Some top golf teachers won't teach female pros for fear of accusations of sexual harassment

Some top golf teachers won’t teach female pros for fear of accusations of sexual harassment

Pete Cowen is one of the world's great golf instructors. He's helped scores of male pros maximize their potential and find major championship glory. But the Englishman won't take on a female pro to help her do the same, and that's apparently rooted in the fear that he could be accused for some reason of being inappropriate with a female client.

Here's Cowen speaking to Global Golf Post.

All this political correctness we're hearing about on a daily basis is good in many ways but it's bad news for women's sport in general and golf in particular. Look at me on the range. I'm always pushing and pulling players in one direction or another to show where they need to be at different times in the swing. In this day and age, though, you can't risk doing that to a girl.

Just imagine how it would be if she was tough to teach and you felt the relationship wasn't working. You'd worry about getting rid of her in case she turned on you. She could easily say you touched her hips inappropriately, or something like that and, before you knew it, her remarks would be all over social media.

Once someone makes that kind of an accusation, it doesn't go away.

David Leadbetter is quoted in the piece as somewhat understanding Cowen's position. Cowen said other teachers he talks to back his view, and he suggested the need for a third party there for a male teacher-female pupil golf teaching session to ensure everything is kosher.

Former US Women's Open winner Alison Nicholas, herself now a teaching pro, said she's heard similar concerns from trainers and physiotherapists.

All of this sounds like cynical hogwash.

As the generation behind me (I'm 34) is appropriating a proper power to the meaning of consent, there is a fear from the generation in front of me that this threatens their world view, interactions and business models. It doesn't have to. Even as religious-zealot looney tunes try to tell men they should never met privately in a room with a woman that isn't their wife or partner or girlfriend -- which is ridiculous -- there are some pretty clear solutions to this perceived problem.

First, and this is obvious, don't touch someone where they don't want to be touched. Yes, golf instruction involves "pushing and pulling" and the laying of hands. Got it. But most golf instructors can communicate before the touching what they're trying to do. Explain, then get the OK to touch, then touch.

Second, if teachers and other golf-related professionals are that concerned about a potential false accusation, then have clients sign an agreement to have interactions taped or done in public view. This seems like giving in to the bizarre notion that a man can't help himself and a woman can't be honest, but, OK, the law is here to offer an odd compromise.

We don't hear this going the other way. No vocal female instructor I've heard is worried that she'll inappropriately touch a male student. Maybe that's because so many men think a woman can't possibly teach them how to play better, which is horribly sexist. Maybe that's because women seem to get setting boundaries. Either way, even having men think this way aloud sends a bad signal to potential female players that golf can't get over itself or move beyond its not-ideal past involving women.

Sadly, this view also impugns female professional and high-amateur golfers who want an instructor capable of taking them to the next level. The view demeans female pros as nothing more than craven people looking for someone to blame with a serious accusation if the instructor doesn't help a player produce results. Pro golfers can make plenty of other excuses for lousy play, but it's unfair to suggestion women would specifically accuse a male instructor of inappropriate behavior as a means of getting back at someone.

I understand. People are litigious. Reputations can be damaged easily and without much proof. Perhaps Cowen or one of his peers have been wrongfully accused in the past, and this is a veiled way of sharing that story. However, taking a cynical view of accusers amid a wave of speaking up about past incidents and turning it into a reason to not further the careers of aspiring female players seems misplaced.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]

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