'I Know That If I Was A Man With My Coaching Qualifications, The Amount I Charge For Lessons Wouldn’t Be Questioned'

Top 50 Coach Katie Dawkins highlights her incredible highs (and some lows) of being a female teaching professional

Katie Dawkins coaching
(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

I’ve been a qualified PGA professional since 2003. Back then there were very few of us. One of my resounding memories is sitting with renowned Sky Sports golf coach Tim Barter at Botley Park in Southampton and discussing the fact that this was a positive. 

Many women looking to improve their golf wanted a female coach. We were as rare as rocking horse poop back in the early 2000s. Looking back, my reasons for wanting to embark on this career stand strong. Here are the best things about being a female golf coach and some of the downsides to the job.

The Buzz

How does it feel to be able to help someone play better golf? It feels amazing. I get to make golfers smile and that’s special. When Billy Elliott is asked “How does it make you feel when you dance?” He replies, “It’s like electricity Miss” - that line makes the hairs stand up on my neck. 

This is exactly how coaching makes me feel and this feeling hasn’t changed since I first watched Tim Barter coach another player other than me. I spotted what he’d seen and heard him explain it to his pupil in a way that immediately made sense. I got a complete buzz and that was it, my path was flung out in front of me like a yellow brick road.

Katie Dawkins coaching

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

The Happy Zone

I go into a zone when I coach, which is high energy and happy. I’ve coached through some fairly dark times in my life, but still I find energy to give to others when it comes to often simple fixes within their golf games. 

I’ve also come to recognise when I’m about to burn out. There’s only so much energy I have to give and, as in life, you learn to stop before it’s too late. Just recently I had to take a break as my levels weren’t there. It is so important to be kind to ourselves and life teaches us this as well as golf… I’m so grateful for that.

As I exude this happy exterior, I do find that many pupils open up to me about things that are troubling them in life as well as their golf. We all know how this all knits together and affects our games, so I relish a life coaching session as well as helping someone to get more consistency in their wedge play.

The People

I will always stand by my opinion that golfers are some of the best human beings out there. One of my favourite parts of my job is coaching different characters and learning their stories, recognising their traits, how they learn, what makes them tick within minutes of meeting them, and ultimately getting to know them. This is golden and that unravelling of a person’s character is probably what I love most about my work.

Katie Dawkins and Nicky Lawrenson female coaches

Katie Dawkins speaking at Nicky Lawrenson's Women in Golf Business event

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

The Reaction

As a female in the golf industry, first impressions from many were hard to hide when answering the phone in the pro shop. A daily conversation would be, “Can I speak to the pro shop please?” When I said they were, people were utterly flabbergasted that I should know anything about golf, let alone be allowed to work in the pro shop! 

Golfers would constantly question how my lesson had gone with the pro, only to then be rather confused that it was actually me that had given the lesson. Attitudes haven’t changed much at certain clubs, but I have become far wiser as to where to direct my energy and how to react. 

I can now walk into most bars and clubhouse areas without being told off. Gone are the days of many a gentleman’s bar area where I would have been far from welcomed. I do find nowadays that my experience and achievements are respected by customers regardless of the fact I’m a woman. 

Emma Brown has been coaching for 15 years and while she is respected for her knowledge and experience, having given a vast number of lessons, Emma says, “Some people will never have a lesson from me, whether a man or a woman, as they don’t want to be told what to do by a woman, something opening said to me.”

One of the world’s best coaches, Pia Nilsson, said that when she and Lynnn Marriott took their first book, “Every Shot Must Have A Purpose,” to a publisher, it was recommended that as females themselves they rewrite it for a female audience. 

Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott

Lynn Marriott (left) and Pia Nilsson

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This duo would wipe the floor with the majority of male coaches when it comes to the depth of their knowledge and experience, yet Nilsson faced another challenge. When she became head coach in Sweden for the women’s teams in 1990 and had the exact same job as her colleague on the men’s side, it was suggested that her pay should be lower. Fortunately, she managed to get them to change their minds. 

This still happens all the time. I know that if I was a man with my coaching qualifications, the amount I charge for lessons wouldn’t be questioned.

Golf Fashion

When I first started playing golf I made up my style. A collaboration of high street fashion and Footjoy footwear with a flat cap over a french plait. I looked like something out of Oliver Twist! I wrote my own script, partly because there was no womenswear or interesting choices from most clothing brands. 

