Jill Beyer likes playing golf, so she encourages other women to try the sport. And a fair number of women do play at Wildwedge, the nine-hole course that Beyer owns with her husband near Pequot Lakes, Minn., (www.wildwedge.com), which also offers mini golf, a maze and an RV park.
But there was a problem: the golf-bag market was woefully short on styles designed to appeal to women. The vast majority of traditional golf bags have a more masculine look. They mostly come in darks or neutral colors. They’re often heavy.
Rarely, in other words, are they cute.
“I was always looking for stuff for women that I thought was cute and I couldn’t ever find anything,” Beyer said. “They had women’s bags but they weren’t anything special — just basically men’s bags but a little bit shorter. I was looking for something that was a little bit cuter. So I came up with the crazy idea to make my own.”
The result was Birdie Babe (www.birdiebabegolf.com), a line of golf bags for women. The name was inspired partly by the obvious golf terminology, but also by Beyer’s childhood family nickname, Bird, and by Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, winner of five major golf championships in the 1940s and ’50s and widely regarded as one of the greatest women athletes of the 20th century.
“Plus, I just thought it was cute and it made sense for my bags,” Beyer explains on her website.
Beyer found a manufacturer and picked out fabrics that she thought would appeal to women: “Florals, bright colors, a lot of pink.” Debuting in summer 2011, Birdie Babe bags are seven-pound stand bags with colorful designs, most retailing for about $180 (though some are marked down), available on her website and on Amazon.com.
Even the names are cute, including the pink “Checkered Past,” the leopard-print “Jungle Jane,” the bright-green “Lime in the Coconut,” the fuchsia and chartreuse “Margaritaville,” the zebra-print “Zsa Zsa Zebra.”
She also offers club headcovers to match the bags, hats and visors, gloves and other items — all, needless to say, cute.
The neglected demand for cute gear by the golf-equipment industry may reflect a larger problem in golf culture.
In general, women sometimes feel less than welcome on the course, Beyer said. Beyer hasn’t noticed the problem in Minnesota especially. Even nationally, things presumably have improved since a New York sports writer wrote, of Zaharias, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.”
But Beyer has heard of courses elsewhere “where they have a good-old-boy group who look down on women,” she said.
That may be changing, if only for economic reasons. The golf industry has been struggling, and at a recent PGA show in Florida, Beyer heard talk of trying to boost numbers by getting more women onto the fairway.
“They’re starting to realize that women are the largest growing segment of golf right now, and they’d better start paying attention to them if they want to grow their golf courses,” Beyer said. “But I think they need to put their money where their mouth is.”
Not only does Beyer find golf enjoyable, but she likes to point out that it’s a great sport for families to play together.
“My boys love to golf, and when all the other moms were complaining about how they have nothing in common with their teenage sons, guess what?” she writes on her website. “I go golfing with my boys and we have a great time together.”
Katy Read • 612-673-4583