The other day one of my “friends” on Facebook posted this comment:
“Watching the ladies golf and I don’t honestly know how some of them ever turned professional!! The standard is so BAD!”
I have to admit that I was about to unfriend him for posting that, but I got my act together and decided to look at the facts to see if there was something to his claim.
First of all, I don’t think it’s fair to compare women’s golf with men’s golf because of the obvious physical difference. It’s like comparing apples with pears. Of course some of the best female players have at times challenged the men on their home field, but mostly because these women wanted to challenge their own game and compete against even better players to see how far they could go. This is what golf is essentially all about. Having the courage to challenge yourself and get better. After playing in the Bank of America Colonial, Annika Sörenstam was asked if she would ever play in another men’s event. Her answer was “No. I play golf for one reason, to have a chance to win on Sunday. I can’t do that out here so why should I play? I proved I could handle it. That’s all I wanted.”
It is just so easy to compare women’s golf to men’s golf, because they can play the same course and there is no physical interaction. But would you ever expect a women’s ice hockey or basketball team to beat a men’s team? I think not, but even though we all agree that men have a physical advantage, women in all sports usually have to compete on the men’s terms using the same size rinks, fields, balls, etc. I wonder what the difference would be if you made the soccer field or tennis court smaller for women? I don’t think the women would want it that way, though. What we want is just to play sports on our terms and be respected for the effort that we make and what we can accomplish.
For obvious reasons the average PGA course is longer than the average LPGA course. The average PGA course is playing 7,200 yards, whereas the average LPGA course is set up to play 6,500 yards . That is a difference of 11%. The difference in the average length that the players hit their individual clubs is much higher, though, meaning that relatively the ladies are playing longer courses than the men. Another aspect one has to take into consideration is that most course architects are men as well, and they design the courses to be played from the men’s tee with a man’s game in mind. I have often played courses where I had to lay up, because I couldn’t carry a penalty area or the landing area was way too small, just to end up with a very difficult approach shot. My male colleague would on the other hand be able to carry the penalty area and would have a much easier approach shot.
Well, I made a promise to look at the facts, and I did manage to find some interesting numbers from the LPGA and the PGA tours. I don’t want to compare the two tours, but I want to show that women are playing their own game and that they do it well.
In the table below you can see the average distances for a LPGA and PGA tour player in 2020.
|Club||LPGA ||PGA ||Difference (%)|
|Driver||230-290 yards||275-350 yards||20 – 21|
|3-wood||190-260 yards||230-310 yards||19 – 21|
|3-iron||185-215 yards||210-260 yards||14 – 21|
|4-iron||170-200 yards||200-250 yards||18 – 25|
|5-iron||160-190 yards||190-230 yards||19 – 21|
|6-iron||150-175 yards||180-220 yards||20 – 26|
|7-iron||140-160 yards||170-200 yards||21 – 25|
|8-iron||135-155 yards||155-185 yards||15 – 19|
|9-iron||120-140 yards||140-170 yards||17 – 21|
|PW||100-120 yards||120-140 yards||17 – 20|
|SW||70-95 yards||80-110 yards||14 – 16|
The average LPGA Tour player driving distance is 254 yards, whereas the average driving distance of a PGA Tour player is 295 yards giving a difference of 16%. This is interesting, because Trackman states that an average male amateur hits his drive 255 yards, which is the same as that of an average LPGA Tour player. Reason enough for not having LPGA and PGA tour players compete against one another on the same conditions.
If we use the 16%, which is low if you look at the numbers in the table above, the equivalent to a 500 yards par-4 for the men would be 431 yards for the women, and a 570 yards par-5 is the equivalent to 661 yards for the men. Only the very long hitters on the PGA would be able to reach this par-5 in two in perfect conditions.
If we crunch a few more numbers comparing the number of birdies and eagles on the LPGA and PGA Tours, we get another interesting fact.
|Birdie Ranking (2019)||Number of birdies||Rounds played||Birdies/round|
|Eagle Ranking (2019)||Number of eagles||Rounds played||Eagles/round|
The difference in the top birdie and eagle makers on the LPGA and PGA is not that big. Even when you compare the top ranked average score on par-5s for the LPGA and PGA players the difference is not that big. The PGA best average score for 2019 on par-5s was 4.42 whereas it was 4.55 for the LPGA.
Just looking at the numbers it actually seems like the players on each tour are matching each other fairly well, meaning the players on the two tours are equally good – and this is not considering the arguments above where it seems as if the women are playing relatively longer courses.
So the women are just as good golf players – or better – when they get to play on their own terms with courses that fit the distance for a female player. They put the same effort into their practice and preparation. They spend the same amount of time on physical and mental training knowing that it may not pay off as the prize money on the ladies’ tours are far from matching the men’s tours. A lot of female players are not able to make a living playing professional golf and have to give up before they even get started because they don’t have the same sponsorship opportunities as their male colleagues, and on top of that they also struggle not getting the proper recognition of their efforts and achievements, because they are constantly compared with their male colleagues.
I have often said that to become a professional female tour player you need to have an extraordinary passion for the game, because even if you make it on tour, you are not sure that you will break even economically. If you compare the earnings for the 100th ranked players on the LPGA vs. the PGA the difference is enormous.
In 2019 Mariah Stackhouse won $127.365 in 20 tournaments, where Carlos Ortiz won $1.073.962 in 28 tournaments. Carlos won $38.356 per tournament compared to Mariah who won $6.368 per tournament. Once Mariah had paid her taxes and expenses, she probably barely had enough to break even. I would wager that a lot of good female golf players never make it to the tour just because they don’t have the economy that is needed to start up a professional golf career. I also think a lot of female players have to give up, because they, like Mariah, can’t make a living on tour. They might not have reached their full potential, but we’ll never know.
With this article I hope that we can stop comparing women’s golf to men’s golf. It’s not the same game that they play and it never will be as long as there is a physical difference between the genders. What we can cherish, though, is that they are equally good at what they do and they should be commended for that. We need, though, to treat our female tour professionals with more respect for what they have accomplished, because they have made it to the top, made the same sacrifices, made the same effort, but are still met with the prejudices that women can’t play golf as well as the men.