Anika Sorenstam, golf course accessibility, and women vs. men golfers

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t know a single thing about golf. I’ve never played golf and I don’t know the lingo.

In an article about Sorenstam’s effort in the PGA

it says this:
“No one knew how she would fare against the best players in the world, on a 7,080-yard course that was longer and tougher than anything she has played”

OK, now maybe this is a stupid question, but…why couldn’t she practice on a “long” “tough” course before she got to the PGA?

Why couldn’t she have practiced on the Colonial course or one of similar difficulty before the tournament?

If I were a golfer and was trying to prepare for a tournament, I guess I’d be practicing on the hardest course I could find beforehand.

So what gives here?

Also, why can’t women compete with men in golf? There are a lot of old fat male golfers out there. Most of them don’t have big muscles. I imagine a woman could gain the amount of muscle it takes (through intensive training) to be able to hit the ball as far as a man. It seems to be mostly a game of skill, so why aren’t women regularly competing with men out there?

read all about it here

She could and she did. One thing to keep in mind, though is that conditions during a tournament are tougher than you would find on the same course when a tournament is not in progress.

The greens are firmer (harder to stick your shot on the green), faster (trickier to putt on). The rough (off the fairway) is taller, making it harder to hit out of if you miss the fairway. And the holes are placed on the greens in more difficult locations.

And there are no crowds and media hounds dogging your every move. That’s something it’s just impossible to experience if you’ve never been there.

Why couldn’t a golf course be made to imitate those difficult conditions for practice? Is there some rule against it?

The quote specifically said: “longer and tougher than anything she has played”. That has nothing to do with the crowds.

Why can’t women compete with men in golf?

  1. Women aren’t as interested in sport. This prunes out a lot of potential talent.

  2. Women’s sport doesn’t get as much coverage/doesn’t pay as well/isn’t as glamorous. This further weeds out potential talent.

  3. Those fat golfers aren’t top level pros. I’m sure Sorenstam could take out most fat male glfers.

  4. As you note, golf is a game of skill pimarily. Those relatively few few women that have the capacity to gain the strength of an average man are probablynot the same ones with goling skills. Most men with the necessary inhrent skill will have the necessary strength, many women with higher skills may lack the baility develop nywhre near the strength of Tiger Woods.

  5. Developing strength requires time and effort. A female golfer may need to do weght work 12 hours/week to maintain strength. A male golfer with less skill can practice his putting for those 12 hours instead.

  6. Men are taller than women. The speed of the club face is dependant on the lenth of the swing, and all things being equal a 5’6" Sorenstam will never generate the same force as a 6’2" Woods.

  7. There are a range of other physiological. For example Males have better hand-eye co-ordination. This might just be a sociological artefact, but it might also be biological. Either way it’s already present by the end of childhood. Even if a woman were interested in golf, she would be fighting these sorts of handicaps.

So provided you can find a 6’2", heavily muscled woman who played as much sport as the average boy during childhood and who is prepared to do the same work for less pay and less fame, there’s probably no particulr reason why she couldn’t play golf as well as any man.

Good luck finding a woman with all those characterisics.

Mostly because the course is still open for play by the duffers during the days leading up to the tournament.

By ‘longer’ they meant that women usually play from tees closer to the hole than men. That makes women’s play easier than men’s.

But I do agree that, with training, I don’t see why women couldn’t play competitively with men.

One small physics issue, though. Since women are, on average, shorter than men the club will be traversing a shorter arc during the swing and therefore have less energy when meeting the ball. That should effect the distance a ball could fly.

I think you’re simply reading too much into the quote. It’s saying that the course is longer and tougher than any she’s played in competition.

I don’t believe the rules are any particular obstacle to “toughening up” a course. The difficulty likely would be in convincing course management to do it just for her.

These sorts of changes probably wouldn’t go over too well with the regular players of the course (members of the club?), and I’d be surprised if she would have been able to convince any courses to do all this without an income-bringing tournament to go along with it.

