International Women’s Day and Golf

I am sharing this submission which will be edited and posted on http://www.golfchat.org/ GolfChat is a forum that connects and engages golfers from around the world every Tuesday on Twitter (#GolfChat).

——————————————————————————

I drafted this on March 8, International Women’s Day as a response to a call from the #GolfChat Author’s Forum on the topic of Women’s Objectification in Golf Media.  There are many places to take a topic like this and issues of social media, objectification, demographics, sexuality and history are all themes which I am certain we will see woven throughout submissions.  Any my guess is that some authors will explore the issue from a deficit model, specifically, critiquing what is not right about how women are perceived in the game today.  All understood, all recognized.  However, I am going to try to take a different approach.   Here, I want to look at the richness of the game because of women’s participation and where golf media gets it right.  I am not trying to put my head in the sand here.  I want to look at this issue and let people know there are success stories; there is some good taking place.  I am an optimistic person and believe we all have an ability to affect positive change.  Our attitudes and behaviour matter and today, while we pause to reflect and respect the incredibly important role of women in the world, here’s what I love about women’s engagement in golf.

My favourite golf commentator is Judy Rankin.  It’s not even close between her and a second choice.  She is a consummate professional.  She is intelligent, articulate, engaging and honest.  Her knowledge comes from experience on the LPGA Tour as a 26-time winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member.  She takes the time to get to know the players and helps viewers build important connections to them as golfers.  I like the fact that the team during LPGA coverage is focused on their professional roles.  The fact that she is a woman is irrelevant to me, she’s just excellent in her role and I appreciate her work.  Juxtaposed to this is Morning Drive (and I use that only as an example).  Here, I struggle to make sense of why the male co-hosts can enjoy a relaxed role – khakis, maybe even spikeless golf shoes.  Women? Cite the day where any co-host has not had on a dress and likely heels (on odd occasion one may wear flat shoes), which makes any demonstration of golf skill awkward.  This shows the pervasiveness of the issue in question.

Last summer I had a chance to play a semi-private course in Toronto, called The Ladies Golf Club.  I wrote a course review and while the course was designed by one of Canada’s foremost golf course architects, Stanley Thompson, the person most important to its development is Ada Mackenzie.  Her story of a woman golfer seeking greater access for play in Canada around 1920 is well documented.  Her perseverance and drive resulted in the development of TLGC in 1924.  This course “is the only private golf club in North America where women have priority access to tee times, and where both women and men can enjoy golf in a welcoming atmosphere.”  And while Ada was battling for greater access for golf for women around the time of women’s suffrage there is a more pervasive challenge for women as they choose to enter into the world of golf.  Cassie Norris, fellow #GolfChat author and blogger wrote a brilliant piece (https://bandwagonersguidetogolf.com/2015/12/30/bandwagoning-the-boys-club/) that shows the extent of this issue today for her as a young woman new to the game of golf.   Beyond that, Cassie makes important contributions to golf through her blog and coordination of #GolfChat.

It’s no longer 1924 but the challenges of Cassie’s participation in this game are – in my opinion – only wrapped with new and more modern layers of pervasive gender bias.  So today, of all days, it is important for us to understand the contributions that women make to our world.  Many of us will look to our mom, maybe daughter or a friend as a woman who have inspired and supported us.  Drawing from this process and in the spirit of the day here are some ideas we can employ to make golf less the ‘boys club’ Cassie wrote about.  Some simple ideas for golfers: scrap the term ‘Ladies Tees’ and let’s call them Forward Tees; consider support for Fairways Fund (https://www.facebook.com/fairwaysfund/) which provides opportunity for young boys and girls to play this game; and embrace anyone who is new to the game – boy, girl, man, women.  Learn about and support initiatives like Golf Ontario’s ‘She Swings She Scores’ (https://gao.ca/she-swings-she-scores/). It’s all about respect. I feel golfers can understand that principle, but let’s expand the circle of respect to everyone who participates in the game, in any capacity. I really believe our individual actions can truly make a difference.  As opposed to waiting for change, let’s be the change and start calling out those who engage in disrespectful behaviour.

Advertisements

The Ladies’ Club – Celebrating all that is good in golf.

Course Reviews – The Ladies Club – Celebrating all that is good in golf

http://www.ladiesgolfclub.com/

1235

The downhill par shows that designer Stanley Thompson gave this course plenty of challenge.

First, it’s important to dispel some misnomers: First, The Ladies Club is not just for women.  Their website says it best, “Ladies’ is the only private golf club in North America where women have priority access to tee times, and where both women and men can enjoy golf in a welcoming atmosphere”.  Second, if you think the course must be a boring push over than think again.  Set at just over 6000 yards from the tips, this Stanley Thompson design is fair, playable, but in typical Thompson fashion it is the terrain which sets the design parameters and this undulating layout will test the game of all players.  The course, like the facilities and its people, is first class.  Playing there this summer was a highlight of my golfing year and I highly recommend this course.

1237

Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson hits her opening drive at The Ladies’ Club right down the middle

Located in north Toronto, specifically in Thornhill, Ontario, this course is conveniently located off Yonge Street but head into the grounds and you would think you’re far removed from the hectic pace of the city.  It is a course which honours it history and tradition and leverages its uniqueness as a truly women-friendly course to its advantage.  Playing with a fellow golf writer and head professional, Paddy Kelly, we were able to tee off early and enjoy a pleasant summer morning of golf.

