The Solheim Cup starts this week, did you hear? Connor Douglas explores whether golf in Scotland is falling behind other major sports when it comes to interest in the women’s game.
This week we will see one of the biggest events in women’s golf starting over the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles. The world’s leading golfers from USA and Europe will be competing against each other in the Solheim Cup from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th September.
Until recently women’s sport popularity has been dwarfed by the success of the men’s game. It is clear though that this is beginning to change, with the Women’s World Cup in France being watched by record attendances and television viewers. This years Women Premier League in England will also feature games at the same large capacity stadiums used by the men’s sides. The main question is, has this rise in popularity reached the game of golf or is it falling behind other sports?
When it comes to attendance figures, there is no real comparison to the men’s Ryder Cup that took place over the same venue in 2014. At the start of July, just over 63,000 tickets had been sold to the event. Compared to the same number of tickets being sold to members of the public from outside Scotland alone. It is hoped by the event organisers that they can break the record of 80,000 tickets being sold for the event. What more can be done by the organisers to reach the target?
The official 2019 Solheim Cup Twitter account has less than 1,000 followers at the time of writing (the European team account does have 13.8k). There’s plenty of teaser content to build up the event across social media in the run up to the event from accounts such as Sky Sports Golf (248k followers), the LPGA (over 206k followers) and the Ladies European Tour (over 43k followers).
🇺🇸 – Can America make it 3 in a row?— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) September 5, 2019
🇪🇺 – Can Europe win it back at Gleneagles?
Team Europe look to return to winning ways at the Solheim Cup this September, with extended coverage of the biennial contest live on Sky Sports! 📺⛳
📲 – https://t.co/hYoStWAAWF pic.twitter.com/4CvJ0eJMde
Another comparison we can make between the two events is the interest that they create online. One of the tools that we can use to analyse this is Google Trends. As we can see from the graph below interest in Scotland is a lot higher for the Ryder Cup but over the past five years we can see various moments where the Solheim Cup exceeds this. August 2015 is the first time on this timeline that we can see this, coincidence or not that this is the same time period that the venue was confirmed as the host for the event?
It’s clear that the peaks in interest for the Ryder Cup in Scotland are larger, especially so when the event was hosted here in 2014. Does this indicate the build up to the Solheim Cup being held in Scotland have been relatively quiet? There’s only a small increase in interest at the latter stage of the graph above.
One of the most important things when it comes to growing the women’s game is showing that it can compete with the men’s game is the infrastructure of the event. When the event takes place next week we will see a very similar setup to that of the Ryder Cup in 2014. There will be less stands around the course, which is understandable considering the expected smaller attendance. However, organisers have ensured that the stand surrounding the 1st tee will seat 2,200, only 200 less than in 2014.
This not only creates a positive experience for the spectator that is attending but a busy grandstand creates a positive image of the women’s game for those watching on the television as well.
As always with events like this, legacy is one of the crucial aspects when it comes to success. Both of these events are aimed at very different markets.
The Ryder Cup is aimed at the individual who already has a keen interest in the sport and has an understanding, this can be seen with the content of the spectator village. It contains beer tents, food halls, large merchandise pavilions etc. Whereas, the Solheim Cup is very much focused on getting as many people into the event. With this in mind, the spectator village is very much family focused containing a soft play area, golf activity zone to get both young boys and girls involved as well as food and drink. It’s hoped that creating that positive experience will turn casual golf fans into more regular players and event attendees.
Link to Tickets
If you like the sound of this then why not head along for yourself and play your part in a piece of history for the women’s game?
Tickets can be bought at www.solheimcup2019.com and children go free!
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