In her exclusive Today’s Golfer column, broadcaster and professional golfer Iona Stephen questions the social media trolls who criticize the quality of the LET and LPGA.
I’d love to watch Charley Hull take apart the man who claimed he’d make every cut and be one of the best players on the LPGA. It would be outstanding entertainment.
For those who haven’t seen what I’m talking about, stats expert Lou Stagner shared a direct message he’d been sent by a man on social media who claimed that hitting 290 yards off the tee and playing to a three-handicap on a 6,900-yard course makes him better than the majority of the players in the women’s game.
Stagner suggested the man would finish DFL (Dead F*cking Last) last in every event, while Hull, who’s preparing to play for Team Europe in the Solheim Cup, invited the man to step away from the keyboard and take her on in a match. She even said he could play off the red tees and she’d play from the whites… we await his response with bated breath.
Unfortunately, he’s not the first man to voice such opinions and he won’t be the last. There’s this blanket idea that power equals ability. At best it screams lack of awareness about how skilled LET and LPGA players are. At worst it’s ignorance.
I’m a professional golfer, but I’m also a professional broadcaster and I spend 90 percent of my time doing that. I would never in a million years think I could even come close to beating one of the incredibly talented women who play on the tours. Unlike amateur golfers, these players have dedicated their entire lives to the game and every waking hour to being the very best they can be. Not only that but they obviously have a level of ability that has enabled them to get to this position in the first place.
There are people playing off 30 handicaps who can drive it long – if the game was all about distance, then they’d be on Tour. That’s why What most people also forget is that accuracy is far higher on the women’s tours than it is on the men’s. Lizette Salas is the most accurate driver on the LPGA and has hit 88.9% of fairways this season, whereas Russell Henley and Adrian Otaegui, the leaders on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, have hit 71.74% and 73.23% respectively. That would be good enough for 69th and 54th on the LPGA.
Of course, the male pros hit it further – there are around 50 yards between the longest driver average driver on the LPGA and the leaders on the men’s tours – but they’re stronger and the women’s clubhead speeds are slower. In fact, the physical differences between men and women mean the only area where professional golf really has a level playing field between the sexes is on the greens, and there are plenty of women among the world’s best putters.
But the difference between being an elite professional women’s golfer and a recreational male golfer is vast. A lot of that comes down to consistency, particularly the closer you get to the green, and we know that’s where most amateurs cost themselves shots. But then there’s the difference in ability to adapt and deal with pressure.
We see it in Pro-Ams all the time – golfers with low handicaps, who are clearly good players, fall apart because there’s a crowd, they’re not used to a tournament course set-up, there are cameras pointing at them and professionals watching on. I played with Jon Rahm at Wentworth last year and I know the pressure impacts my game in that situation.
Plus, a lot of people think they’re better at golf than they truly are. Many amateurs base their yardages on the furthest they’ve ever hit that club, or how they should be scoring on the round of their lives. I’ve been lucky enough to have access to some of the best coaches and advice in the world and I still find golf impossible, especially if I’m not practicing regularly.
Even if you are a good player, who can shoot level par around your home course, that’s a totally different game. You know every route, lie and line on that course and play it every week. LET and LPGA players can go out and shoot level par or far better at a different venue every week, having had just a couple of days to prepare. They’re faced with different grasses, different climates, altitudes that impact your distances, differing green speeds, and even different types of sand in the bunkers.
It makes me sad as we try to make golf more open and inclusive that some golfers would disrespect and disregard the professionalism and ability that these women have with a cheap post on social media.
I hope the guy in question takes Charley up on her offer just to put an end to the ridiculous claims. She is so, so good at golf. The sound her ball makes when she strikes it on the range would be enough to intimidate most recreational golfers because it’s on a whole other level. She’ll play a key role in deciding who will win the Solheim Cup. If I were going to play her – or any of the top women players in the world – I’d be delighted if I even managed to get the match to the latter stages.
More mixed events
What all of this has made me realize is that I’d love to see more mixed professional events. The Scandinavian Mixed is a great event and it’s fantastic to see men and women in the same field, competing head-to-head. Linn Grant, below, winning the event in 2022 sent a big message, and Ann Van Dam gave the guys a good run for their money this year.
But what I’d ultimately love to see is a new team event that combines the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup with the six best men and six best women from Europe and the USA go at it in the same three-day format. It would be epic. It would be even tougher to qualify and would make sensational viewing.
I’d love to hear your views so drop me a line on X or Instagram… unless you’re just going to tell me how good you’d be on the women’s tours, of course!
READ MORE FROM IONA STEPHEN
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– I don’t want to see a golf ball rollback
– PIF merger guarantees DP World Tour’s future
– Slow play has to be punished
– Tiger Woods will win again
About the author
Iona Stephen is a former professional golfer, who has played on the Ladies European Tour, and is a highly-respected golf broadcaster.
She joined Today’s Golfer as a regular contributor in 2023 and offers insight into the professional game from her life working on the world’s biggest tours.
Stephen’s career has seen her work for Sky Sports Golf, CBS, the BBC, and NBC Golf Channel covering everything from The Masters and The Open, to the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup. She has also hosted prize presentations to a global audience at some of the DP World Tour’s flagship events.
Alongside her television work, Stephen also has her own YouTube channel – On The Road With Iona – which has welcomed guests including Jon Rahm, Niall Horan, Rick Shiels, Bronte Law, and Martin Slumbers.