our company has an annual golf trip … but the women don’t play

A reader writes:

Our smallish family-owned business has been taking our sales team on a long weekend golf trip on and off for many years. It is intended to be a reward, and little if any business is discussed when we are there. It’s mostly beer drinking, side betting golf, in a beach town with multiple golf courses, and a long weekend. Many of our team have young children, and the weekend getaway is well received and appreciated. The sales team of 10-15 people are the only ones eligible for the trip because they are paid via commission, and therefore do not receive bonuses under our pay structure.

Historically, all or very nearly all of our sales team have been male, and golfers. The managers are all golfers and our company is based in a town where golf is a big deal. This year, we have three female employees eligible for the trip who do not play golf. In the past if we had a male sales rep who did not play golf, he might come on the trip and ride in a cart, and just drink beer or observe, or might elect to not attend at all.

So we are currently trying to decide how to handle this year’s trip, without ostracizing anyone and also without taking away a much appreciated benefit. The proposed options include:

– Providing a separate cabin for the women, and offering them money (equivalent to the golf package spent on the men) to eat/shop/day trip in a nearby major destination city while the men are golfing.

– Providing them the separate cabin, but no other plan options (basically ride along on the course, and not miss the fellowship aspect of the trip). One of the women proposed being a “cart girl” passing out beers, but I don’t think the other women would appreciate such a plan.

– Offering a cash benefit, based on the value of the trip, and the day off, as an alternative to attending. The proposal was based on the assumption that some or all may not want to attend, but those that did want to could. But here is the catch — this would not be offered to the men. It has always been jokingly referred to as a mandatory trip, but it seems every year one or two people don’t attend.

Any thoughts on this? I feel like offering all three would cover our bases, but it doesn’t address the fact that if you are not actively playing golf in this tournament style weekend, you will be missing time with managers and owners of the company. I am a little nervous any time gender issues come up at work and feel like this situation is ripe to strike out with at least one of our female employees.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 339 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    Pull the golf trip entirely, and replace it with a trip that is not massively gender biased.

    If the men complain, it’s a new company policy, and not the fault of the women, and then monitor for retaliation against the women.

    1. ferrina*

      This is a perfect example of why privilege can be so hard to recognize and dismantle.

      “But it’s been working well for us, and we haven’t intentionally cut anyone out!”

      Yes, but people are being cut out with a divide among gender lines. The golfers (who all happen to be male) are establishing relationships, which make a huge difference in careers. “But we don’t discuss business” is a red herring- these are sales people, they know the importance of relationships.

      1. Tiger Snake*

        Businesses were perfectly capable of seeing the problem when it was in terms of letting people WFH or not. They know very well what the issue is.

      1. The Rafters*

        Same here. I literally can’t give any other advice b/c I’m too stuck on the fact that another *woman* suggested this.

        1. Cubicles and Chimeras*

          I’ve worked with these women, there are two kinds of these:

          – Women who are new to the workforce who don’t realize the problems behind this and sometimes legitimately think this is a great thing to do. (Trying not to stereotype but I swear every woman who is super excited by this idea tends to come from a sorority background, where they did things like this at Greek events that are often split by gender stereotypes, so it doesn’t feel weird to them.)

          – Women who think this is the only way they have the opportunity to still be a part of the event, because they know the problem of being left out, and they’re willing to look like the fool playing cart girl if it at least gives them face time. (Or are willing to make these dudes underestimate them because they’re the cart girl and will outplay them all in the sales game.)

        2. Wintermute*

          A lot of these things are an is/ought calculation.

          for instance, you are probably going to absolutely torpedo your work relationships if you’re the very visible reason that something people looked forward to and enjoyed went away. I’ve seen this over big and little things, not just things related to outside activities, and no one likes a spoil sport, even if they’re actually being the adult in the room. One example the person was probably being reasonable but they still ruined their working relationship with everyone.

          If you need a job and can’t afford to blow it up falling on the “Is what it is” not “make it what it ought to be” is really easy and can be a very rational personal choice.

        1. IamGladIamNotAlone*

          Caddies is something different. A “cart girl” is someone who drives around in a separate golf cart that is equipped with a cooler filled with beers/soft drinks/waters that they then pass out to the men, I mean golfers. I am a woman who plays golf and 100% of the time the cart bartenders are female.

    2. Ms. Murchison*

      I’m not sure monitoring for retaliation would be adequate. Ending a long-standing benefit of this size because it’s sexist and discriminatory is pretty much guaranteed to trigger a backlash against the women. The business needs to be proactive about discouraging that, and state explicitly that there will be significant consequences for complaining at all, much less actively retaliating.

    1. Nea*

      It is an old letter. IIRC the advice was “this is gender-based discrimination and the trips have to become something inclusive.”

      1. E*

        I hope no one ever suggests ‘cart girl’ as an alternative to golfing to me. I don’t think I could diplomatically respond to that.

        1. Ashley*

          I had co-workers who helped at a few golf outings and they loved being the ‘cart girls’. A few notes, they don’t understand why I get offended being called a girl, and B they were basically volunteers for something they weren’t part of it and it meant a day out of the office. Still never appreciated the terminology or implications it needed to be women to do that sort of thing. (Not to mention the whole drinking culture surrounding the outing.)

            1. Varthema*

              That’s actually what popped into my head too. self-segregation and self-infantilization, yup, that tracks.

        2. Chirpy*

          If someone suggests I should be a “cart girl”, I’m taking that cart and using it like a go-kart to ditch those guys. They can walk back.

    2. Jiminy Cricket*

      It’s old but not that old (2019). It should have been obvious to the “small, family-owned” business back then that you can’t discriminate. And 2018/2019 should not have been the first time women showed up on their sales team.

      1. badger*

        I think there are a lot of people who don’t realize that “fun trips” at which “no business is discussed” can come under the heading of discrimination. But it’s access and time spent strengthening connections with others that matters, not whether business is discussed.

        1. Galadriel's Garden*

          Yes, absolutely. The handful of times I’ve had direct access to the VP of my division in a non-work context, I’ve been able to make crucial business suggestions, have a bond-building conversation about a shared hobby/background, give greater insight into my ultimate career goals, etc…and all of these were just “have some drinks post-business dinner” scenarios, not an entire day of golfing. All of these times were a net benefit to my career, in a small or more substantial way. To say it’s all just in good fun, especially in a sales environment, is disingenuous.

      2. Observer*

        And 2018/2019 should not have been the first time women showed up on their sales team.

        100% And it’s something that a number of people pointed out to that LW. Basically, the golf outing and the whole potential for “drama” (form the men!) was seen as a sign of a bigger culture problem in the company. The LW’s initial responses definitely supported that conclusion. To his credit, he did finally start to get it. So, I think he learned something.

    3. Karma is my boyfriend*

      While it may be old, I had a similar conversation recently on another industry page and people had similar complaints as Alison lined out. So the more things change, the more they stay the same, sadly.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Its 2024, and I see pretty blatantly and openly “exclude the women either in name or implication” in my industry. Men’s tournaments (literally the title guys, and no, no there’s no equivalent women’s tournaments) for various sports, golf, sporting clays, pheasant shoots, its all still here.

