LPGA pro puts on 5 disguises to test golfers’ bias

Editor's Note: To celebrate Golf Digest's 70th anniversary, we're visiting the best literature and journalism we've ever published. Find out about previous rates.
Over the years, Golf Digest has published a wide range of undercover reports. We've sent equipment editors - men and women - to retail stores pretending to be beginners to see how they're served, and we've made several blind adjustments to assess how different club recommendations can be. We intentionally lost wedges with name and address signs on golf courses across the country to determine how many would be returned. (Conclusion: golfers are, by and large, an honest bunch.) In the past few years, we have published two columns by anonymous authors with the title "Undercover Tour Pro": https://www.golfdigest.com/contributor/the-undercover -pro and "Undercover Caddy". https://www.golfdigest.com/story/undercover-caddie-do-tour-pros-cheat-heres-your-answer
One of our most insightful projects (not in a good way) was “The Secret Life of Cart Girls” in April 2015, reported by Associate Editor Keely Levins. https://www.golfdigest.com/story/the-secret-life-of-cart-girls "All that ruthless flirting and unwanted adventures - how bad and cheeky is it really going to be?" Keely wrote. “As a 24-year-old woman on the Golf Digest editorial team, I was the best person to find out. Through the tacit collaboration of two courses in Arizona, I sat behind the wheel for three days. The names in this story have been changed, but the exchange with customers is literal, as recorded by the furtive spy pen that drove the shotgun in my front pocket. "
Perhaps our most ambitious undercover company was the following case studies that unscientificly show how women are treated in the male golf world. The story was published in March 2012 in collaboration between contributing editor Peter Finch and then LPGA tour professional Kim Hall, who made physical changes in the way five different golf personalities were portrayed. Kim, now 38, played on the Stanford women's golf team (1999-2003); Today she volunteers as an assistant coach in Auburn, where she lives with her husband and two children. The 60-year-old Finch also went to Stanford, then worked as an editor at BusinessWeek and SmartMoney before joining Golf Digest in 2003. He became a lecturer in journalism at the University of Tennessee (2014-15) and now lives regularly in Manhattan at Golf Digest. - Jerry Tarde
* * *
Ask a man what he thinks of women who play golf, and if he's not a first-rate ankle tug you'll likely get an answer like "OK with me" or "Good as long as they don't". t slow us down. "At least that's the public answer. But what do men really think about women who play golf? And more importantly, how do they treat women they meet on golf courses? Greet them? Unwelcome? Somewhere in between?
LPGA Tour player Kim Hall and I went undercover to find out. Equipped with golf clubs for beginners, first-class clubs, several boxes with wardrobe changes and a makeup artist, we met in Chicago for three days and five rounds of golf. We did not identify ourselves as a magazine author and golf professional. In fact, we didn't even recognize that we knew each other. We were just a couple of singles looking for a game.
Each time we attended a course, Kim portrayed a different golfer. At two, she pretended to be a beginner who could barely break 120. With one, she was a marksman in the mid-90s. She played her regular game twice - that is, like a pro. It has also changed its look, as you can see in the attached photos. For a round she was made up so that she looked as grumpy and unattractive as possible. Another time, she wore a tight skirt, lipstick, and elegant golf shoes. And so on. (I was the same middle-aged 11-handicapper wherever we were. History of my life.)
We do not claim that this was a scientific experiment. We only played five places, not 500. The variables were almost infinite, from the course types to the time of day to the guys we were paired with. Still, it was an insightful experience.
I knew that some men would rather not play golf with women, but in Chicago I saw firsthand how brazenly they can handle it. More than once, Kim and I met men who deliberately raced away from a woman so as not to play golf with her.
That is probably their right. But it is also rude. And shameful. Can we really wonder why golf has difficulty attracting women when they receive this type of treatment?
