The Ladies Professional Golf Association has launched a new, affordable golf line that aims to make the growing sport more accessible for female beginners and juniors — a nod to the growing popularity of the sport among women and girls.
The new line offers golf clubs, accessories and shoes, with select products available exclusively at Walmart, the LPGA said this week. Women’s club sets will start at $199, and junior club sets will start at $98. Apparel and spikeless golf shoes will also be included in the lineup.
LPGA’s goal, simply put, is to make entry-level golf equipment more accessible for young golfers, who are turning to the sport in record numbers.
“We know that women comprise about a quarter of all golfers in the US — and we also know there’s an opportunity to improve that ratio,” Matt Chmura, LPGA’s chief marketing, communications and brand officer, said in a statement. “By providing affordable, entry-level golf equipment, we look forward to helping even more women and girls experience the lifelong benefits of this great game.”
It’s no secret that golf is expensive. A quick online search shows club sets listed at several hundred dollars. That’s not including the cost of lessons, apparel, golf balls, or tee time.
The National Golf Foundation recently reported that, through most of 2021, the average cost of a tee time on an 18-hole course was $38, while the average 9-hole round was $21, per Golf.com. The NGF also found more than a third of courses in the US raised their peak, in-season greens fees that year by an average of 11%, as courses adjusted to meet growing post-pandemic demand.
Yet, despite an expensive entry fee, the sport continues to grow, and it continues to change.
Trend towards diversity
The NGF examined on-course participants in 2021 and found a continuing trend towards diversity. That is partly due to the growing “off-course” sector, which includes those who play golf at venues like TopGolf. Women now comprise 25% of all golfers, and people of color 21%, with meaningful growth for both groups in the last five years, the foundation reported.
These trends have continued into 2023. In February, the foundation found the biggest participation jumps in the past three years — or since the start of the pandemic — have been in the junior ranks. There was a net gain of almost 1 million juniors — those aged 6 to 17 — reaching just over 3.4 million in total. This represents the largest youth golfer pool since 2006, just before the Great Recession.
And while the number of women golfers is rising, that growth is even larger in the junior ranks, with more than 36% of junior participants being girls.
NJ ‘epicenter of women’s golf’
In New Jersey, the number of female golfers has tripled at the high school level since the 2002-03 school year, the Daily Record’s Jane Havsy reported last month. Girls also made up about 27% of the 700 NJPGA Junior Tour members — those 18 and younger — last year.
That interest will likely continue to grow in the Garden State, with four major LPGA tournaments scheduled in New Jersey this month and next. The Cognizant Founders Cup ran through May 14 at the Upper Montclair Country Club, and the Mizuho Americas Open is slated to begin May 20 through June 4 at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City.
In June, there will be the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway Township and the KMPG Women’s PGA championship in Springfield.
“We are thrilled that New Jersey will be the epicenter of women’s golf in 2023, allowing the LPGA, PGA of America and our sponsors to use our collective platform to inspire young girls and women throughout NJ and the surrounding tri-state region,” Mollie Marcoux Samaan, the LPGA Commissioner, said in a statement earlier this year.
“The combination of these four truly first-rate and meaningful events played at some of the best golf courses in the world in a major market provides a rare and exciting opportunity to not only elevate women’s golf but also elevate the conversation around women’s leadership and empowerment more broadly,” she said.
Exposure to these events, as well as more eyes on professional women’s golf overall, could foster growth at the youth level. And this couldn’t come at a more exciting time for women’s golf — late last year, the LPGA announced that female professional golfers will be competing for more than $101 million in official purses in 2023.
That’s the highest total in the tour’s history, and possibly a sign for the growth to come.
Women & Sport is a NorthJersey.com column devoted to female athletes from the rec league level to those in college and the pros. If you’ve got a tip on an athlete from North Jersey who should be noted in the column, no matter how young they are or how old, please drop me a line at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Girls are flocking to golf in NJ. Affordable LPGA gear can help