    4. J!*

      It is older but 2019 was not that long ago. If I remember correctly one person in the comments suggested golf lessons for the women and the letter writer latched onto it even though Alison and a bunch of other people responded “do not under any circumstances do that, it’s patronizing and sexist.” *eye roll emoji*

      1. Despachito*

        Would it be the same if the lessons were offered to all non-golfers? (without specifying the gender, because certainly some women can play golf and some men cant’t)?

        This would allow to keep the perk and make more people enjoy it.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          It still doesn’t solve the issue for that trip, because while in this case the 3 women will be at the golfing lessons, the men will be still having the outing, networking opportunities.

          Plus, is it really a reward/perk for an employee if they have to learn a new skill (unrelated to their job) that they never planned to or ever wanted to learn themselves or may not physically be able to engage in as a requirement for participation in the main event of the offsite event?

          “Yay, you’re the top producing salesperson! We’re hosting a weekend for the top 10 sales people, it’s great fun! We all (SalesDudes #2 through 10, Sales Management and the company’s entire Leadership Team) will going Surfing/Hang Gliding/performing at an Irish Trad Music Festival, so you need to learn to surf/hang glide/play Bouzouki or Fife or Fiddle to be able to join in. Don’t worry, there will be lessons when you arrive.

          We’ll all be off actually enjoying the activity, hanging out, chatting, bonding while you’re taking the lessons, and may or may not be grumpy when you finally join up with us and slow us down, keep us from chasing the really big waves, currents and keep us out of the final music event because we’re not performing as a group as well as we used to.

          But it’s okay if this isn’t your thing; we won’t insist you come, and you’d rather skip it or if you’ve got a physical disability that keeps you from doing the activity, you can just *choose* to stay home”

  2. Yup*

    Hey, maybe how about *not* going golfing if not all your staff golf? Making it a trip centred around men and expecting the women to either join in or do stereotypical women stuff is not a great set of optics for this.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Women who act against their best interests like this make me a little crazy because I used to be one of those women. Internalized misogyny shows up in the strangest ways.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not sure that it was misogyny as much as trying to find a way to get face time in a way that’s palatable to the guys.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                But the “in a way that’s palatable to the guys” is inherent the issue (note LW’s concerns with blow back if they change things.) That woman didn’t choose the primary activity for the trip.

                It’s not necessarily internalized misogyny to rather participate in whatever capacity you can in an employer sponsored event featuring extended face time, relationship building with your employer’s leadership team and bonding with co-workers vs being left out entirely , or lodging a complaint about the inequity of the event. Especially since the latter 2 choices have a pretty solid history in many workplaces of leading to subtle and less subtle negative consequences to women’s advancement opportunities or continued employment.

          2. Moira's Rose's Garden*

            It may have nothing to do with internalized misogyny at all. A woman who adopts a less than palatable course of action to navigate sexism isn’t acting against her own best interest. She’s choosing among lack of alternatives as a rational actor, the course that makes the most sense for her position.

            “Eff you I’m not taking this crap” is laudable if your personal cost-benefit allows. But it may put your housing or ability to keep your kids in jeopardy and is a privilege lots of women don’t have.

        2. not nice, don't care*

          Much of American culture is built on self-policing by those whose backs it is built on. Religion being a big example.

    1. Lucia Pacciola*

      I know the letter strikes a weirdly sexist tone, but this question isn’t actually about men vs women. It’s about golfers vs non-golfers. The issue can be discussed without resorting to sexist stereotypes.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        As Allison mentions in her response, golf outings have been one of the ways that men have historically excluded women from informal networking events. It’s not as blatant as having after hours meetings at strip clubs, it also has the veneer of being “equal,” but it very much is not an activity that sponsors equal interest between the sexes, especially for younger professionals.

        1. Czhorat*


          And something can be formally neutral (everyone can golf! Some people just choose not to!) and de facto sexist (golfing is a very male-coded activity, and none of the women in the company golf while most of the men do).

          1. Quill*

            Also when participating in a sport as an amateur and especially a woman, there’s not a lot of leeway to be a complete newb in front of your coworkers!

        2. Cinn*

          Exactly, how many clubs still don’t let women play? And how many that do still have separate bars/club rooms?

          1. Slartibartfast*

            And even if it’s a truly coed course, the women have separate tees. So there’s still a psychological separation and the menfolk looking at your rear where you can’t see them.

      2. dawbs*

        It isn’t all about sexism…but at the same time, the sexist history of golf and country clubs is a part of it. (and that will rear it’s head again with race)
        The american PGA didn’t allow women until 1977. Locally, the clubs near me didn’t allow women full access until I was in high school.

        SO it is about golfer/nongolfer. But there’s a reason so many men fall into ‘golfer’ and so many women are nongolfers.

        1. Jiminy Cricket*

          Exactly right. Augusta National, one of the top golf courses in the country, admitted its first women members in 2012. (They didn’t admit their first Black member until 1990.) To quote someone above: Not the Eisenhower Administration.

          1. Observer*

            Augusta National, one of the top golf courses in the country, admitted its first women members in 2012.

            I knew some of the back story, but this is new to me. Worse than I thought.

            1. Worldwalker*

              “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.” — Clifford Roberts, co-founder of the Augusta National Golf Club

              And that didn’t change until 13 years after his death. 8 years after someone sued Home Depot in California because they only hired women for registers. 5 years before someone at the parts counter of an AutoZone ignored me to take the next customer and, when I objected, said “Oh, I thought you were with someone.”

              Not the Eisenhower administration.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          And classism too. While I know the issue here is gender, I think golf has a lot of problematic associations. It is very much a game associated with upper-middle class and upper-class white males. I can see other demographics feeling uncomfortable in a golf club, even if they aren’t formally excluded. (That’s not to say there aren’t women who enjoy golf or people of other demographics who do, but…I suspect the number of middle class and above white males who would feel comfortable in a golf club is higher than most other demographics.)

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            I absolutely agree, golf has definite class associations. I’m glad somebody pointed this out!

      3. Fikly*

        Of course it’s sexist. It’s not a stereotype when the numbers back it up.

        When you say something is a stereotype when it isn’t, that’s contributing to the problem by denying it, and while it’s very tempting to want to make the problem go away by denying it exists, particularly if you are a woman, it’s just making it worse.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          My mom’s from Alabama and I grew up hearing this…until at some point when someone asked, “States rights to what?” and it finally sunk in.

      4. borealis*

        But it isn’t really about golfers vs non-golfers, because if it were, non-golfers other than women would be eligible for option 3, and option 1 would not exist at all.

      5. Ashley*

        I have been to golf outings where it is difficult to get to lunch because it is taking place in the Men’s Grill. The fact that Men’s Grills exist says a lot about the inherent sexism in golf. I can’t say all golf clubs still have them but I know many many in my area still do and I find it completely gross.

        1. JustaTech*

          At my parent’s golf club there was a medium-sized uprising from the women members during a recent renovation that resulted in the “Men’s Grill” being turned into the “Grill” that was open to everyone and not inside the men’s locker room.

          At my in-law’s golf club not only is the “Men’s Grill” still inside the men’s locker room (and it is acceptable to go to eat in your towel) but while the men’s locker room is a really nice space the women’s locker room is (by my MIL’s description) basically your high school locker room, cold hard benches and metal lockers.

          And my in-laws’s club is confused why they have so few women on the course!

      6. Observer*

        The issue can be discussed without resorting to sexist stereotypes.

        In theory. In practice, at least in this particular case, absolutely NOT.

        For one thing the divide in this company absolutely was gender based. This was the first year that the team actually HAD “women” (plural), to worry about. The only options the OP could come up with penalized the non0golfers and were totally based on gender stereotypes. And the *only* suggestion that the OP had gotten (at least that penetrated) was the women should be “cart girls”, which is as gendered as you get.

        Not everything is about gender, true. But it’s really not helpful to pretend that gender doesn’t play a role when it *clearly* does.

      7. not nice, don't care*

        We don’t actually live in that world. Most women live in a weirdly hostile sexist one.

      8. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        If it impacts women more than men, either specifically for this company or generally,* it is about gender equality. The LW is not talking about stereotypes, they are talking about individual specific women who do not golf.

        *77% of golfers are men.

      9. Lilac*

        Even if we ignore the sexist history of golf, the LW didn’t say “some men and women in my office like to golf, and some don’t.” They said that nearly all of the men and none of the women enjoy golfing. Regardless of whether they intended to exclude women, that’s effectively what they’re doing.

      10. Twix*

        It can and should be discussed in non-gendered terms. For example, I’m male and have less than zero interest in golf. I would be pissed if all of my female colleagues got to opt out of the golf weekend and take a cash bonus instead, but I didn’t have that option.

        It is also an issue that is clearly sexist, albeit (mostly) implicitly. It can and should be talked about in those terms too. For example, while I wouldn’t want to go on a golf trip, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable or objectified or unwelcome on a golf course. I’d be unhappy that the trip was based around an activity that I personally dislike, not that it was never intended to appeal to people like me in the first place.

        When something is historically the purview of one demographic, especially something that has been actively hostile to people outside that demographic, you can’t just divorce it from that.

      11. Emily Byrd Starr*

        It makes me wonder how they would handle it if there were three men who didn’t golf. The OP says that in the past, there sometimes had been one man who didn’t golf, and he just tagged along. It seemed that there was never more than one non-golfer at any time in the past. I also wonder how they would handle if there were only one woman, and she didn’t golf? Or more than one non-golfer of any gender? Or there were three women, and only one of them golfed?

  3. Lilo*

    Alison nailed this one. The golf trip is fundamentally flawed and the bandaid solutions will not fix it.

    The other thing I might add is golf is a bad choice, in addition to the general gender breakdown, because it is also generally a game that requires some money to play. My husband ran into this in his corporate job (that he has thankfully moved on from). He’s the first person in his family to go to college, he didn’t have any kind of opportunity to learn golf and certainly didn’t own clubs, but was basically taken aside and told he had to buy the clubs and learn. That stuff costs quite a bit of money.

    1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      My dad was from a poor-ish family and when he got into law school, he immediately started buying clubs when he had a little extra money and would drive 40+ miles to a cheap(er) course to practice. It was an investment in his career and he viewed it as paying off- but he was so happy when he retired and could finally quit golfing!

        1. Zelda*

          Much accessible. Many inclusive. Wow.

          (I know it’s more economically accessible, but it’s significantly less physically accessible, and my guess is not really equally appealing to all genders.)

          1. Hats Are Great*

            I think it depends where you live. In Chicago there’s a long, long history of co-ed recreational adult softball leagues. It comes in various flavors with various levels of competitiveness (largely determined by the size of the ball and the allowed pitches). Everyone I know grew up playing rec softball and just about everyone I know played in a rec league as an adult. A lot of the rec leagues also have other rules to be more accessible — you can hit, but have a substitute runner go on base for you, if your knees aren’t so great. A lot have informal “jogging only” rules and it’s bad form to RUN the bases or RUN to make a catch. We’re all there to enjoy the six nice days of Chicago summer and drink beer while our kids make fun of us, not to win.

            My kids are continually impressed by how reliably their unathletic mother can smack a softball hard enough to get a base hit. It’s not because I have any talent for it, it’s just that I played SO MUCH OF IT it’s pure muscle memory.

          2. nodramalama*

            i dont know, are you just assuming women in general don’t like sport? In australia softball is predominantly played by women, not men.

            1. Zelda*

              “Women overall are less interested in playing sports recreationally as adults than are men” is not at all the same idea as “women in general don’t like sport.” What I proposed was a guess that it is “not equally appealing to all genders,” meaning that there is a *difference* in the level of interest, not that women *as a whole* don’t like it.

              You and borealis are both comparing softball to baseball, but I’m comparing softball to “can we have a bonding activity that is Not Sports for once, darnit.” If one has mobility issues, or if one is not sports-inclined (which I will propose is more common among women than men, so you get a disparate-impact argument, even if Not All Women), then softball is even worse than golf.

              1. borealis*

                Sorry, I did the thing where I zero in on a detail that’s not really that relevant. I was curious about softball (because I have a very fuzzy memory of the one time I was told the rules, and I have never known the rules of baseball) but that’s actually beside the point here.

                I agree with you. I am not athletic or interested in sports at all, and the notion of enforced sportsing together with colleagues seems rather awful to me – and I don’t think that is a particularly gendered attitude.

                1. Hannah Lee*

                  The one time I played softball as a post-college adult, it was at a post-work event for a co-ed rec league team that was ‘sponsored’ by my employer.
                  The team was short a player, someone suggested I (there and dressed as a spectator) sub in as the team’s catcher and I did (since not doing so seemed like it would cause the team to forfeit and it would have the opposite effect on relationships with my co-workers than I intended when I showed up to have a beer and cheer them on)

                  Two things a) I remembered that while I was active as a teen, young adult, softball was never my thing and b) I realized that being in and getting into a crouched position for many many many minutes over the course of the evening when that is not an activity you typically do means that your lower body is basically in constant pain and non-functional the next day. (A spectacularly bad turn of events when the the next day is the day you are moving out of your 3rd floor apartment … I wasn’t always a great forward thinker in my 20s)

                  (oh wait, there was a 3rd thing … some of my co-workers were jerks, because they knew catcher could be a physically tough position and did not warn me about the likely next-day outcome, and thought it was funny)

          3. borealis*

            Interesting! I thought softball was a simpler and less demanding version of baseball played mostly by kids and women – I’ll have to look it up, now. (I had to play softball once, at the annual “foreign sports” theme day at school. We had to attempt to learn a couple of different sports; in other years we had kabbadi, and hurling, and possibly lacrosse. I mostly remember being disappointed that cricket was never included.)

            1. Dek*

              I mean, that basically is what it is. I don’t know if it’s simpler, but it’s a bit less demanding (in that hitting a softball doesn’t make your hands hurt the way a baseball does…found that out the hard way a month back)

    2. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

      A golf trip also assumes that everyone is physically capable of playing golf. So it discriminates based on physical ability and ADA concerns in addition to economic privilege and gender.

      1. tree frog*

        And it is exlusionary to BIPOC people in a similar way to how it’s exclusionary to women (and people of marginalized genders). It’s just an elitist cultural institution all around. And bad for the environment.

