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Has this club found the answer to golf’s gender debate?

Choice is the key at Woolley Park – where players can choose how and where they want to play their events, as the club’s Emily Rowbottom reveals to Steve Carroll
 

Imagine a club where you are offered a genuine choice. Where competition times aren’t broken up between men’s and women’s events. Where playing a meaningful game isn’t about trudging to the front or back tees every time you play.

At Woolley Park, this is not a dream. It’s the week-to-week reality for the members of the forward-thinking Wakefield outfit.

Opened 27 years ago, and run by the Rowbottom family, the club have always been inclusive – with men and women paying the same fees and receiving entitlements.

But as family member, Emily Rowbottom, reveals in our From the Clubhouse podcast, Woolley Park have used the advent of the World Handicap System to take that a step further.

“We’ve been reimagining things,” she said. “We decided to take it to the next level to get the tees that were rated for one gender rated for both so that anybody, regardless of age or gender, could play on any tee.

“We figure it’s just choice – that suits your ability, or your enjoyment, or what your friends are doing. If my daughter wants to play from the red tees, why should her dad not play with her? Why does it matter?

“So that’s what we worked on. We finally got that through with temporary ratings from the Yorkshire Union.

“It’s been really positive. We run an awful lot of competitions that we call ‘pick your own tee’. All six tees are in play – red, yellow, and white but with two ratings for each of those in play.

“Members just pick whichever they want to play off that day and they get their shots given accordingly.

“They’re really popular. It removes the ‘I don’t want to play off the white tees, they are too hard’ and I think it’s nice for some of the women as well. Quite a few of them much prefer the yellows because it just gives them a different outlook on the course.

“It’s so much more interesting to go and play somewhere different. I imagine it stretches your game in a different way.”

Emily said that while the club’s policies were very popular with the membership, but visitors were finding it harder to judge.

She added: “We’ve found it really positive, and I think we’ve cracked it with the members. They get it, but it’s quite complicated, I think, for visitors because they don’t really understand it because I don’t think many other places are doing it just yet.”

What do you think? Do separate men’s and women’s competitions still have a place? Should you be restricted from playing the golf course on gender alone? Or is it time for golf to break down the barriers once and for all? Let us know with a tweet.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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