Here at Golf Advisor, we pretty much think about golf all the time. So if we could get away with it, and didn't have to write, edit, and attend meetings, not to mention family obligations, all of us would pretty much watch golf day and night if it was available.
Well, we're actually in a stretch where you can just about do that since the LPGA Tour is in the middle of a western swing that includes California and Hawaii and means for many of us in the eastern part of the United States, we're getting all those tournaments' live coverage in prime time. Among those events is the LPGA's first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. It's a great field (the top 25 players in the Rolex World Rankings are expected to tee it up), and a compelling event (Sweden's Pernilla Lindberg won last year in playoff that took eight holes). If you haven't been watching much women's golf, this would be a great time to check in.
But besides being the first major of the year and in prime time, I think there are other reasons golf fans should watch women's golf, especially if you're trying to learn something for your own game. Here are seven:
1. It's more relatable
In no way am I diminishing the skills of LPGA players, but by in large, average golfers should be able to relate to their games better because most of them aren't hitting it 300 yards plus off the tee or pulling 9-irons for approach shots of 178 yards like they do on the PGA Tour. Sure, the no. 1 player on the tour, Sung Hyun Park of South Korea, averages nearly 282 yards off the tee (which means she hits it 300 quite often), but that's not the norm. Most players are like the U.S.'s Christie Kerr and Cheyenne Woods (Tiger's niece) and average somewhere around 250-265 yards, which seems mortal.
2. Lessons in tempo
The amazing part to me about watching the women play, though, is that most of them seem to have great tempo, which translates well into anyone's game. Good tempo, of course, isn't a matter of swinging slow, but swinging in rhythm. Most LPGA players are the model for this. Not that most PGA Tour players don't have a good tempo – they do, or they wouldn't be the best in the world – but it's more apparent with the ladies. At least that's my take.
3. They play cool courses
The venues for the LPGA have been getting better and better, especially in regards to the Ricoh Women's British Open, but also at events throughout the calendar year. Many of these courses are resort or public venues the public can play, and tee times are typically more affordable compared to PGA Tour venues, most of which run over $200 easily.
4. Women competing at Augusta now
This week marks the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur in Augusta, Ga. First of all, the Masters is one of my very favorite sporting events of any kind, and much of that is due to the course. So it'll be interesting to see the top women amateurs playing Augusta National Golf Club during the final round on April 6. (The first two rounds of the 54-hole event are being played at nearby Champions Retreat.) NBC Sports will providing live coverage from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, so I'm definitely going to want to tune in for that. It'll be interesting to see how they play the course vs. the men, who will be playing a week later. Again, that might be more relatable for me if and when I ever get to play Augusta. Golf Channel, of course, will provide highlights, live reports and news coverage during the entire event.
5. Judy Rankin’s insight
I'm old enough to remember Judy Rankin as a player and she was great despite never capturing a major, having won 26 times on the tour. But it seems like she's been doing TV for even longer. And not just women's events; Rankin, who first went on the air in 1984, is a veteran of the PGA Tour as well, having covered events for ESPN and ABC as well as becoming the lead analyst for the Golf Channel on LPGA events in 2010. In fact, I've always felt like she was one of the best all-time on-course reporters or any tour, but she's terrific as the lead analyst on LPGA events. I'm looking forward to her insight at this week's ANA Inspiration.
6. Ladies' short games seem simpler
I wouldn't begin to suggest that the ladies have better short games than the men, but you see more percentage plays with the women, which is a great lesson for us everyday hackers. They seem more likely to play the chip and run rather than bring in the low lob wedge for the one skip and stop. It's not they can't do that – they certainly can – but it seems to me they'll hit the less lofted clubs around the greens when the situation calls for it more often than the guys do.
7. These players have stories to tell
A lot of folks don't watch the LPGA Tour because they don't know the players. Some cite the fact that Asian players seem to dominate the tour and they just don't know much about them, but the truth is that many of these young ladies on the tour have interesting personalities and stories to tell. I love, for example, how at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup two weeks ago at Wildfire Golf Club at the JW Marriott in Phoenix, as they came off the 18th green, they spent a few minutes sharing hugs with LPGA founders Marilynn Smith, Marlene Hagge and Shirley Spork. I like how sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda have an annual bet to see who has the best season (Nelly is currently second on the LPGA money list this year, by the way). And a few of these players of are moms, and that's one of the toughest jobs in the world.