        1. allathian*

          How bad golf is for the environment depends on the climate. In temperate climates (where golf was invented) the load is much smaller because the greens don’t have to be irrigated, but courses are certainly bad for the environment in desert climates because they require so much irrigation.

          That said, I’m rather sad that Tiger Woods’s success hasn’t made the game more accessible to other BIPOC people.

          1. Quill*

            There’s also the pesticide / herbicide use, but that can be mitigated… (though that has historically not been much of a concern of the golf courses themselves unless it’s also a cost savings.)

  4. mouse*

    I remember reading this letter when it was first published and I’ve always been curious as to how it played out. If OP was successful in moving the company away from the Guys Golf Weekend to something more inclusive I’d love to know how it was accomplished. I feel too often the reaction from management who like The Way Things Are can be to throw a bit of a tantrum and just say “fine, guess we can’t have nice things anymore” and whatever perk was under review gets shelved without anything else being put in place – leading to resentment and an us vs them mentality.

    1. MsM*

      For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a lot of places that used to do golf tournaments as fundraisers move away from that in recent years. I can’t say for sure it’s indicative that golf’s not as popular a networking activity as it used to be, but at the very least there’s not enough of an audience to make those events worth the headache of organizing.

      1. Anonariffic*

        I heard that an organization in my area that’s previously done golf and softball tournaments as fundraisers is going to be switching to pickleball this year on the theory that that’s what all the cool kids are playing now.

      2. Ashley*

        I know it has been a bigger struggle for people to complete a foursome in my industry as the years pass. I do think more and more people aren’t participating it in for a variety of reasons, and as a non-golfer it makes me glad because if you do play you do get access and networking.

    2. Hats Are Great*

      My first question was, why can’t they do a nice weekend at a resort where there are a variety of whole-group activities, and a couple of time slots where there are activity choices, one of which could be golf? Of course you’d have to ensure the managers spread out across the optional activities, and didn’t all just go golf.

      1. borealis*

        Well, a weekend trip isn’t really ideal for a lot of people, and a perk that didn’t involve any travelling would be less exclusive.

    3. Katie Impact*

      Unfortunately I’d guess you’re likely to be right; the golf trip may well have been replaced with no trip at all because too many of the men pushed back against any alternative (and, well, legally you can’t have a company trip that men won’t attend any more than you have a company trip that women won’t attend, even if the situation isn’t symmetrical in practice).

  5. Melissa*

    Small and family owned doesn’t negate being equitable in how you “reward” your people. This is so frustrating.

  6. Jiminy Cricket*

    I appreciate this answer so much, both because it is clear and ethical and because it demonstrates how powerful and important legal workplace protections against discrimination are.

  7. Still an Admin*

    “Will it disappoint the people who liked and looked forward to this trip each year? Yes! It will. And it’s still what you need to do if you want to be a workplace that’s inclusive (and legally sound).”

    Yeah, the people who benefit from systemic inequities are always disappointed when they can’t anymore.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. Reminds me of Montgomery Boat Brawl last summer – “what do you mean we can’t park our boat to block the city owned tour boat?”

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Sort of a 1, 2 of

        1)”we want the privileged class to keep the privileged we’ve always taken (because we had all the power)”
        PLUS ”
        2) “we ALSO want to deny the non-privileged classes ANYTHING and EVERYTHING ELSE, EVEN THE CRUMBS because we wanna and we assume we can …. and will throw a giant collective often violent temper tantrum if anyone tries to stop us, salting the Earth for all eternity if it comes to that”

  8. Lizzay*

    Obviously, everything Allison said. But if you don’t offer bonuses to sales staff, how can you offer cash instead of the trip? Wouldn’t that be… a bonus? But ugh, yeah. Find something more inclusive. And I like to golf!

    1. Lea*

      Yes none of it makes sense

      I’m guessing this was a perk for the big bosses in large part to write off a fun golf weekend or they would not mind just giving a bonus

    2. soontoberetired*

      We have a contest where winners get to a resort destination. What you do there is up to you, but it isn’t built around an activity. This is so doable for any company.

  9. Spicy Tuna*

    Years ago, a good friend of mine worked at a small company that did an annual trip as a reward (don’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t gendered or centered around activities that would exclude anyone). One or two people were required to stay behind to keep the bare minimum of the office going. Those folks were given the same amount of money to spend on a trip of their own planning / choosing. My friend opted to stay behind one year and the two of us took a fantastic trip to Belize. She knew she would be leaving the company soon and didn’t particularly care to “bond” with co-workers, so it was a perfect solution.

    1. UKDancer*

      I think that’s a great idea. As someone who doesn’t enjoy holidays with co-workers I would have been the first to volunteer for money to go towards a trip of my choice.

  10. She of Many Hats*

    I really like the suggestion of planning something new for the next trip but completely change it up. The company has been going to the same city for years, choose a whole new place with completely different entertainment options such as Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco, Boston or wherever. Heck, the previous year’s top salesperson gets to choose the next city to add extra spice to the sales drive.

  11. I'm just here for the cats!*

    How ironic that the letter says that ” Many of our team have young children, and the weekend getaway is well received and appreciated.” and the next paragraph says they are mostly men. So basically the guys get a fun weekend away from helping their partners and spending time with their kids, and can claim to their partners that it can’t be helped its a required business even.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      They also seem to be staying in group cabins. Does each family get its own cabin, or is it more collective than that?

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I assume the rest of the family isn’t there, which is why it’s so nice for Dad to have the getaway.

        That is my favorite (“favorite”) nugget of this letter! What a mess.

        1. CB212*

          Yeah, since LW suggested “a separate cabin” for the women, I take it this is shared cottages for employees only – not family cabins.

        2. tree frog*

          If the sales team’s families came along, I think it would have been inevitably suggested that the women on the team hang out with the men’s wives for the weekend.

          (I am assuming that if any of the men had non-female partners, they would not have been open about that in this company.)

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Been on the receiving end of almost exactly *this*, and let me tell you how much I have in common with my male counterparts’ wives….

            ….other than being a woman, its a bonus if there’s anything else in common. Sometimes its fine (we get along great and can do things outside of work) and sometimes its ridiculous (I get accused of making a play for her husband (!) or that I’m “stealing accounts” from her husband (!!))

    2. Jiminy Cricket*

      I noticed that, too! I started that sentence sure it would end completely differently: “Many of our team have young children, so it’s hard for them to arrange childcare. That’s why we need to plan these things really far in advance, so we can’t change it for this year.”

      But, no.

    3. Generic Name*

      I totally cringed when I read “the time off is much appreciated” right after the statement that many (men) on the team have young children. This whole thing is so retrograde. In my office, the men with small children are more likely to say, “I can’t attend this optional weekend out of town thing BECAUSE I have small children”.

    4. BellyButton*

      Yes! I was not surprised it is a sales team, and I really wish I knew what industry this is. Is it one that has a history of being male dominated and a “good ‘ol boy” mentality. I have worked in several of those industries and teams.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I first read that as “the spouses and small children come, and so I know there’s a variety of activities at the resort and some fun for everyone” and then… no, apparently that’s not the gist.

