Sheringham Golf Club scraps separate tees for men and women
- Credit: Archant
A Norfolk club has played a key role in encouraging gender-free golf, where men and women are allowed to compete off the same tees.
More and more clubs are now allowing members to play off a tee that suits their ability rather than sticking rigidly to the age-old system that obliges men to have a longer first shot than their female counterparts.
And they are following in the footsteps of the links course at Sheringham, who were one of the first clubs in the country to embrace the concept.
Officials took the plunge when they also introduced a new set of forward tees to create an additional, short course.
The club now has three sets of tees, all rated for men and women: from blue, the shortest, through to yellow and white.
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There is a further set of black tees which are rated only for men, on the advice of the ladies' county association. Secretary-manager Neal Milton said: 'It's been a great success, particularly with our senior gentlemen and higher handicap ladies, who now have the opportunity to play a shorter course.'
Milton first had the idea of gender-free tees when he was junior organiser at another club.
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'We had a young lady who was in England training and who was only allowed to play off the ladies' forward tees, despite the fact she could hit it further than most of the men,' he said.
'The club insisted on the status quo.'
However, when he proposed the idea at Sheringham the club quickly got behind it, while also creating four academy holes for beginners on the practice ground and allowing the use of buggies in competition.
'We have increased participation in our competitions and I believe we have better retention of members. We want people to play and to be part of the club for as long as they can,' said Milton.
Golfers who are losing length can move to forward tees; improving players can gain an extra challenge by moving back and social golfers can choose to play together off the same tees.
Gender-free tees are common in the USA and the concept is attracting growing attention here.
Gemma Hunter, England Golf's handicap and course rating manager, said: 'It is still very new here but I know of over 30 courses which have rated at least one course for both genders. This is all about making the best use of your golf course for all your members and for newcomers who want to take up the game. You're not building new holes or tees, you're just rating what you already have.'