Girls driving the growth of golf

62,000 girls entered game in 2016

One look at the participants of the 2nd annual First Tee of southcentral Wisconsin skill challenge is a reflection of a growth trend in golf. An increasing number of young girls are playing the game.

Because of programs, like the First Tee and an LPGA girls golf program approximately 62,000 girls started playing golf in 2016. Six years ago only 4,500 girls took up the game.

“I think it is incredible. I’ve noticed the change myself. When I first joined the First Tee there were only three girls in the program and now when I go there to mentor there are hundreds of them, and I just love it so much,” said Cassidy Schnell, a 16-year-old who started playing six years ago.

The increased participation is good news for an industry that was hit hard by the recession. Fewer golfers and rounds played lead to the closing of some courses and the consolidation of retailers.

The recent spike of 62,000 girls participating is significant to golf’s economy.

“That’s the kind of numbers that, from a business standpoint you can’t ignore,” said Steve Noll, a marketing professor at Madison College.

“It is huge because that young female demographic is going to grow up and become the adult female demographic, which from a retail standpoint is still the number one influencer in consumer products. The fact if golf can get in that demo at a young age, you are getting a lifelong customer that is going to stay with you for decades to come.”

Golf is also attracting an increasing number of adult women to the game. Among all new golfers, 67 percent are women, and a survey shows 29 percent of non-golfing women have an interest in playing.

While the participation by girls is bringing growth to golf, the game is also bringing growth to them.

“I think that is probably the biggest thing in that it is the game of a lifetime. I mean I’m getting to be an old coot, but I still enjoy getting out there and playing a little bit. It is the things you learn about yourself playing this game that is probably as important as anything,” said Andy North, a two-time U.S. Open champion.