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Time for men and women to share fairways?

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Iain Carter | 11:22 UK time, Monday, 13 December 2010

So the new season is underway. Yes, within a fortnight of this year's European Tour campaign reaching its conclusion in Dubai, the 2011 calendar is already clicking with Pablo Martin's victory in South Africa.

The young Spaniard thus becomes our early leader in the next Race to Dubai.

Thankfully, however, the somewhat ridiculous notion that a new season can start before the old year finishes looks likely to end in 2011 with the European Tour season coming to its climax in mid-December.

It is a sensible move and worth noting that this is how it already works on the Ladies European Tour, which ended its season in Dubai at the weekend - and what a story it produced with Danish Solheim Cup player Iben Tinning claiming a two-shot victory with a birdie on the final hole of her last tournament before retirement.

Tinning is stepping away from golf to "balance life and family" and boosted her pension pot by 75,000 euros.

"I have no plans to reconsider my decision of retiring. It's really not an option. I am on so many painkillers and playing golf is no more fun," the 36-year-old revealed.

"Winning in Dubai had been my main goal and that has been accomplished. My next goal is get a diploma in psychotherapy. That's the main thing at the moment."

Tinning edged out Anna Nordqvist, with Britain's Melissa Reid finishing third, three strokes behind. Reid has the potential to become one of the UK's most successful sportswomen, but one wonders whether the country will ever notice.

Players like Melissa Reid need wider exposure to maximise earnings potential - photo: Getty

The women's game continues to live in the shadow of men's golf. Tinning's outstanding victory was eclipsed in monetary terms by the top-20 finishers in the men's Dubai World Championship at the end of November.

Of course, such anomalies are explained by market forces - sponsorship and television revenues dictate the rewards for professional sport. But could the game do more to help promote women's golf?

There is a fine product on the LET and LPGA tours but too few people know about it.

If Britain had a tennis star of equivalent standing to Reid she would be one of the most recognised sports figures in the country and the potential is global for someone like South African Lee-Anne Pace, who headed the LET's money list, but only if players like them are seen by mass audiences.

Where women's tennis has a big advantage is that for at least four fortnights a year they share their sport's biggest stages with the men at the Grand Slam tournaments. It brings the women massive exposure and parity in pay that is out of kilter with the rest of the tennis season.

Golf doesn't work that way. It would be impossible for majors to share the same stage, although the USGA's decision to play the 2014 men's and women's US Opens in consecutive weeks at Pinehurst's No.2 course is a step in that direction.

What would be more practical would be for a regular tour event to perhaps share the same stage and infrastructure at the same time. The former Women's British Open Champion Karen Stupples certainly believes the idea could work.

Stupples and this blog have been in twitter chat on the subject and the American based English player tweeted: "45 men 45 women. Alternating groups of men and women. Men's yardage, women's yardage. No cut, place according to score all one division not separate."

So an out-and-out mixed tournament. Could it work? Either way in those 140 characters we surely had a starting point for a discussion at the very least. The idea would certainly make for a different week on both tours, generating publicity and attention for each schedule.

The men would take most persuading because they would be sacrificing better-paid tournament places than their female counterparts, but there is surely an untapped market here because golf is a game men and women can play together.

Michelle Wie's attempts to compete on the PGA and European Tours were a disaster at every level but the sort of event envisaged by Stupples is different and a starting point for a much needed conversation.

There must surely be room in the calendar - after all we've been in an era where the break between schedules is less than a fortnight.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I am very aware of not being moderated and am going to try and phrase my views as sensitively as possible!

    Issues to do with equal pay/exposure/opportunity in sport, is one of those issues that really gets to me, and I don't see any reason for the confusion.

    Excellent, top level sport, the kind of sport that you would happily pay large sums to watch, has numerous key elements: Speed, Skill, Intensity, Power, endurance, aggression... etc etc

    Yes I have chose these adjectives for a reason, but I do not think anyone could doubt that the sentence rings true.

    Why is it unacceptable to say that the majority of women's sports are not worth watching? I find it flabberghasting that the female tennis players get paid the same as the men do - if the motto is equal pay for an equal days work then even on that count they shouldn't be paid the same as they play less sets - in grand slams anyway.