I think the quote should be read as meaning: “longer and tougher than anything she has played (competitively),” as this is certainly true. Sorenstam could (and surely did) go play from the men’s tees and such, but there was still no good way to accurately guess what kind of score she’d be capable of in a PGA Tour event. Certainly her LPGA competition scores aren’t a good indicator, but neither would her practice-rounds-from-the-men’s-tees be all that much better.

How big of a role does height play? Are there any top male golfers of average height (5’9 in America)?

I know that some of the professional men are under 5’10".

Whether they’re top flight I couldn’t say.

Freddie Funk is pretty short. He couldn’t be more than 5’9". Mike Wier is also shorter than most golfers and he just won the Masters. Michele Wie (the 13 yr old phenom from Hawaii) is 6’ tall.

BTW, the LPGA used this exact course (the Colonial) for their US open sometime in the 90s. The tees were moved up, and the course played about 10% shorter (which is a good rule of thumb between the PGA and LPGA courses). I don’t believe Annika was in the LPGA at that time.

Golf is the hardest game ever invented. It’s more like 5 different games (or more) in one.

My theory is that it was invented by a woman… what better way to frustrate men!

To take your points in order:

  1. That’s painting with an incredibly broad and uninformed brush.

  2. If the male golfer doesn’t do any weight work he’s not going to be on the pro tour for very long.

  3. No, they don’t.

You will notice that Anika did beat a lot of “old fat male golfers”. She just did not beat enough of them.

Look at NBA and WNBA. Commercial interests set up the WNBA. The rules were changed enough to make it interesting.

The WNBA teams could beat most non-pro baskestball teams. But there is no way a WNBA tesm could beat an NBA team using NBA rules.

This tournement was about publicity. However, she’s the best in her league and so can only get better by playing in men’s league.

That’s a simple statement of fact. I note that you have no trouble with my saying that men are taller or stronger than women. Of course some women are stronger or taller than some men, but on average women are shorter and weaker. Similarly some women may be more interested in sport than some men, but on average women are less interested in sport than men. Nothing broad about that, and if you believe otherwise it is you who are uninformed.

Right, and this would invalid my point how exactly? Are you saying that the average woman wouldn’t need to work out more than the average man to achieve the same results?

Yes they do.
Boys also have the superior hand-eye co-ordination necessary for ball sports.
However this and other ‘hard wiring’ differences also means that the average man has greater spatial awareness, a better sense of direction and better hand eye co-ordination than the average woman.

Were I you I would be less inclined to accuse others of being uninformed. That piece of information is so widely known and has been demonstrated in so many studies that it’s astounding that you wouldn’t be aware of it before speaking.

  1. Probably true, but the gap is shrinking. There are some incredibly talented young girls coming up thru the ranks now. And Annika’s effort may encourage more of them.

  2. Kind of a bootstrap issue. Tennis seems to have solved this more than any other sport. Unless you consider figure skating to be a sport.:slight_smile:

  3. John Daly has two majors under his (wide) belt. Rich Beem is a chubby short fellow who won twice on the PGA tour last year, including one major (the PGA Championship). Flexibility is a key factor in golf and Daly is naturally flexible even though he’s overweight.

  4. True to a point, but at least admit that you pulled that number out of your ass.

  5. This is probably a touchy area. I’m not up on the latest studies, but it sure would explain why women pool players aren’t up to snuff with men and that is a game that should be much more gender neutral than golf.

  6. Somewhat true, but height is only very loosely correlated with the ability of someone to have greater clubhead speed. A taller “machine” would do this, but there are too many other variables that go into it in people. Rich Beem is a short guy and he can just power the ball. Gary Player is not only short, he’s damn skinny. A lot of it has to do with getting the arms, shoulders, hips, and legs all working together.

If you analyze Annika’s performance at the Colonial, she did very well off the tee. This course puts more of a premium on accuracy rather than length (relatively speaking) and she was not hurt much by her shorter drives. Her approach shots to the green were very good. On or two miscues, but nothing that would sink a male golfer. She also played a very smart game, not taking unnexesary risks (ala Mickelson) Her chipping and putting were terrible. There were a few longish putts that she didn’t even get 2/3 of the way to the hole. You’d never see that on the PGA tour. But frankly, she knew going into this that putting and chipping were her weak points. Her stats for these even on the LPGA are mediocre at best.