    6. Lea*

      It was fascinating that this was not followed by information about if any of the women had children and for some reason I thought the whole family went on
      This trip?

      1. tree frog*

        There’s no indication of that. And I don’t think the “deal” of stay at home parenthood involves taking care of young kids and doing all the other household labour all weekend while your husband golfs and drinks beer.

      2. basically functional*

        Actually, each couple gets to figure out their own “deal.” It doesn’t matter how you think things should work.

      3. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Wow. Just WOW.

        We’re supposed to be “kind” and “civil” here, so I’ll leave it at that.

    7. Filicophyta*

      So much this. So what they’re “getting away from” is parenting their children? While their partner does it?

    8. amoeba*

      I mean, fwiw, I’d much appreciate it if society was more accepting that that’s a great thing for women with little kids, too! It’s not though, I know that. But I do know many mothers for whom a trip away without their family basically sounds like heaven (even if it’s a work trip, actually). They much too rarely get to take one, though, because sadly society still reserves that for men…

      1. Varthema*

        I LOVE trips away from my kids, and I like to think we have an egalitarian household, but… it’s just not the same. I can’t just up and leave as seamlessly as my husband can. this is likely because my kids are 3 and 1, but still.

        Anyway, the salient point is that in an egalitarian household, one partner going away for a weekend is a Big Ask. That throwaway comment by the LW heavily implied that none of these gentlemen saw it as a Big Ask. (and, I’d sort of resent having to spend one of my Big Asks on a work trip, TBH.)

    9. Dek*

      Shows where my brain is, because I read that as a “getaway” for the whole family being appreciated, because it gave the kids somewhere new to go and run around.

  12. Nea*

    Putting a direct link to the original posting will disappear my comment into moderation, so I’m going to say if you click “All the men go camping” link under You May Also Like, then the original post shows up under You May Also Like on that post.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I appreciate that OP recognized that something that worked well at one point in time might not fit as the group of people changed. This can happen for all sorts of things that were once an answer to “so what would make your employees feel appreciated?”

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh my goodness yes!
        So many of the hurt feelings coming from some people in management are really just their inability to see that something that was great fun in 2017 (or 2012) with 100 people is sad and awkward and too expensive in 2023 with 35 people.

        Let it go, and let us find something new.
        (Am I sad the Halloween party died? Yes, very. But please let’s bury this stinking corpse and try something new.)

    2. Non-profit drone*

      This is good. The OP sounded really reasonable in their letter and genuinely wanted to make things fair all around.

    3. AMH*

      That’s good, because OP’s earlier comments show the danger of replying when you’re still freshly feeling defensive. I remember reading this at the time and feeling less and less like he was genuinely interesting in fixing the problem — I’m so glad he took the time to reflect and take in what people were telling him. It took real guts to come back and own up.

  13. Dust Bunny*

    *) join the 21st century and let this idea go.

    People can golf on their own time. Work-oriented things should be inclusive.

  14. Orange You Glad*

    My company does a similar trip as a reward for top salespeople and other employees the company wants to recognize. It is not advertised as a “golf trip”, just a company retreat. They rent a resort in Florida. Day 1 is a casual dress team-building activity (it’s in a conference room so more like work training than fun outdoor activities). Day 2 everyone has the option of booking a golf tee time or a spa treatment. There is an evening awards ceremony one night too. Everyone who attends can bring a +1 who can also select golf or spa.
    I have no idea how exclusive the golf portion is, but they at least don’t try to market it as a golf weekend. The idea is to reward everyone and I think giving other options for activities does that.
    (Unfortunately I can’t attending my company’s trip this year due to conflicting personal plans)

    1. Ground Control*

      Have any of the senior leaders who attend ever selected the spa option? Or are they always doing the golf option? Attendees have a choice in what they do, but if leadership is only doing the golf option then taking the spa choice means people would still be missing out on quality time with their higher ups.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Adding to that, spas are full of solo activities, so you’re not getting as much facetime with anyone (leadership or otherwise). It’s not like I’m trying to get a couples massage with the VP of Sales or hang out in the steam room with my half-naked leadership team! Korean spas (and other types of spas, I’m sure) have “experience rooms” where people can hang out in groups, but you’re typically in bathing suits for those, or sweltering in a robe.

        I think the commenter who mentioned all-inclusive resorts with a wide variety of activities had it spot on. Golf or spa is an underwhelming menu of options.

        1. UKDancer*

          It would depend what it was. If it was a treatment in a treatment room on my own with a beauty therapist I would be happy. I wouldn’t be as keen on something involving being in a hot tub or sauna with colleagues.

          That said I do go to a training course in a hotel with a pool and have bumped into colleagues there which isn’t my favourite thing but I can live with it.

        2. GrooveBat*

          My former company used to do an annual reward trip. There were a lot of activities to choose from, but there was always a spa day. And, for whatever reason, my boss and his wife would always end up in the lounge area at the same time my friend and I were there. We ended up joking about our “awkward robe moments” and after a while, it just became funny

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Not the point, but the entire trip strikes me as the opposite of a reward. Literally no part would I consider anything other than something to be endured. I suppose I could find a comfy chair and bring a book, but I have a comfy chair and books at home.

      1. Orange You Glad*

        There is that too, and there are definitely some people here who feel that way and don’t attend. I have no idea what is done for them. This is the first year I was in a role eligible to attend.

    3. Emily Byrd Starr*

      That works because you offer the option of golf or the spa to everyone, rather than insisting that the men golf and the women go to the spa. Even if all the men choose golf and all the women choose the spa, at least they have the option.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        But Alison addresses this too – even if the divide is opted into, it still can’t happen in a work environment and the company would need to change up their approach so that a split by sex/gender doesn’t happen.

      2. Not a golfer*

        We did this with my last board meeting/orientation- company paid for one round of golf or one spa treatment (massage or mani-pedi). At least one of my male members elected to get a massage and at least one of my female members elected to play golf; I can’t remember otherwise.

  15. Sara*

    I, as a woman, specifically took up golf because there were optional sales functions that revolved around golf at my company. Not for our company for outings, but for vendors or outside clients or sponsored events we had tickets to. It was always offered as a ‘hey we have extra spots if you want to join us” but it was a free day off work and I wanted in! lol

    I think that the company might find people would rather not be away for a weekend if they’re given the chance – weekends should be work free, not a work reward.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      My brother-in-law took up golf because, as a consultant, he figured out that this was a needed skill. He doesn’t enjoy it, but he can do it if he has to.

    2. Observer*

      The OP originally was extremely resistant to what people were trying to tell him, and he kept on bringing up this issue. But that doesn’t make a golf outing any better *as a reward* for staff, or as the primary way for staff to bond and get face time with leadership.

      On the other hand, a lot of people recognized what you mention, and the idea of offering *optional* golf lessons to any sales staff that are interested as a *sales tool* was pretty enthusiastically received.

    3. Venus*

      I learned the basics of golf when I was invited to several best-ball tournaments, but thankfully I didn’t have to play well. They’d typically have one good player in the group, and the rest of us would enjoy golf carts and a day out that ended with a nice meal.