The course boasts multiple tee decks which are allowing members to play and enjoy the game at all levels.  A new purple tee deck was something Paddy discussed, as many members wanted to keep playing but found the Red tees (just over 5000 yards) was getting too long.  A more senior and family friendly tee deck, this move demonstrated the care and attention the course makes to its membership.  Paddy demonstrated through his stories and initiatives he has introduced around instruction and introduction to the game, that the focus at The Ladies Club is participation and fun.  His energy is infectious and he combines knowledge and skill in the game with an ability to connect to people and the result is a club with an environment which could be the envy in the GTA.

1242

Using the terrain effectively, Thompson creates several beautiful vistas off the tee for players at The Ladies’ Club.

The Ladies Club also honours its unique and rich history exceptionally well.  The clubhouse provides a testament to the leadership of Ada Mackenzie who was instrumental in the course being built in 1924.  One of the leading Canadian women in golf, Mackenzie was able to engage Stanley Thompson in the course design.  Paddy Kelly noted that Thompson was acutely aware of the unique aspects of this project, making holes approachable with ample space to run the ball up the hole, for example.  Set on a beautiful piece of property, the course does not rest on its laurels; it has worked hard to earn Audubon International certification for its environmental stewardship.

1246

You can see one of Thompson’s key design elements at play; approachable greens.

The course also has another unique aspect to it; 21 holes of play.  Here, players can make a determination after 9 holes if they wish to continue for the final 9, or, take a more direct route to the clubhouse and play a 3-hole loop.  The ‘A’ holes further serve to maintain participation in the game and create diverse options for members.

1244

The grounds are fantastic, making it feel like an urban oasis.

Classic Thompson bunkering is featured which frames holes exceptionally well.   While just over 6000 yards, the course does provide two par 5’s over 500 yards.  A 36-34 layout, the course ends with a stunning stretch on 16 – 17 – 18.  A downhill par 3, a classic shorter par 4, and an uphill par 3 moving up the clubhouse cap off a wonderful golfing experience.   It is a course I could play over and over again.

I want to extend my thanks to Paddy Kelly and the people at The Ladies’ Club for a wonderful golfing experience.  Add this course to your must play list.

1249

Classic Thompson bunkering guards this 17th hole but Head Professional Paddy Kelly was able to execute this approach perfectly, including a great club twirl.

Aura –9 out of 10 – My playing partner for the day, Fairway Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson, specifically requested we seek to play here.  This history and the story of Ada Mackenzie was so compelling to her that she wanted this to be her first golf experience in Ontario.  The clubhouse shows off the history of this course exceptionally well but the real masterpiece is the course itself.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10 – With ideal location in the Toronto area, the greens fees are fair for a course of this quality.  Yes, it is open to public play and as mentioned it open to men as well as women.  The peak fee is $115 but there are shoulder season rates and a strong twilight fee which creates greater value.  Membership options are also available.

1251

The Ladies’ Club honours its history like few courses I have experienced.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – In additional to strong environmental stewardship, greens crew at The Ladies’ Club keep this course in pristine condition.  Tee boxes, bunkers, fairways and greens were all exceptionally maintained.  The course layout was very walkable but did have some undulation to it as the course is bisected by the East Don River.  Holes 7 and 13 (both par 3’s) have challenging greens and it is imperative to keep the ball below the hole.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – A fun, playable golfing experience was not sacrificed at the expense of quality.  As a 10 handicapper, I found plenty of challenge but appreciated being rewarded for good shot making.  The course is an urban oasis and the history is on full display.  Paddy Kelly and his team are first class and exceptional at what they do. – 8.5 out of 10

1240

Third hole photobomb…looking back from the green across the pond to the tee deck.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – As I look back on the experience playing at the Ladies’ Club it was one of the more fun rounds of golf I had last season.  A terrific layout, brilliant design and a great day all combined to make my experience amazing.  The course creates the foundation for the clubs’ success but having a golf club which markets itself primarily to women and creates a positive golfing environment is something I appreciated experiencing first hand.  Also, there is no course I have experienced that tells its story and celebrates its history as well as The Ladies Club.

1248

The Don River cuts across the 16th hole in front of the green.

1250

The closing hole, an uphill par 3 closing off what was an excellent experience playing golf at The Ladies’ Club.

 

2016 in Pictures – The Ladies Golf Club

In an effort to step up my photo game this year I am pleased to share 10 of my favourite golf images over the past year.  With a healthy layer of snow already in southern Ontario I hope this brings back good memories from your 2016 golf season and stokes the fire of anticipation for 2017!

1240

The Story: The word golf enthusiast is not appropriate for Tiffany Chaisson because it simply does not properly reflect her love for the game of golf (I defer to her choice; Golf Passionista).  I have never met a golfer more passionate about the game then the CEO of Fairways Fund (which is its own fascinating story).  This is the second fellow blogger I was able to tee it up with in 2016.  Hosted by Paddy Kelly and the fine people at The Ladies Golf Club for a summer round, this photo was not staged.  No, instead, I was photobombed and the result is quintessential Tiff.  Great memories of one of the more fun rounds of golf I experienced in 2016.  The course, I would argue, is one of Stanley Thompson’s more underrated courses I have played; I loved it.