    I think the politically correctness has gone too far.

    In terms of developing the women's game, they could have a tournament side by side and that may work, but any notion of having the men and women's game on an equal footing is of course, absurd, you might as well have the u-18s and the over 50s playing with the main tour also....

    Women do not have the physical capacity to produce sport on the same level as men.

    I am a big cricket fan. They are trying to get the women playing 20 20 cricket and putting a lot of effort into marketing it. I am sorry. I will never pay £20 to watch quick bowlers bowling at 65mph at batswomen who can barely get it off the square.

  • Comment number 2.

    This is a terrible idea. The reason womens golf is not nearly as important as the mens game is because of the standard of play. The top male amatuers are even on a different level than the best female proffesionals.

    As a player who plays on the US college circuit we sometimes share tournement venues with women. When they are on a different course it is not a problem but when they play the same course it is a disaster and we have to deal with 5 and half hour rounds. Women play the game a lot slower than men. (I am aware that the mens proffesional game is not played quickly but women are a lot more slower.)

    The only times we should have them playing together is in exibition matches which already happens.

  • Comment number 3.

    oh yes and golf stands for Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidded ;)

  • Comment number 4.

    Iain,
    I still don't understand why you come up with politically correct articles like this while you're part of an organization that comprehensively ignores the women's game.

    Apart from chauvinism being given a front-row seat on slow play, there is also the issue of rough and green complexes, two completely different course set-ups for men and women, though perhaps less so on links.

    I would say the top 5% of women might be able to compete in this environment, the rest would flounder, and that could be very negative for the Ladies game.

  • Comment number 5.

    I dont think it makes sense to have men's and women's yardage in the same professional competitions. It would create an uneven playing field, and put too much of the outcome in the hands of the people who set up the course. If there are different conditions of competition, then they should be kept separate.

    I do think this can work for clubs though, because handicaps will be determines off the appropriate tees.

  • Comment number 6.

    To tenipurist, scott, and those who try to compare female sports to male versions

    Why? Why compare the two? They are different and should be enjoyed solely on their own singular merits. Yes, Tiger drive it 325 yards. But it's also good when a lady drives it 275. The achievement is still good for that particular individual. Yep, Broad can bowl it in at 95-96 good for him. It's also good when a female bowler bowls it in at the top speed that she can bowl it in at.

    The point is to compare apples to apples. In a sense, I think you're being a misogynist when you compare apple to oranges in this case.

    That said, I can see why joint tournaments would work for the LPGA and the LET. What would be in it for the PGA and the EPGA to do this? I can't see the "WIIFM" for them.

    Cheers,

    Dave

  • Comment number 7.

    i 100% agree with no1,it is crazy women get paid the same as men in tennis majors,it is not just athletic ability why male played sports commerically and as a spectical is better eg tennis ,football.the demand for these are enormous,sponsership deals,veiwing rights,crowd attendences

    i guarantee that at next years australian open in january,the mens matches are more than double the crowd attendence than womens matches

    golf i think it could work as the athletic abilitly is nowhere near that of tennis,or football ,but the massive difference in power and accuarcy is huge it is impossiable to compete on the same stage

    i watched the womens fa cup final,the quality is embarrassing,missed passes every 2 passes,no skill or speed.and out of a 24,000 seater they got 3000/4000 and i say tat was mostly family and friends and occasional supporters

    no offence but women wanted thier own everything,womens tennis tour,golf,basketball,they can now stick with it or shut up,knowing full well they have not got equality,what was there target in the first place

  • Comment number 8.

    The problem would seem to be getting more women interested in sports-and especially womens sports. When the male demographic dominates the viewing figures for sports, then the media will focus on what that demographic wants. From a revenue point of view, sportsmen earn more because the media focuses more on the sportsmen.
    Unless there is male-female parity in viewing figures, then nothing will change. The gimmick for parity, as suggested in this article, will fail because the guys watching will tune out. The logistical problems of both sexes teeing off on the same tee's are that statistically women will take more shots on average, thus taking longer to complete rounds. This would mean the male group would always be catching the female group in front. The only way round that scenario would be to have 3 males, 2 female groupings. But still, would the TV media actually cover the event equally? Does the armchair fan want to see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson and Lee Westwood battle for the title or Melissa Reid and Michelle Wie?

    I guess it is easier for the BBC to pose this question than commercial TV. But at the same time if the BBC think womens sports need to covered more, then why don't they do it?

  • Comment number 9.

    It's certainly an interesting point - and a hotly contested one too, as shown by the responses above me.

    I, personally, have no problem with sharing venues at the majors. Also, I think altering ladies and men on the field would be quite pleasing. A lot of ladies have far more pleasing swings than the men - combined with less power, it doesn't produce quite the same distance, but still good for the eye and good for the amateur that is trying to pick up a few pointers on his own game.

    I agree on the prize money issue. You should get paid equally if producing equal output. In tennis, they play fewer sets, although I think quite a few ladies could stretch to 5 sets, after the necessary training.

    In Golf, in my world, you'd have two tournaments being staged at the same time. They wouldn't compete for the same cup or prize pool and each would have to generate their own income through sponsors. The only thing would be that you'd alternate flights between the men's and the ladies' competitions. If for some reason a flight holds up the flight behind them, then they let them pass, as is custom at most clubs. It might in fact show which player is better under similar circumstances to what most of us play in!

    The comparison to cricket is an interesting one, as I'm a big cricket fan. My ability to play is severely hampered by the lack of talent and I often share the field with ladies of at least equal, if not higher, ability. I cannot recall the amount I've payed in fines, having got out to a lady - and I don't particularly care or mind. They played in a setting in which they were perfectly capable of holding their own and sometimes they should have played in a higher league.

    There might be an occasion some day soon where this will happen on the international stage (or in the IPL, or other such odd domestic-international settings), but I'm sure that for a long time these will be incidents based purely on the short term. I can for example imagine lady spinners playing a part in the shorter forms of the game, batting at no. 10/11 and being generally hidden in the field. I don't think it will or should become mainstream practice. Only if a lady can play at the same level as her male counterparts. (I am not advocating positive discrimination here - just that ladies that play in a male sport should be capable of equal performance or added value).

    As for golf: if not simultaneously, then surely we should be able to have parallel tournaments at the same venue on different courses. Why not give them a little more exposure?

    I usually thoroughly dislike long comments that almost seem like blogs themselves and I'm sorry for providing one myself.

    And to rebuke #3's comment, my upbringing provided me with manners: Gentlemen: Obviously Ladies First!

  • Comment number 10.

    I honestly believe that Ladies tennis players get paid the same because the rallies were better when the surfaces and equipment made the men's game too fast and of course men like watching it for other reasons.

    One of the drawbacks of female golf are the number of Korean and asian players on the LPGA. Unfortunately the western culture does not yet identify enough with these players and gets confused by their names. I'm trying not to be racist, these players are on the tour on merit and deserve their place, but it does get boring.

    Lorena Ochoa was an interesting story and Annika is a legend but it is difficult to see who will be the next ladies superstar. Wie surely has the credentials but appears to be lacking in strength of character.

    Personally, I like your idea Iain, especially when some tournaments struggle for sponsorship. Having a moderate sized tournament can cost up to $3 million and the PGA Tour events much more than that. In this age of austerity and sustainability, this could be very healthy for the game.

    Having watched both men's and ladies tournaments live, the ladies play a game much more similar to the average amateur. With their slower swings it is also easier to see the mechanics. I have believed for a lomg time that the professional men's game runs the risk of seperating itself from the reality of amateur golf. The distances that they hit the ball are just immense and the distance between what we see on the TV and what we can do on a Saturday morning on the golf course is growing.

    Good idea, I would like to see the first of these tournaments sometime soon.

  • Comment number 11.

    Good article, following on from the longest drive one, clearly shows we're in the doldrums of golf journalism until we wait for proper golf (i.e. Majors) and in your case Iain, Tiger Woods, to appear before we get back to 'proper' golf stuff.

    :-)

  • Comment number 12.

    And to rebuke #3's comment, my upbringing provided me with manners: Gentlemen: Obviously Ladies First!

    I too have manners but golf did start with just men.

    How many men really do hate it when there is women in front of them on the golf course? Lets face it, if it annoys us then it will annoy the professionals even more.

  • Comment number 13.

    #1 Right on the money.

    It has long irked me that women get the same money for the tennis majors. It should be pro-rata.

    Also, I agreed that the tournaments could be run concurrently on separate courses eg. at St. Andrews on the Old Course and the Dukes. However, any type of amalgamation is absurd.

    I’m in total agreement with equality, but what is being suggested is not equality it is equality + special dispensation. That is, shorter yardages or the same prize money for less sets etc.

    I am all for women playing on men’s PGA and European tours, but they would have to go qualify to get their card first, otherwise it’s not equality. A male golfer who lost their card for the year could not just decide to go and play on the LPGA or LET for that year.

    The fact is women in the sports do not have the same physical capacity. I remember when the Williams sisters burst onto the scene as world beaters, and they truly are remarkable athletes. They were very public in stating they could compete with the men. Serena played against some unknown male player who was ranked in the 200’s. She got beaten 6-0 6-1.

    And that was after a few beers.

  • Comment number 14.

    Where women's tennis has a big advantage is that for at least four fortnights a year they share their sport's biggest stages with the men at the Grand Slam tournaments. It brings the women massive exposure and parity in pay that is out of kilter with the rest of the tennis season.
    ----------------

    No it's not parity as others have already stated.

    Besides comparing Tennis to Golf is just stupid.

    At least in Tennis notionally for a long time it was considered that the Women's game was more entertaining because rallies were often longer during the serve-and-volley era of men's tennis. Women's Golf is not longer lasting or bettr in any sense than then mens game.



    In actual fact I like the idea of joint events, there's no reason why some of the smaller field invitationals for instance could not have a women's tournament as well.

  • Comment number 15.

    The standard of play on the LPGA is far below that in the men's game, and the slower play would be an issue. If they're not playing from the same yardage, it's not an even competition, and no matter how well Lee-Anne Pace or anybody else did, it would not say anything truly positive about female sports. Besides, why should the 46th best golfer in the world miss out on an event simply because he is male? By all means let women play in major golf events - in any sport which doesn't involve direct female contact, for that matter - but on an even keel. Just don't expect them to be anywhere near the front.

    For a similar counter-example, imagine if basketball began holding seperate events for white players, with shorter and presumably lower-quality matches but equal pay to the NBA? I've long felt that female tennis should have less pay simply because they play fewer sets, and this would be another example of wretched positive discrimination.

  • Comment number 16.

    Only problem is that its against the rules to play one competition on 2 different courses!

    R&A and USGA allow amatuers can do it because of handicaps and the rating of each individual holes for the allocation of the shots makes it almost even.

    Im surprised that a professional golfer and a golf journalist between them have neither consider or addressed this problem!

  • Comment number 17.

    Re. #12: "How many men really do hate it when there is women in front of them on the golf course? Lets face it, if it annoys us then it will annoy the professionals even more."

    This is a classic comment, similar to those I hear from some men at my club. Golf seems to be the last bastion of unacceptable chauvanism. At the club level, ladies have every bit as much right to be on the course as men. They pay their fees (at my club, the same as the men) and are entitled to equal treatment. Unfortunately they don't get the respect they deserve from some traditionalists. (By the way, in case it's not obvious, I am a man. And I enjoy playing golf with ladies - they are far less intense about what is, after all, just a game).

  • Comment number 18.

    Most of these comments seem to be assuming that women will play in teh same competition as men, that clearly isnt the intent as teh Tennis comparison shows. It would be two seperate competitions running in parrallel.

  • Comment number 19.

    Obviously this discussion is more to do with raising the profile of the LPGA and LET players (and so getting better sponsorship and prize money) rather than gaining parity in earnings between the men's and women's tours. The comparison with tennis was more to do with how the 4 highest profile events there are (and always have been) simultaneous male and female competitions rather than equal pay.

    Obiously in golf, it is not possible to convert the Majors to being combined and simultaneous male and female events - too much history, too many players already in the draw, plus that the men and women play somewhat different games.

    The idea of a smaller tournament having a mixed draw does at least merit consideration, although whether you would have men and women competing with each other over slightly different versions of the same course, or have them play from the same tees and run parallel mens and womens tournaments needs a bit more consideration. Also, whether you have alternate groups of male and female players or simply mix them through a random draw needs figuring out (my suspicion is that the random draw would create more exposure for the women in a televised event).

    A further option would be to play a foursome or fourball competition - the Dunhill Links tournament manages to work OK with the pro-am format, and so something a little unconventional like that could be made to work for one week of the year.

  • Comment number 20.

    "There's no reason why some of the smaller field invitationals for instance could not have a women's tournament as well."
    I totally agree with you!, why shouldn't woman be given an equal opportunity to share the course and the joys of the sport on a level playing field with men? Seems odd that so many people are angered by it.

    Jack Morran
    Golf Trophies

  • Comment number 21.

    I do feel that the Women's game can be enjoyable and amateurs can learn a lot from their swings but matching it with the Mens game on a tournament basis is a non-starter. Men and women who watch golf love the power side of the game. We all know the short game is the money maker but people still want to see a 325 plus yard drive.

    I feel that televising top Mens Amateur events would gather a larger following than many of the Womens tour events. Having watched many and being a good friend of one of the top up an coming amateurs I can 100% say that British golf is in good hands as some of the lads coming through are incredible.

    Sorry for going off the point! I totally respect the Womens game as they are skilled and play the game beautifully, I am just stating a reason why I feel men and women joint events wont happen and why the TV Execs wont want to screen it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Iain,

    You have covered both versions of the game. You for one know that this tournament would only work as a novelty tournament. Just like the old JC Penny tournament played in Tampa at the end of the year. With the mens calendar going from Jan through Dec, most of the top players would be reluctant.

    Men dont care about the womens game so why think they would get on board.

    It would be great to see but not as a proper tournament.

    I have seen both tours as close as anyone and think that this would be a mistake... Cant compare the 2 sports.

    Sorry for being so blunt.

  • Comment number 23.

    ah well sexism is alive and well in the UK.
    I agree slow play is an issue but a lot of the other comments leave a sour taste in my mouth!
    Womens golf is as entertaining as the mens but if you go to a tournament they are far more fan friendly, not so many ego's or see who can pee the highest competitions!

  • Comment number 24.

    The lpga can't even decide who can play on their own tour. They are trying to block one of best players because of her age. But they just voted to let SHE MALES play on their tour for going female at birth rule, just stupid Stand up and fight for what is right! Try fixing you own brand before trying to latch on the pga tour!

  • Comment number 25.

    Sorry Iain, have to disagree that too few people know about the fine product on the LET and LPGA tour. Most do know it's there, but don't want to watch it which in turn drives the market forces to largely ignore it. There are some people in this world who are very good at making money, do you really think they would have missed an opportunity like this if it was simply a case on increased exposure = more revenue.

    In terms of a single tournament, it has to be from the same tees and same conditions. I once played against a woman in matchplay, we got to a par 4 where her tee was 100 yards ahead of mine and she was receiving a stroke. It was laughable.

  • Comment number 26.

    To golfingskiingf1musicfan,

    I would think that your club is one of the few clubs where women do pay the same. I agree when playing a bounce game playin alongside/on the course with women does not concern me that much. However, in competition it just will never work.

    Imagine the US Open having both men and women. I for one would find it rather amusing trying to see female players moving there ball 2 yards from the ridiculous thick rough you get in that competition. Not to mention their tees would be about 100 yards further down on most holes!!


    Very few top male players would never wnat this to happen terefore it will not!

  • Comment number 27.

    Strange that no-one on here has mentioned the Pebble Beach Invitational, a long-running (since 1972) tournament that pits PGA Tour pros against those from the Champers Tour and LPGA Tour. No tournament within a tournament there, and quite a distinguished list of champions including Juli Inkster. John Mallinger won this year, from Jason Gore, Pat Perez and Russ Cochran tied for 3rd, Morgan Pressel 8 shots behind, Annika Sorenstam four shots further back.

