Club golf: Courses abandon gender-specific tees

Equipment

These golf clubs are among a growing number who have tossed out ladies' and men's tees

A growing number of clubs are opening up their course to more members by abolishing gender-specific tee markers.

Red tee markers reserved for ladies are a familiar sight on most courses, but in an attempt to encourage more beginners and older members to head out on the course, clubs are swapping them for tees which any member can play off to suit their ability and inclination.

‘This is all about making the best use of your course’ The move is seen as an ideal way to encourage golfers who may struggle on the longer tees, while also allowing female members to test their ability on longer layouts.

Gemma Hunter is England Golf’s handicap and course rating manager and she said: “It is still very new here, but I know of over 30 courses which have rated at least one course for both genders. This is all about making the best use of your course for all your members and for newcomers who want to take up the game. You’re not building new holes or tees, you’re just rating what you already have.”

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Ladies-only ‘red’ tees may soon be a thing of the past

Gender-free tees have been common in the USA for a number of years, and it’s a concept that’s growing in popularity, with more than 30 courses now rating at least one course for both genders.

Sheringham in Norfolk is among the trailblazers, when it also introduced a set of forward tees to create an additional short course. The club has three sets of tees rated for men and women.

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Sheringham’s Neil Milton said: “It’s been a great success, particularly with our senior gentlemen and higher handicap ladies, who now have the opportunity to play a shorter course.”

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Milton first had the idea of gender-free tees when he was junior organiser at another club. He explained: “We had a young lady who was in England training and who was only allowed to play off the ladies’ forward tees, despite the fact she could hit it further than most of the men. The club insisted on the status quo.”

Trentham Park in Staffordshire is one of the latest clubs to join the trend and now has  black, blue and green courses, plus a composite blue and green course.

One advantage is the whole club can play together in special competitions and club manager Jon Farmer said: “We’re probably typical of the average club and want to retain the members we have and bring in new members. We’ve developed the course so that anyone can come and play the game, and that’s important to us.”

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Farmer explained how the changes can give longevity to the ageing player who may have left because they were unable to compete due to the length of courses. Additionally, complete beginners can use forward tees and move backwards as they improve.

County development officer Gareth Shaw added: “Trentham Park is a forward-thinking club, which is looking to recruit members and, most importantly, thinking of ideas to retain members. I believe gender-free tees tick all the retention boxes.”

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