  16. JP*

    I live in a pretty conservative area of the US, and my mentor at the time very matter of factly told me that I was bound to miss a ton of networking opportunities because I didn’t play golf, and, more importantly, because I was a woman. It wasn’t something that he agreed with, it’s just how it was. Even if I was a golfer, most men weren’t going to want to spend an afternoon hanging out on the course with a woman. Especially if she happens to be a better player. More recently, I’ve seen signs of that changing as younger generations move into higher up positions, but golf is absolutely still a de facto boys club around here.

  17. BellyButton*

    Please, ladies, do not offer to be the “cart girl” *gag* Do not give them any reason to develop a bias that women are there to serve them and make their lives easier, or god forbid a way to sexualize you. *shudders*

      1. OMG It's 2024*

        I REALLY really hope she said it super sarcastically like “Hey I have an idea, we can be CART GIRLS and bring you big strong sweaty men your ice cold beer!” And not seriously…because… seriously???

      2. Ally McBeal*

        It’s internalized misogyny. I doubt she thought about the optics at all. I was raised in conservative religious circles and until about 10 years ago would’ve loved to be cart girl because I’ve been in stage and event management for ages and enjoy the hospitality aspect of those roles. But then I took a job at a historically women’s college and forcefully knocked all that submissive crap out of the corners of my brain where it’d been hiding. You won’t catch me competing for male approval anymore… but my mother is still very much in that mindset and it’s painful to watch.

        1. BellyButton*

          I posted below that I was told in grad school to learn to golf and be ok with going to strip clubs as I prepared to enter a male dominated field. Once I was working professionally I was coached by women to learn to be “one of the boys” or my career wouldn’t go anywhere. It was a messed up message that so many of us grew up hearing. “boys will be boys!” and you better be ok with and and try to fit in.

      1. BellyButton*

        You’re right, I wasn’t thinking. I try to steer clear of “ladies” but in the moment of being appalled at the idea of a woman offering to be a cart girl I reverted to old habits. It happens.

    1. EC*

      The woman who suggested it needs to be shut down hard. Do not let anyone set a precedent where women are there to be servants. It creates a tiered system where the men are the real employees and women are just there as decoration.

    2. Kel*

      I think it’s also possible it was a way for her to make sure she was included, though. Someone announces a golf game, in your company, where you’ll have facetime with the owner, and you don’t golf, don’t want to golf, but you are desperately trying to make the ‘best’ of a situation.

      I feel more bad for this person than anything.

      1. Observer*

        I agree with you. And it was one of the things I brought up to the LW when he repeatedly try to claim that it’s not REALLY exclusionary. Like, why else did he think she suggested this? She was so desperate to get the face time without making the guys mad that “those WOMEN” “took away” their treasured golf game, that she came up with this. And based on what the LW said, it’s pretty clear that some of the guys would be ticked. And that if it was seen to have been done to “please the women” it would have negatively affected the women.

        Good idea? Absolutely not! Did it need to be shut down? Definitely! But to me, at least, it was more of an indication of the problems in the company than anything else.

        1. OMG It's 2024*

          I have to admit, I hadn’t thought of it this way, but it does make sense in a twisted way that she was trying for inclusion in the only way she felt open to her. Ugh how sad.

  18. HonorBox*

    This is presented, rightfully, as a more gendered question, but it isn’t solely about gender. I’m male and also don’t golf. I might enjoy riding along in a cart for a round, but not a weekend’s worth of rounds. I think it is (was) time to put this trip idea to rest. While the owners and managers might enjoy golfing themselves, as the team grows, there will be people of both sexes that don’t love the idea of golf as a work reward. Time to reset the ideas and expectations, and I hope the LW was able to help do that.

      1. LoraC*

        Traditional golfing on a course maybe, but gamified driving ranges like Top Golf are absolutely booming, for all genders.

        1. UKDancer*

          Is Top Golf what we call Mini Golf where you have things like a watersplash, different levels, some element of theming? If so I agree that’s a lot of fun. Much more fun than normal golf and more accessible.

          1. Lyra Belacqua*

            Top Golf is more like bowling, so people take turns hitting a ball really far with a golf club (not a golf person!) and get points depending on where it lands. There are small teams that play against each other, like at a bowling alley, and a bar and food. I’ve gone and not participated in the golfing and didn’t feel excluded, since even those who are playing have a lot of down time between turns.

        2. Dek*

          My Dad got my and my siblings a gift card for Top Golf as a Christmas gift, since one of my brothers was only in town for a bit and he thought it would be a nice afternoon for us to hang out. We were skeptical, but it would up being a lot of fun and we even extended our session a bit. We are all Very Bad at golf (and also at pool) (and I’m bad at mini golf…I managed to injure myself and lose my sunglasses last time).

    1. Menace to Sobriety*

      My company flies the entire staff to a resort once a year for 3 days at a location near their headquarters. Once there, everyone does their own thing. If 4 people, whether male or female, want to go golf? They go. If half a dozen people want to lay around the pool? They do. If people want to visit local sites of interest? They jump in an uber and go. There is no structure or expectations as to what people will do and with whom. Usually everyone sort of just organically mingles in the morning at breakfast and plans their day, and again in the evenings over drinks and ad hoc dinners (I’m feeling Indian; anyone else up for it, type stuff). I don’t golf, but I certainly don’t feel excluded by those who do. They’d probably be doubled over laughing at my attempts if I tried. I’m happy sitting by the pool and reading something that isn’t related to work!

  19. Bad Wolf*

    I just don’t understand how golf became a male activity. It’s not a demanding sport. It doesn’t require a physical stamina that would put women at a disadvantage. Plenty of women play AND enjoy golf.
    And as far as a work retreat trip, all OP has to do is make sure the game is not competitive. So that folks who don’t play regularly (women and men!) can enjoy an afternoon of knocking a ball around with a cocktail in their hand.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      That makes it accessible to older, inactive men. They can feel sporty without having the physical ability to play much sport.

      I mean, how did most sports get to be mostly male? They started out that way and never got around to supporting women, by which I mean they actively excluded them until absolutely forced to budge. Sure, we have a WNBA now but let’s not pretend it gets the same kind of attention.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        It also requires specially-built and obsessively-maintained facilities, and those aren’t cheap, so it excludes people who can’t afford those or who, until pretty recently, didn’t have control over their own assets.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Modern sports mostly arose in the mid-19th century. The default assumptions at that time largely were that of course this was a male activity. There were occasional exhibitions of women playing baseball, but this was treated as a novelty: not serious sport, and more than a little risqué. There were serious female teams, e.g. a women’s colleges. They tended to keep out of the limelight to avoid all the nonsense that publicity would inevitably bring.

        Lawn tennis seems to have been the notable exception, in that it was openly played by women from an early date. I don’t know a lot about it, but I suspect the explanation may lie with lawn tennis being a fairly late development: more of an 1880s thing than an 1850s thing.

      3. Whomever*

        One thing I’m going to say in defense the US: Title 9. I don’t think any other country has an equivalent. My theory is that’s why US women are so successful at the Soccer World Cup and similar…

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      “Plenty of women play and enjoy golf.”

      But the woman in this instance don’t golf, so it’s a moot point.