The choice on offer now is vast, but pro shops still need to learn what women actually want! I think that there is a preconceived idea of who a female golfer is and what a female golfer wants when it comes to kit. 

I’ve discussed in detail with FootJoy about the buying habits of professionals at clubs. So often a male rep goes into a male’s professional shop and that pro buys what he deems to be safe - black, navy, white. There is zero risk involved yet so often the safe stuff doesn’t sell. Women don't want safe!!

If both those individuals were female the whole colour scheme and offerings would be far more daring. Events are the way forward to encourage women to buy from golf clubs. Invite brands to do fashion shows and wellness events. 

Brands have always been supportive of me,  but I do feel that with the ever-growing social media phenomenon that the platform to promote products is so much broader. A company can reach every part of the globe within seconds. That’s powerful marketing especially with engaging characters creating content, wearing a certain brand!

Katie Dawkins

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

Golf Club Attitude

I’ve been pretty lucky in the places where I’ve taught, but I have had the odd spat here and there. I definitely feel that I have had to fight harder to be heard when It comes to what needs to be done to improve the club. 

I’ve been told by managers to tone down my enthusiasm and ideas as the head pro won’t like it. This has definitely held me back. Nobody wants to be outshone it seems, even if an idea is beneficial to the growth of the club.

Returning from maternity leave would always feel like starting again. As a self-employed professional it has definitely impacted earnings and a feeling of security in a role. Emma Brown adds, “There still aren’t enough women in golf/sport/coaching. probably because it’s such a hard industry as a female to get ahead and you have to work really, really hard.”

Emma Brown Female Teaching Professional

Coach Emma Brown

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lack Of Role Models

There were few women in the golf industry when I first started out. When I was introduced as the teaching pro, often golfers would assume I only coach women. It's true, many of my pupils are women but I would say it’s always been a 50:50 split. 

Many members assume a club appoints a female coach solely to teach juniors and women, as though we can’t possibly be qualified enough to coach men. I have always found this fascinating and hugely old-fashioned.

I’m not sure this attitude has improved much, especially at those clubs run by old-fashioned committees, but the industry as a whole, especially The PGA, are working hard to change outdated attitudes and attract more female coaches. In 2001 the PGA had 115 female members and 25 trainees, but fast forward to 2024 and the number is 257 members and 88 trainees. 

When I qualified as a PGA pro there were just three women in the top five of the PGA trainee of the year! Myself and Nicky Lawrenson, who has since established Women in Golf Business, remain great friends and still motivate each other. 

Fortunately, we now have a greater number of  incredibly strong role models within our industry for young women to aspire to such as Anna Darnelll, Resort Manager at The Grove and Alex Keighly, Head Pro at Huddersfield Golf Club.

Katie Dawkins coaching

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

Strength In Numbers

There are now more women coaching and greater diversity in the location and the way they coach. I’ve given golf lessons in car showrooms, cricket grounds, theme parks and sixth form colleges. 

The ability to just pop golf up anywhere has been around for a while, it just hasn’t been embraced quite like it is now. This is one of the most exciting things to look forward to. Golf can be whatever you want it to be and played anywhere.

Online Is Booming

When I turned pro there was no social media. We may have had Sony camcorders if we were lucky, but the ability to share knowledge and even coach across the internet was not doable. 

Nowadays, if you haven’t got an Insta account or the ability to coach online ,you’re in the minority. This is both a blessing and perhaps an opportunity to get lost down a rabbit hole of online content whilst posting your own. The reach is enormous now and for that I’m wholly grateful.

I wouldn’t want any other career. I can work outside, the golf course is  my office. My work with Golf Monthly and various courses/visits to coaches have taken me around the globe. How lucky am I?

Perhaps it would take me further if  I could switch my “Keep the Peace” filters off sometimes, stand up for myself and shout from the rooftops more often The golf industry definitely has a way of beating your confidence down even if you really know your onions. So, rule number 1 for this year is FILTERS OFF and here’s to making the most of this incredible industry in 2024.

Katie Dawkins
Advanced PGA Professional and freelance contributor

Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.

Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple. Katie is now based at the stunning Hamptworth Golf Club on the edge of the New Forest. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF during lockdown and as well as coaching at Hamptworth she freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve. 

She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. 

Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist.