Women entrepreneurs continue to chip away at the notion that golfing is just for guys. According to the Executive Women's Golf Association, more than 450,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 took up golf in 1994.
"Women realize their male counterparts are doing much of their business on the golf course, and to maintain an edge, they need to be able to participate as well," says Nancy Oliver, founder of the West Palm Beach, Florida-based association, which boasts 15,000 members. "Now it's politically incorrect not to invite a woman business owner to participate in a golf outing, and if women haven't learned the game, they feel they have to decline the invitation. It only takes a few of those declines before women realize they should probably learn to play."
The association offers a clinic for beginners that covers "not just how to swing the club but how to conduct yourself in a golf environment so you don't embarrass yourself," Oliver says. "Women haven't come out to play sooner because they've felt intimidated by the sport or the men or the attitudes. We're trying to break down some of those barriers."
At the group's monthly outings, which focus more on camaraderie and networking than on competition, Oliver has noticed women are definitely getting into the swing of things. "They're out there for four or five hours, bonding in beautiful weather, in a beautiful setting," she says. "And they're realizing 'So this is what this old boys' network is all about.' "
Women also seem to be learning to play the game in more ways than one. Says Oliver, "All of a sudden, they're developing a golf network of their own."