hitting balls on a practice range. Although that is the way new golfers are typically taught, it is not necessarily a way that women, and many potential new customers, want to learn; in fact, they are likely to lose interest quickly and leave the game. It is really interesting to hear Alastair speak about his approach to coaching women, which is part of an academic study; clearly it is working because he’s introduced more than 300 women to golf at one course.
But can golf really attract women when it sometimes appears to be stuck in its ways?
There are still some issues that can put women off, but this is where Syngenta’s research is so useful. It really demonstrates just how important it is to consider golf in the context of a customer experience. For example, relax rules about what you wear. I don’t think twice about wearing jeans when I pass by my golf club in Sweden, but in the UK it is a major concern for women who’d like to try golf. Jeans and trainers are the first thing you would wear when you haven’t got all the kit, yet they are not allowed, so there is an instant barrier – just one of many, in fact, and so women don’t often even consider golf as an option for their precious leisure time. However, we know people will spend money on their leisure when the product is right. It sounds obvious, but unless you read the research and understand what is actually in the minds of women, you won’t realize just how important this is and why golf will lose potential golfers if it doesn’t think about putting the customer first. There really is a great opportunity to get more women into golf and I hope PGA Professionals attending the seminar will be among those who lead the way.