Genevieve Belanger, a member of the Charlotte Disc Golf Club Womens League, says she enjoys playing with women because they’re encouraging and they play at her speed. Plus, it’s not hyper-competitive says Belanger.
"It’s all about getting together and having a good time and improving your game," said Belanger.
Though female golfers are the minority in regular PDGA events, given the right circumstances they become much more visible. By playing in their local WGE tournament, many of which are all-female, it’s easier for women to participate and feel they’re a part of something bigger.
"You can use the Women’s Global (Event) to grow the sport in so many ways," said Nicholson, who is leading a WGE tourney at the International Disc Golf Center in Appling, Ga.
Web Resources:Discgolf4women.com and its Facebook page - provides articles, tips, and a resource for women leagues.
PDGA.com/women and its Facebook page also has a wealth of information, updates, and links regarding female disc golf.
Glancing at the current WGE registered players there are all skill levels including many recreational and novice players. Plus, once you pay your local tourney entry fee, this year there’s no further cost to participate in the WGE.
Belanger, of Concord, NC, hadn’t been playing long before she played in the 2012 WGE in nearby Charlotte, which she said was a great experience. At the tournament, she was able to play with similarly skilled women, learn tips, and give advice to younger females. She’s playing again this year and helped encourage a woman new to disc golf to join her.
The WGE, which includes junior divisions, could also be that first step for school-aged girls since many are unaware of disc golf.
Can you imagine the PDGA without 3-time World Champ Valarie Jenkins? When asked if she would’ve found disc golf if her parents hadn’t been so involved in the sport Jenkins replied:
"I don’t know. In the town that I lived in, it (disc golf) wasn’t a huge influence. My parents were the ones driving the sport. I don’t think I would if my parents weren’t so involved and so much of a driving force," said Jenkins.
You can see why O’Cull believes disc golf has to find girls much sooner through early education. Through a grant, the PDGA supports the EDGE program, which incorporates disc golf into the school curriculum. Disc golf can also find girls through Girl Scouts, homeschooling groups, and clinics, says O’Cull.
Females 25 through 39 years old make up 52% of the PDGA’s female membership, but there’s plenty of room for growth. Women only events like Oakley’s Disc Girls Gone Wild (in its 8th year) with its friendly atmosphere, sweet player’s pack, and female camaraderie have become a yearly female destination and help new women get hooked on the sport.
Sometimes women’s leagues fizzle-out because of low turnout, but Oakley urges league directors to be patient. She said it took two years for her league (with an average age of 30-ish) to show life and it took four years for her main event, Disc Girls Gone Wild to get going.
Stephanie Vincent, who co-directs Women Throwing Frisbees – a Central Texas women’s league, says she’s struggled to maintain strong weekly attendance since a lot of her members are mothers and find it difficult to play regularly.
Although league attendance is important, Vincent’s main goal is just to get females to meet and play whenever they can, and posting informal tee times on the Women Throwing Frisbee’s Facebook page is great for that.
"I’m basically just acting as a link for women to get up and talk to each other," said Vincent, another Women’s Committee member.
Vincent encourages mothers to bring their children along to disc golf outings if they’re able. "We’re trying to make it kid friendly," said Vincent, who hopes disc golf promoters look closer into child care at events as a way to attract more females.
To find even more adult female disc golfers, promoters will likely have to go beyond the course. Oakley plans on passing out free disc golf promo bags to female strangers this year, while Vincent’s league Facebook page and websites like Discgolf4women.com as well as PDGA.com/women and their Facebook pages continue to reel-in new females from the web.
The effects of this year’s WGE will most likely add to the ranks of female disc golfers and may encourage others to play more seriously. It did for Belanger, who said she sought out more tournaments after her 2012 experience.
The emergence of all-female event series like the Poppy Series in Northern California and Oakley’s new Michigan series this year could be the competitive atmosphere more women need to take disc golf a step further.
Jenkins thinks these women’s series, which she says statistically get more women competitors than co-ed events, could be the look of the future.
Right now, though, the focus is on this year’s WGE. Who knows how many females will find the love for disc golf after playing the event? A more gender balanced disc golf won’t happen overnight, but the WGE is making steps toward that.
"It’s a great introduction to try a new sport," said Jenkins.