  • Comment number 28.

    Kwiniaskagolfer,

    The reason no-one has mentioned it is becuase its an exibition match and very few people really care!

  • Comment number 29.

    The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is surely a precedent that proves that the top players are prepared to share the fairways in a high stakes tournament, and also that it's possible to set up the course to suit all the standards of play on show. Of course, what they don't share in that tournament is the prize fund, so that aspect would need careful consideration.

    All in all, I think it sounds like a fun idea!

  • Comment number 30.

    #28: Scott,
    Not really, $300K in prizemoney this year, but the format was the reason I mentioned it.
    Plenty of other exhibitions get a lot of ink - Chevron for one.

  • Comment number 31.

    I am surprised that people think slow play is an issue....whatever may happen on your home courses is most certainly not reflected on the LPGA and LET. The Ladies play as fast if not faster than the men. They have time allocations per hole and the rules officials aren't scared to apply warnings.

    Lots of instances where the sexes can be mixed in a tournament but that is not the issue here. The only issue in question is if authorities can run 2 tournaments at the same time on the same course to raise the profile of ladies golf and take advantage of economies of scale.

    Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

  • Comment number 32.

    What's surprising is the women's short game is vastly inferior to the men's. It's there - not so much distance off the tee or accuracy of approach play - where the difference is greatest. Still, I like women's golf and I think the "joint tournament" idea is worth a serious look.

    As a general point - and contrary to my own observation above - I feel men's and women's sport are different and should be appreciated (or not) on their own merits. No particular reason to compare.

    I have no problem with equal prize money at the tennis slams.

    Cathy Freeman at Sydney 2000. Way slower than the equivalent men's race. Hence an inferior achievement and spectacle? ... don't think so.

  • Comment number 33.

    The point about slow play is bogus. The men also play extremely slowly, mainly because so much money can be won or lost in a single shot.

    However, the games are very different to watch, mainly to do with the emphasis on intensity and power in the men's game.

    The Dunhill Lionks championship is a great example of pros playing a porper tournament with players who are clearly not their equal, so why not two men with two women, with separate prizes for the men's and women's competition and a mixed comp as well?


    One thing though - I would not like to watch one more player whether male or female have their shots lined up by a caddie standing behind them eg many women and Robert Rock with his putting. Frankly, if you can't line up your own shot you shouldn't be playing. I don't know about anyone else, but that really irritates me. I like Robert Rock as a player, but I wish he would please please line up his own putts. To me its like cheating. Would be intersted to hear anyone else's views on this.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm with #33 - golf is a game that accommodates players of different standards playing together, and any club player knows that. There is no suggestion that the professional men should play with women who have 36 handicaps. The Dunhill Links competition and numerous other pro-ams show that male pros are perfectly prepared to share a round with players who may not reach their standard and I think a two-man/one or two woman format, with prizes for men, women and four/three ball would be an entertaining and attractive addition to the calendar.

    On a slightly different subject, those respondants who are questioning the intensity of women's sport clearly did not see the Women's Rugby World Cup matches this year. The final was a classic of high skill, speed and passion with some bone-crunching tackles going in. Now I am not trying to compare the back-rower Maggie Alphonsi with Melissa Reid any more than I would try to compare Martin Johnson with Monty - these comparisons between such different sports are pointless - but it's unfair to lump all sportswomen in the same basket. Mind you, I am sure that soon another Laura Davies-type will come along who can drive the ball 300+ yards, and then perhaps the argument will move on...

  • Comment number 35.

    The men would take most persuading because they would be sacrificing better-paid tournament places than their female counterparts, but there is surely an untapped market here because golf is a game men and women can play together.

  • Comment number 36.

    It occurred to me also that the female players just don't do enough to drum up interest in their game if that's the case.

    I follow a bunch of the male players on Twitter and also some of the female players but i'm unfollowing them one by one as they generate very little of interest. There's none of the Westwood/Poulter/Gmac/Mcllroy etc. banter or anything of interest coming out of the ladies with most of them little more than 'here's what i did today and here's a pic of me with a fan/my mom/sponsor/new kit/gear etc.'.

 

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