      1. Bad Wolf*

        She doesn’t golf. Doesn’t mean she can’t golf.
        I’m not really into board games. But my friends are. So when they invite me over, I’m a sport about it and lose a couple rounds. After which I spend the rest of the evening cheering them on and enjoying their company. (Except when they whip out Encore. Let’s face it, Encore is just painful)
        Point is, it’s impossible to find an activity EVERYONE on your staff is going to be super excited about. To be inclusive, means finding something everyone can do, not something everyone loves to do. Because the real purpose of the trip is to spend time together.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, but board games don’t take the same kind of investment in equipment and time/practice, and declining to play probably doesn’t affect your career.

        2. The Terrible Tom*

          I like board games but I think they would mostly be a *very* exclusionary networking opportunity. Especially the ones I would pick for us to play. Which is why board games is good for friends, not for work.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I’m pretty sure a lot of people would not want to play Cards Against Humanity with their boss. But it might be fun….

        3. Lilac*

          You can opt of out board games with your friends if you don’t feel like playing. Work events aren’t always optional, at least without potentially facing professional consequences.

          I agree that there’s no pleasing everyone, but doing the same activity year after year that disadvantages the same group of people is a problem.

        4. Irish Teacher.*

          I would argue that being inclusive means not focussing on one activity for a full weekend, because you aren’t going to find something that everybody enjoys.

          And with golf, it’s not just about not being excited by it. There is a history around golf that can’t entirely be ignored and not enjoying a game of golf with your colleagues does send a subtle message that you aren’t really the “type” of person who belongs in this career.

          I’m not saying that means golf can never be part of a work event, but centring a work event around it does sort of send a certain message and there are people who won’t be comfortable with that. Not exactly that you have to be male or white or upper-middle class but…sort of that you have to adapt to those norms.

          I don’t think it’s exactly the same as centring a work trip around go-karting. Not that I’d recommend that either. There really isn’t any good reason to spend a work weekend on a single activity when no activity is going to suit everybody. Sure, have a couple of hours of golfing on one day, but include other activities too.

    3. Toni*

      According to Wikipedia: “Mary, Queen of Scots played, and she was accused of playing “pell-mell and golf” at Seton Palace after her husband Lord Darnley was murdered in 1567, when she ought to have been in solemn mourning. George Buchanan wrote that she had been following her “usual amusements in the adjoining fields that were plainly not adapted to women”.”

      It seems as though men’s dislike of women golfing has existed for centuries.

    4. OMG It's 2024*

      Our office once a year has a golf scramble at the course on base where we are assigned. Everyone plays but only best ball counts on each hole, so I, who am an AWFUL golfer, but do enjoy my workmates, can play without feeling that I’m “handicapping” them in any way and I provide comic relief! People sign up, teams are randomly assigned, and many women do play. However, this is on a day where everyone is already off, like Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, etc… so nobody is really getting an advantage. And, we aren’t traveling anywhere. It’s …right here.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      The Augusta National first admitted women in 2012. (Specifically, they admitted Condoleeza Rice.)

      So apparently gender discrimination was a thing, even if it seems illogical!

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Gender discrimination is logical if you’re a dude who wants to maintain control of cultural hegemony.

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      Golf has a long history of excluding women. Some of the local private clubs in my area restrict women’s tee times to certain times of day (usually the hottest, least desirable). Some still exclude women altogether! Some courses have separate holes for women (separate, not equal). Female golfers also face micro aggressions on the course – laughing, whistles, and mostly grumbling about being “slow.”

      I like the sport and would golf far more often if I found it to be inclusive and welcoming. Too often it’s not.

      1. HB*

        ^ This. The city where my parents live has a golf and country club that charged a huge assessment to the members to redo the locker rooms. But really it was to do massive upgrades to the *men’s* locker rooms which were greatly expanded and turned into something closer to a lounge/day spa/man cave, while the women’s locker room maybe got some new paint? Now, I’m sure the reasoning was that it’s mostly men who play golf, which is the source of most of their revenue except… that actually wasn’t true. Apparently women made up about 50% (maybe more?) of the active golfers. So a bunch of them quit.

        The club spent the next several years scrambling to regain its membership to stay viable – and I think eventually made some upgrades to the women’s locker room.

        So yeah, even when women are equal participants, they don’t actually get treated as equals.

      2. Lea*

        ‘Theres no reason for women to have been excluded from golf’ ok but there is no reason for people of other races to have been excluded either but it happened and it’s discrimination and just because that one guy doesn’t get it doesn’t mean it’s not a factor.

    7. metadata minion*

      Many people of all genders enjoy neither golf nor cocktails. Why not plan a variety of activities (either year-to-year or at one event)?

    8. Kesnit*

      “And as far as a work retreat trip, all OP has to do is make sure the game is not competitive.”

      And how do you propose that to happen? No matter what is said, there will always be those who are competitive and will be disgruntled with those who are not as serious. Or be annoyed because they have to wait for the slower players. On the other side, there will be those who know they are awful at golf (who me?) and would feel awkward displaying our incompetence to everyone – especially those senior in the company.

      1. Venus*

        ‘Best ball’ is typical around here and provides a bit of competition without disadvantage to anyone who has never played.

    9. Turquoisecow*

      Disagree entirely, I don’t care if it’s competitive or not, I would in fact NOT enjoy a weekend of golf, and not competing would not make it enjoyable. I don’t like golfing and find it boring so wandering around outside for hours, probably in heat and sun, chatting with coworkers, is the opposite of a good time in my mind. It has nothing to do with my skill at the game.

      1. Worldwalker*

        And while I know how to play golf, I have physical handicaps which would make it impossible. I’m no good at networking when I’m dealing with nauseating levels of pain. And for sure I’m far from alone there.

    10. tree frog*

      There aren’t good reasons for bigotry.

      Also, this is being presented as a reward, and badly playing golf with my boss for a weekend doesn’t seem like a reward to me. Part of the reason why golf remains exclusionary is because of the social signals baked into it. Women are allowed to play now, but it’s still a culturally masculine institution and your performance within that space will be scrutinized. It’s not a comfortable experience.

    11. Scylla*

      In addition to the sexism explanations other have added already, I’ve read about golf in particular being framed for businessmen, politicians, and men in positions of power in general because there’s traditionally an element of honesty to it (at least in theory). Once you hit your ball onto the fairway and go rooting through tall grass or mud or whatever to find it, people have to trust that you’re not moving the ball to a better location or fudging your numbers when counting your swings, etc. And of course plenty of people do cheat (I’m pretty sure Trump has famously cheated at golf basically all the time) but that does kind of frame the sport as being particularly good for conducting business around. You have to trust the people you’re playing with, and of course you want to trust your coworkers/business associates/clients/etc.

      That certainly helped cement it as a sport that was just For Men, in addition to all the other reasons people have listed- it’s not physically demanding, it’s exclusive and geared toward the rich by the nature of the location, and there’s a lot of time to talk and schmooze and drink while you’re playing.

