Moments in golf’s recent history have taken important steps toward making the game more inclusive of the LGBTQ community. Two examples: TPC Harding Park hosting the inaugural Pride Open, organized by Greg Fitzgerald, the first out, gay male PGA teaching pro, and the USGA raising Pride flags at its headquarters in June and sharing an image of the flags on the organization’s social-media account. To help make you and your course more welcoming, we asked the advice of leaders in the LGBTQ golf community. One of the most encouraging aspects of this education was finding that big change can start with small, deliberate efforts.
Train employees on inclusive terms and language
“As a golf club, it’s important to educate your staff members, to make sure they know to be inclusive and nonjudgmental,” says LPGA Tour pro Mel Reid. “Educating and communicating with their members is another big thing.”
Part of that education is in how players are greeted when they arrive at a course. For example, asking a woman if she’s going to be playing with her husband when she arrives at a course reveals the assumption that she is straight. Simple substitutions, like using the word “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife,” can make a big difference.
“You don’t know that these really subtle things that you say can make a person feel not safe, or make them feel like they don’t belong,” says Molly Gallatin, Senior Director of Brand and Content Strategy at the PGA of America. “Just like you don’t want to assume someone’s playing ability when they enter a golf course, you don’t also want to assume what their lifestyle is.”
Put a Pride symbol at your course
Fitzgerald talked about this idea with us first at the Pride Open in 2019, and we spoke about it again for this story. “The LGBTQ community is finally feeling accepted in the golf industry, getting out and about and playing and practicing,” Fitzgerald says. “What’s really helping is feeling accepted and seeing there’s some show of invitation or acceptance from golf courses, public or private—things like a little sticker in the window or a Pride flag on their websites do wonders to make LGBTQ golfers feel welcome. We’ll be active and looking for those symbols at golf facilities.”
Every leader in the LGBTQ golf community we spoke to for this story agreed that this is a critical step to welcoming LGBTQ golfers to a course.
“It signifies safety to a lot of queer folks,” says former Symetra Tour player Maya Reddy.
Courses could even have employees show a sign of support for Pride, says Tisha Alyn Abrea, a pro golfer and trick-shot artist whom you might have seen on Instagram. “If I saw something so small, like the guy at the front desk rocking a little rainbow ribbon on his hat, I would immediately know, being part of the LGBTQ community, that makes me feel so much better,” Alyn says. “I’d feel much more comfortable to say, ‘My girlfriend and I would love to play a round today,’ or hold her hand, just be a more comfortable environment.”
Pride stickers are available at thewelcomingproject.org.
Make your course known to the LGBTQ community
Gallatin says that listing your course online with a local LGBTQ community center is a good way to let LGBTQ golfers know they are welcome.
“If someone, let’s say, in the LGBTQ community is looking to play next weekend with some friends, and they’re wondering to themselves, there’s that fear in the back of their heads, Is this a safe space? Is this a course where we’re going to catch some flack?” Gallatin says. “There are little things you can do as a business—you can engage ahead of time with an LGBTQ community center in your area. They’re easy to find, and typically they have lists of business that support and are LGBTQ-friendly. When I moved, that was the first thing I looked up. Get your business listed.”
Increase self-awareness in interactions with playing partners
Tour pro Tadd Fujikawa says that not all homophobic comments are obvious to people, and sometimes not even intentional. But he says golfers need to become aware that things said, even if intended in jest, can have detrimental effects on players around you.
“Most of the time when homophobic remarks are made, they’re not really directed at a person, it’s maybe even directed at themselves,” Fujikawa says. “It can be very triggering. It’s something we need to be aware of. … Just a small comment, saying something jokingly, you don’t realize how hurtful that can be to someone. You hit a bad tee shot or hit a short tee shot and say, ‘That was so gay.’ … They can feel totally excluded from the sport.”
Make an evening at your course open to all golfers
Lots of courses have a men’s night and a women’s night. Fujikawa and Gallatin suggest creating space for LGBTQ golfers by having a night where all golfers are welcome.
“Courses could acknowledge an LGBTQ day, where obviously everyone is welcome regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, etc.,” Fujikawa says. “You could get the message out that way and totally welcome everybody regardless of who they are and really just bring everyone together as one.”
Gallatin agrees, adding that you could call it New Player league, or do an All Families Welcome league.
Don’t just celebrate LGBTQ golfers during Pride Month
“As it stands right now, when athletes of marginalized identities are included in the conversation, it’s in response to a social movement, to a certain holiday, to a tragic event that may have happened,” Reddy says. “And while, yes, it’s good to speak out around those times, it does send the message that athletes of marginalized identities are only valuable in specific moments and not the entire year.”