I was pretty surprised how well she did out of the sand. Granted, she was only in there twice, but she was able to get up and down both times. She now leads the PGA stats in sand saves, at 100%.:slight_smile:

I dont see why women want to play against men.
If women want to play in men’s comps, why cant men play in women’s comps?

Why isnt there just one comp?
Because if there was just one comp for men and women, no woman would make it.

To me, it looks like you just answered your own questions.

In this particular instance, it wasn’t that Anika wanted to play against men - it was that she wanted to test herself against a higher level of competition, and that higher level of competition just happened to be on a tour that traditionally (but only traditionally) has been all male.

Anika dominates the LPGA as much as or more than Tiger dominates the PGA - she won something like half of the LPGA tournaments she entered last year, and has made the cut in 75 of the last 76 LPGA tournaments she has entered.

First off, I want to say something about innate differences…

While I think that women are at a small disadvantage at golf, the physical differences are not as great as in a sport where the ability to win, is dependent on who has the biggest fastest muscles, like at 100M sprint in Track and Field. If you look at the statistics, the top man and woman in that event are pretty darn close for such a short distance.

It doesn’t make sense to blame it on strength, since the muscles required are within reach of most women if they work hard. Once you’ve built up the upper body strength you just need to maintain it (and that won’t take 12 hours a week!). I bet most women golfers don’t do a lot of dedicated weight training - I read that Annika does.

I’m wondering if it has to do with spatial ability, since that’s one of the few mental areas where men have on average out-tested women. (plenty of scientific literature on this) Does golf require spatial skill? Is it the most important element?

The article that was cited above as “evidence” for inherent differences between men and women was just someone’s personal opinion stated as fact.

Regardless of any mental spatial advantage, it doesn’t seem enough to account for the wide differences between men and women golfers. If spatial ability is enough to stop women golfers from being competitive with men, why wasn’t verbal ability (the thing women are better at) enough to stop male writers from being as good as female writers? I don’t see a dominance of women writers out there, even though women have been writing and have been accepted as writers for a long time…

There should have been some female outliers showing up in men’s golf by now…is it perhaps because of discrimination that they haven’t?

there’s nothing that would’ve restricted her from playing a comparable course; what I think they meant was “longer and tougher than anything she has played competetively.” ie: in an official tournament

Of course there will always be some people of completely unexpected body types, sexes etc that perform well in all fields. That doesn’t chnage the fact that cartain factors give an inherent advantage. If a woman has fanstastic ingerent golfing ability, but never gets interested in the game, never sees a game of womens golf and is is offered greater financial returns in another field then she’s unlikely to ever even play golf to discover that she has those abilities. You immediately prune out a lot of the best talent.

Then if such a woman did begin playing she would need to spend more time working out to develop the necessary strength. Time which a man could devote to practicing his actual golf. Then once the requisite strength is achieved, and overlooking the greater maintianence required, women remian shorter. If Sorenstam had exactly the same skills as Woods, the fact that she’s 6 inches shorter provides yet another handicap.

Yes, those things can be overcome, just as being short can be overcome by high skill levels in basketball. But that doesn’t stop most top-level basketbalers from being tall. The innate ability to be good provides stimulus to play, which in turn provides incentive totrain and develop skills.

As for whether women have an inherent disadvantage in sports related hand eye co-odination:

Davies PL, Rose JD. Phys Occup Ther Pediatr 2000;20(1):19-42

Motor skills of typically developing adolescents: awkwardness or improvement?

“To identify sex differences and developmental trends in motor performance and coordination across three stages of development: prepubertal, pubertal and postpubertal, 60 participants, 30 males and 30 females, were assessed on 13 motor tasks. Physical characteristics that accompany puberty were used to classify the participants into the stages. Analysis of variance and covariate analyses demonstrated that motor performance improves throughout adolescence in both males and females and that sex differences exist in motor performance, males performing better than females. The magnitude of the stage and sex differences were demonstrated by large effect sizes (eta 2).”
This isn’t a surprising or unique result. It’s widely known and shows up time and again in studies. Women have better fine control, while men have better hand-eye cordination in the gross movements asociated with most sports.