Morgan Pressel, Stacy Lewis and Cristie Kerr are mothers who play, as is the legendary Juli Inkster, who raised her kids to adulthood durng her illustrious career.
Gerina Piller, whose husband Martin is also a tour player, just returned to the LPGA Tour with her baby boy A.J. (Ajeo James) in tow. She has a great sense of humor. When asked about what skill came back the quickest after a year off, she replied, "probably putting my shoes back on."
I think golf media is run by monkeys; folks think we have some sort of duty to watch women's golf, or women's sports in general; fact is , I don't really care what you folks think I should watch, I don't like women's sports & am not going to watch.
I agree .Women play a great game and watching them can be an excellent learning experience , especially for amateur men who may overuse their upper bodies and so lose rhythm . I also agree that Judy Rankin does a very professional job of explaining the golf - which viewers may not always appreciate because we are not there and can't see what the players see.
I have followed the Lady professional golf tours ever since we enjoyed playing in the LPGA pro-ams at my home club introduced them. What a joy.........plus their courtesy and help..........Happy memories.
Thank you Mike Bailey for your article. I agree with your comments. It is great to watch the women both practice and play. And I agree with Murray. The LPGA should have a few more courses that require longer irons and hybrids to reach the greens in regulation. I suggest considering more courses like Shoal Creek (2018 US Women's Open, with the storms adding to the length of the course) and Kemper Lakes (2018 KPMG Women's PGA).
A recurring problem with the LPGA Tour is that the courses are set up too short, evidently to have the women score at the same level as PGA Tour players. These short setups make for a lot of boring Driver-PW holes. If I am to relate more with the womens' game, I would like to see them being challenged more often to play longer irons and even woods to reach par 4's. The same logic applies to par 3's and par 5's. I don't care about birdies. I want to see challenging golf shots.
I fully agree. The skill on the LPGA is as high as the PGA ( minus the pure muscle mass). I’ve become a fan and think I’ve seen some amazing golf as a result. It is pretty spectacular golf to see somebody weighing not much over 100 pounds hit into a par 5 from 240 yards.
Totally agree. I watch every tournament i can and go see the women play when they are here in NJ or close enough to me. They are so nice and approachable as well. You can learn tempo and watching them practice is so helpful. I have picked up many things while watching and also talking to some LPGA and Symetra Tour players. Some of the women who were great to meet and talk to were Lydia Ko, Leticia Ras, Brittany Marchand, Danielle Kang, and Allison Lee. Thank you for writing this article. They deserve more from all of us....
Agree w/you, Mike. These days the LPGA tour is very entertaining, w/so many stars -- & no petulant brats like you see on the PGA broadcasts. They all look like they're having fun. Imagine that! I just wish the LPGA received more air time than it does. Oh. & back in the day, when my swing got out of whack, all I needed to do was watch Annika & try to replicate her tempo - a quick fix, & much easier than trying to copy a PGA pro's swing.
I agree Shawn. I went to Mission Hills for the tournament many times from the early 90's to 2007 when my mom lived nearby. I've always loved the LPGA as their games are more about technique than power. And most hit the ball about as far as I do, so they play the course as I would. I've learned a lot watching, especially the short game. It's the only LPGA event I ever attended, and I always found it more fan friendly than the nearby Chrysler Classic, which I also visited frequently (and enjoyed). You mention Annika, and I remember how she would stay with the fans after the scorer's tent for lengthy periods, over 45 minutes at times. Especially with the children. She'd stay until two guys with Callaway shirts came to take her to the media tent, sometimes having to gently tug on her sleeves to get her to go. The year she was having trouble with her neck, and wasn't playing well, I followed her all the way around. She couldn't have been more gracious on the course and off. I'll remember that about her always.
There are a lot of good things about ladies golf. However, the 5 hour plus rounds are excruciating to watch on TV. Also, courses are set up too short. These are the best players in the world, make them play 3 irons into greens. Like ladies golf but too slow, come on LPGA, listen to what people and other LPGA golfers say and penalise slow play.