It's not like Kim got the brush from everyone. Many players and golf course staff went out of their way to accommodate them. Nevertheless, she was always - unmistakably - an outsider. When she entered the clubhouse in a square, the professional greeted her with the words: "You must be Kimberly - we were waiting for you!" He was just friendly, but it was also a reminder that she was a curiosity; There were no other women on his tee that afternoon, so it had to be her.
No matter how Kim dressed or how she swung her clubs, the boys generally warmed up for them when they realized that she wasn't going to play slowly. Kim, who grew up in San Antonio and started playing golf 25 years ago at the age of 5, has known this for decades. "In a big way, that's the only important thing for male golfers: can you keep moving?" She says. "Most men don't really care about anything else."
The only exception was when Kim was disguised as the most girly figure we called Damsel in need. Then nothing she did seemed to bother anyone. "I couldn't do anything wrong," she says. "I could have spent 20 minutes in the bathroom on the curve and got away with it."
Why did she believe that? "Boys just walk over a pretty lady," she says. "It's innate. And it's not limited to golf courses. It happens in bars and other public places too. Men want to impress this woman. It's not exactly 'courting' ... but it's kind of like that."
Read the highlights of our experiment round by round.
(Andrew Brusso photo)
(Andrew Brusso photo)
ROUND 1
Good municipal course
Kim's character: Beginning golfer, ugly duckling look
Kim arrived a few minutes before me and checked in to get to the area. When I got there, I asked the assistant if the other people in my group would run or ride. "So far there is only one here and they are going," he said.
His choice of words - "they go" - seemed to have an obvious purpose: he didn't want to identify my partner as a woman.
A morning downpour had caused a delay, and several groups - all men - were romping around the practice green. Even though Kim and I were with another couple, the staff seemed determined not to send us with others. Each of us asked the club staff separately to mate with a different couple when the rain delay subsided, but they insisted that we go out as a couple.
No doubt they had seen her warm up. Over the course, Kim dutifully hit balls, had the character of a beginner, and had no good contact. Most of their swings led to low liners or whiffs. Her sloppy outfit didn't add much to her marketability. I went to the starter and pretended to be unhappy about my pairing. "Have you gotten a lot from those I'm with?" I asked.
"Maybe you can help her a little," he suggested. "However, many women don't like that." He laughed. "Just be aware of where you stand when she hits."
The staff at the golf course "seemed sorry," Kim later told me. "There was definitely a 'poor you' mood. When I asked the assistant where I could find something to eat, he didn't just show. He came out from behind the counter and led me around the corner to the restaurant to bring it to me show where it was. "
Not everyone was so friendly. We reached a front nine hole with a long forced carry and both walked across a bridge to the rear tees where I would meet. A ranger saw us and ran forward in his car. "She has to hit from there!" he roared and pointed to the red teas. His voice was much louder than necessary. "She can't hit from here! She won't be able to cross this gorge!"
"I know," Kim replied softly, made a 180 and went back across the bridge.
(Andrew Brusso photo)
(Andrew Brusso photo)
ROUND 2
High-end course with daily fees
Kim's character: golf pro skills, tomboy look
"Go or ride, Miss Hall?" Asked the assistant when Kim checked in.
"Whatever the others in my group are doing," she replied.
The pro spotted one of Kim's playmates standing right behind her, a gray-haired man in his late 60s or early 70s. "What is it, Mr. Williams?"
"I'm going to ride," he said grumpily.
"OK, I'm going to ride too," said Kim.
After she finished paying, Williams and his friend logged on, then hurried out of the golf shop and headed to the first hole. When they found it open, they took off and roared down the fairway before Kim and I could get there to join them. So we started our round for two on a crowded course. In the first three holes we waited for Williams and his friend with every stroke. Finally, on the fourth tee, they offered to let us through.
"Isn't the course somehow clogged?" I asked.
"Yes."
"Would it be okay if we joined you?" Kim asked.
Break. "Yes," Williams replied, obviously not enthusiastic about it. "Well."
As moody as they seemed, the boys quickly became friendly when they saw Kim hit the same teas they were playing. "Whooo!" said Williams' mate after her first tee. "Are you available for mixed doubles?"
She hit the green in two and two putt for par. The next tee, the boys were full of questions. "Did you play college golf?" (Answer: Stanford.) "Where are you from?" "You live in Las Vegas? What is it like to live there?"
As we neared the end of our lap and Kim was out of earshot, I approached the duo and asked why they were so determined to storm away from us. They seemed a little surprised. "We didn't try to get away from you," Williams insisted. "We just saw that the first tee was open, so we went."
Kim laughed when I passed on her answer. "They knew I was in their group and they just ran away," she said. It was the first time that she could remember that something had happened to her. Had it happened in "real life" I wondered, would she avoid going back to the course?
"No, I just thought, OK, he's an idiot and let it go," she said. "Everyone else was nice there. Maybe this guy has a problem with women."
(Andrew Brusso photo)
(Andrew Brusso photo)
ROUND 3
Daily course privately owned
Kim's character: beginner golfer, damsel in distressed look
This time I came to the course in front of Kim. The golf shop staff in this kind of big city were factual, rugged, and maybe even rude to the limit. I asked one of them where to find the first tea. "Behind the building," he replied without looking up or gesturing.
Kim's experience was completely different. As she rolled in, an explosion of curly blond hair, bright red nails, and lipstick, the boys noticed. The golf business suddenly became experts in small talk, asked where she came from, explained how to find the starter shed, explained the course's rain control guidelines, and wished her a good round.
I was down at the first tee and met two when Kim came out of the store. The starter first saw her from a distance of about 150 meters. "Hey, here's your fourth," he said. "Do you mind?" He whistled softly. "I don't think so! I don't think you mind!" We turned to Kim and I dutifully laughed with the other boys.
Kim was one of only two women we saw on the course that day, and she was definitely the makeup girl. Boys in other fours stared openly at us as we passed.
Kim played as a beginner and so we moved slowly. At the fifth tee, one and a half holes were open in front of us and I saw a ranger approaching me in a cart. I was sure that he would tell us to continue. But no. It turned out that the ranger had heard from the starter that Kim may be running out of tea, so he went to his golf bag and found some extras. "Here," said the ranger, holding out a handful. "I heard you might need this."
The men we played with, friends in their late 30s, were no less friendly than the Ranger. They congratulated Kim on her "bravery" for coming out as a single woman, and offered encouraging words if she didn't get her ball up in the air or in a bunker. I've tried on a few occasions to get her to complain about her - "Boy, she's pretty bad," I said when she couldn't hear us - but they didn't bite. Once I noticed that I needed a toilet break and didn't feel comfortable walking behind a tree with her in our group. They laughed and agreed, and that was the end.
"I felt great!" Kim said after the round. "Everyone treated me so well. But the thing is, this is 2011. To make the starter nice so that everyone in the golf shop is so cute, you have to deal with curls, make-up and false eyelashes" Why not get it all women this treatment? "
(Andrew Brusso photo)
(Andrew Brusso photo)
ROUND 4
Resort course
Kim's character: Decent player, average Jane look
Rain delays messed up the tee on this course again, so we had to start our round in pairs. We met a couple of men in their mid-30s on the fourth tee. Kim asked if we could join them. "We were hoping to play fast," muttered one, ignoring the group on the fairway in front of them.
"Doesn't look like you're going anywhere," I said. You let us come to them.
Kim, who mainly played bogeys and doubles, kept up the pace this lap. "It's pretty good, isn't it?" I said to Jim the more our two new friends hurried.
"It's consistent," he said, not sounding very impressed. In a hurry, the boys raced past the next hole on the front tee before Kim could hit. "Average Jane remains pretty much unnoticed," she said.
A few holes later, Kim tried to get the boys into a conversation. There was a brief back and forth about careers and hometowns. When Kim described himself as a "mother", the conversation ended. That was the last question they asked her. (She is, in fact, the mother of a 1-year-old daughter and is on vacation from the LPGA Tour, where she played for four years and earned over $ 350,000.)
Over the past nine the crowd got thinner and we started playing even faster, trying to finish all 18 before sunset. When we putted the last hole in the dark, we all shook hands and Jim thanked us for hurrying.
"You really weren't interested in me at all," Kim said afterwards. "I was just there somehow. It's funny that we couldn't talk."
(Andrew Brusso photo)
ROUND 5
High-end course with daily fees
Kim's character: golf pro skills, golf pro look
For the second time in three days, Kim and I hit the tee on time, only to find that the men we were with had started without us. Since the course was full, we caught up with the two golfers in a few minutes in the mid-1960s.
No question, Kim looked like a golfer. In addition to her outfit, she played the same clubs that she uses on tour. Still, there was an uncomfortable silence as we rolled onto the tee behind the runaway golfers.
"Do you mind if we come with you?" Kim finally asked.
"Yes ..." one of them replied. "OK."
Kim went over to the blue teas they played and slapped them in the middle. The boys had no obvious reaction, but after a few holes one of them came up to them and said, "So where did you play golf on a scholarship?"
It wasn't long before the drinks cart girl pulled up. We weren't thirsty so we waved her off, but she wanted us to stop anyway. She leaned over to Kim. "The guys in front of them said that a woman plays from the blue teas and does it really well," she said. "I just wanted to come out and say, 'Good for you!' ""
By then, the guys we were playing with - Bob and Ed - had found that Kim was better than the average college golfer. "Have you ever thought about becoming a professional?" Bob asked.
"I'm actually a professional," said Kim.
Now the boys were full of questions and Kim committed them with answers about life on tour, their favorite courses and of course what Tiger Woods really is. (She met him at an exercise center and he was nice to her.)
After our round when Kim left, the boys said they enjoyed playing with us and were glad we joined them. "Just look at how it vibrates," said Bob. "So soft."
"I'll google them," said Ed.
I said it seemed they were trying to escape us when the round started.
"No!" they sang. "Not at all."
It didn't look like that to Kim. "You could say they didn't want me to join them first," she said. "There was no question. But when they saw me playing it was like: Oh, she knows what she's doing. Now we were suddenly on the same wavelength."
CONCLUSIONS
When we look back at our experience, it is difficult to know exactly why Kim got the cold shoulder so often. Playing slowly is undoubtedly a big part of it. In many male fantasies, there is no quick golfer.
Kim hasn't dealt with that much in the past. Because she started out so young and quickly got so good at it, she seldom appeared on golf courses where people didn't know or didn't expect her.
However, over the years, she has played enough golf with men to know that some find it uncomfortable to get in touch with women. That seemed to be the case when Kim was in her average Jane figure. She looked simple, was not a particularly good golfer and a mother who stayed at home. The men we played with had a lot of questions for me. But with Kim they seemed to conclude: "What is there to talk about?" and left her alone.
Some men feel that women dampen things, Kim says. "They want their 'boyhood'. They feel like they can't smoke or swear and like that when there's a lady in the group. I play with my father and friends all the time and they still apologize to me if they swear or belch or whatever. Come on I'm 30 years old. I don't mind. "
Shouldn't men be entitled to "boyhood"? Of course we should. And the truth is, we will often find it on a public golf course. But that doesn't excuse the behavior Kim and I encountered. It is no longer 1950. If you do not book your start time for a foursome, there is a possibility that you will be paired with other players and - the horror! - one or more of them are female.
You can fight it like we saw in Chicago. Or you can take the main street and take it. Because, as Kim emphasized, you never know who this golfer could be. "You could find someone who turns out to be really interesting for you - like an investment manager or a CEO. Or maybe a golf professional."

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