There's a scene in Pretty Woman in which Julia Roberts goes shopping on Rodeo Drive, but she can't get waited on until Richard Gere goes with her. At one point Gere says to a hovering clerk, "I think we need some major sucking up." When the clerk proceeds to woo him, Gere says, "Not me, her."
The golf industry historically has been run by men, for men. Despite all of the rhetoric in recent years about bringing women into the game, the truth (sadly) is that more women won't play golf until men insist that the golf industry learn how to make girls and women feel welcome.
So, guys, what can you do for the daughter, niece or wife who's thinking of taking up the game? Roll out the red carpet to the red tees:
• Golf is more of a social activity for most women, not a game or a sport, so dig around and find the social angle for the girl or woman in your life. Find the local nine-hole league and research how a new player gets involved. Encourage the girl or woman in your life to take up golf with a friend or two—women will be far less likely to quit if they have a buddy to play with.
• Do the research on golf clinics, instruction and instructors geared toward women. Don't simply go to the local "lady pro." Ask around to find women who are excited about their instruction and their instructor—that first connection is a critical first impression. Make it a good one.
• Be Richard Gere in the retail environment. Most women don't feel comfortable in a golf shop, whether on course or off. They feel like they walk in the door and get ignored. Walk in the door first, then insist that the girl or woman with you gets treated like what she is—a consumer, not a female.
• Find an appropriate course—don't expect her to know what to look for, she's a new golfer. Dig up a place with reasonable-length tees (about 4,900 yards), good playing conditions (grass in the fairway, etc.), clean bathrooms and, ideally, a decent selection of women's apparel. Women like aesthetics, remember?
After you lay out the red carpet, then what? Go with her the first time. Think of this as akin to teaching a kid how to ride a bike. Get her going and jog alongside, holding the seat until you're sure she's on her way. Then let go, and watch her enjoy the trip.
A former Disney executive with an M.B.A., Leslie Andrews is now a golf instructor. Her book, Even Par, came out in April.
SI GOLF RANKING