Can women golfers break the 'grass ceiling?'

It may come as a surprise to those who consider golf as no more than a relaxing pastime that the golf swing is one of the most athletic actions in any sport.

It may come as a surprise to those who consider golf as no more than a relaxing pastime that the golf swing is one of the most athletic actions in any sport.

Swinging a golf club consistently with power uses the whole body. It is the coiling of the upper part of the body caused by a large shoulder turn against the resistance created by a stable lower half of the body that produces the power.

The work to achieve this is carried out by muscles in the legs, the back, the forearms, the wrists and the hands. As one teaching professional put it, small differences in the muscle power available in each of these areas can lead to big differentials in the overall power created in a golf swing.

This is why, in general, males, with bigger bones and bigger muscles, hit a golf ball further than female golfers. Men also tend to "lash" at the ball, while women usually prefer to hone their swing technique to produce greater control.

A recent rise in athleticism among top male professionals has not been mirrored among female players, increasing the divide. And there are arguably only small numbers of strong, athletic young girls interested in a career in sport, among whom golf has not attracted its fair share.

This could change. Michelle Wie is a 13-year-old from Hawaii who already hits the ball as far as the leading men and is planning a career on the men's and women's circuits after college.

In the meantime, girls need role models to turn to golf. That is where Annika Sorenstam comes in, while mixed memberships at Augusta and St Andrews would also help to destroy the so-called "grass ceiling".

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