    12. Lenora Rose*

      If the clubs only allow male members, or did for many decades…
      If there’s a noticeable cost to entry and women are paid less…
      If golf is the activity of choice of large groups of people (CEOs, lawyers) who have traditionally excluded women…
      If even those places now open to women act a bit grudging towards the ones who make the effort, or play the “I’d be fine with women playing, but not THIS woman. (she’s too slow, she’s still learning, she’s too good, she’s too pretty, she’s not pretty enough, she talks too much, she doesn’t really say anything)” card…

      It’s like asking why anything with no obvious barrier to entry is still gendered. Most of the time, the answer is, the majority of the men who like the activity WANT to keep it that way.

    13. HA2*

      It became a male activity because women literally weren’t allowed to join golf clubs. Or, rather, it’s not that it BECAME a male activity, it’s that it always was.

  20. H3llifIknow*

    This reminds me of when my former 3 letter BIG Govt. Contracting firm was sued for gender discrimination by 3 women in senior leadership roles. (Not all at the same IIRC). One of the examples given by one of the women, besides there being (at the time) No female Senior VPs, and being passed over for promotions for less qualified/experienced males, was that the CEO would fly the (all male) Sr. Execs to Scotland on his private plane once a year for a golf trip. When a woman FINALLY made the ranks–she was excluded, as it would be “inappropriate” for her to tag along with “the boys.” I believe all 3 suits were settled quietly, because I don’t remember hearing much of anything after they were filed although a bunch of us (former female emloyees) were all abuzz at the time and really wanted to see the Big Bosses get their comeuppance.

    1. Gozer (She/Her)*

      To a far lesser extent when I was a younger tech: our top boss and our boss played golf. My male coworker regularly went with them.

      That coworker was a lousy tech and lazy to boot but somehow got to claim credit for any projects I did. Because he was friends with the big boys and played golf together.

      He got a promotion and pay rise. I didn’t. 20 years later and I’m still salty about it.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        I left that company in 2016 and the lawsuits came out very shortly thereafter (tickling all of women who’d left to NO END). And from those still working there, a lot of the stuff still goes on and on…. Sigh.

  21. I have opinions...*

    Simple tweak. Make it a trip to a nice area, with the same amount of cash provided to each person to plan their own recreation. If a few of them join up for golf? Awesome. If they join up for beach days? Shopping? Amusement park? Not at all, and just do their own thing? Also all awesome.

    1. Fikly*

      Won’t work, because the men will all join up again, and the women will be excluded. You have to prevent it, you can’t make exclusion optional.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          The management should specifically be asked to make a point to take turns at other activities. If they can’t find *any* other possible activity in the vicinity that non-golfers would like that they also enjoy, that should be itself a sign or a lesson.

  22. Acey*

    > There’s a long, well established history of women being excluded professionally through socializing of exactly this kind of thing (golf is probably the most common example that comes up, in fact).

    It’s so well known that at my college with a big business school two decades ago, there was a club for the women in the business school, and an alumna had donated a ridiculous amount of money to set up a fund for a yearly golfing trip for them. The intent was to make sure that every woman graduating from the business school had the ability to go golfing with “the boys” so they wouldn’t miss out on the valuable networking time the way the alumna had.

    1. BellyButton*

      I was given this advice in grad school (because my major was leading me into a male dominated field) I was told to learn to play golf and to be willing to go to strip clubs.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        “be willing to go to strip clubs”

        I hate that this was and is a thing in some industries. Combining sex with work that should have nothing to do with it is so incredibly wrong.

  23. BellyButton*

    My company is 100% remote. We get together several times a year. What we do is offer several different activities for people to sign up for, and we assign managers to different activities to make sure that people are getting time with and exposure to leadership. We also bring the leaders in a day or two before all the employees so they can select activities they want to do and not just be assigned to things.

    1. BellyButton*

      Also, the c-suite leaders actually look at who has registered for what and make a point of signing up for activities to spend time with employees they don’t get to work with often or know well. They know the importance of spending time with a variety of people and make a point of it, they don’t even have to be asked to do this. It is just part of our culture. Another reason I say this is the best company I have ever worked for in my 25+ yrs as a professional.

  24. mango chiffon*

    Truly don’t understand why golf is even a thing in the business world. It excludes people based on racism, classicism, and sexism. It’s really awful and exclusionary on so many levels.

    1. Czhorat*

      Don’t forget ableism; there are plenty of disabilities which would make golf more challenging and less fun.

  25. Caramellow*

    My last employer was extremely generous with male employees who played golf. No accounting for time, hand waving the fact that the remaining employees had to cover their desks and answer the phones. I once saw a gaggle of 15 make employees en route to a work day golf outing. They were not required to use PTO. I asked the group “what’s wrong with this picture?”. Just stares in return.

    Also, a female colleague who plays golf was told she needed to use PTO to attend. It was so grossly gender biased, it was jaw dropping. The corporate world needs to understand how this crap looks to its employees who don’t have a penis. I did bring it up in my exit interview.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There was a run of cartoons on Stone Soup some years back in which Val figured out this dynamic. As a widowed single mother she didn’t have the time or money to become an accomplished golfer the old-fashioned way, and so she got a club with an exploding head.

  26. Just a Moving Truck on Storrow Drive*

    I can think of so many more inclusive options – company picnic with optional games, family-friendly park day, trip to a local NFL stadium for a tour and cocktail party, baseball game in a company suite (w/ catering and drink tickets), museum visit….

    I’d also be generally cautious about any activity involving too much physical effort. Women are being ignored/pushed aside in this letter, but let’s not forget about coworkers with physical disabilities. We had an offsite last year where the (able-bodied, male) leaders expected employees to walk everywhere (including a 30-40 minute walk to an activity – each way). We have employees in their 20s up to their 60s, of all genders, ethniticies, and physical abilities. Some of my coworkers had to arrange their own transportation last-minute due to their abilities, and they were rightfully bitter about it.

  27. cactus lady*

    I’m a woman and at my last job, I had a male boss who was REALLY into golf. He kept trying to get me into it even though I was not interested at all (and had an injury that would have prevented me from playing anyway, and he knew about that). I told him about how I tried to learn once but it just wasn’t for me and my injury made it painful to swing. He kept telling me that learning to golf would open up a lot of professional doors for me, and around the time he realized I wasn’t going to do it…. Professional doors started CLOSING for me to the point where I had to leave that job. I don’t know that it was just about golf, but I do think me not wanting to golf ended up really coloring his view of me in a negative way. It’s a stupid game that has real professional consequences for people, particularly women, and I hate it so much.

    1. BellyButton*

      In grad school (because my major was leading me into a male dominated field) I was told to learn to play golf and to be willing to go to strip clubs.

  28. pcake*

    It’s also possible that the guys who don’t golf but ride along in the carts aren’t enjoying themselves, either. If they felt they “had” to be part of things to get to get face time with managers and other employees, they might simply feel they need to look like they’re having a good time.

    This letter reminds me of Mad Men with its gender stereotypes. Not all women find shopping a fun activity, and not all men like to golf or drink beer while sitting on a golf cart.

    IMO, everyone who deserves a reward should have a reward that makes them actually feel rewarded.

  29. RVA Cat*

    I can’t be the only one thinking of the lawnmower fiasco from Mad Men – “he’ll never golf again!”

  30. Whomever*

    My company used to do a company ski trip and I came to the sad conclusion that even though I’m an avid skier and loved going, it was too problematic. It wasn’t especially gendered, but given how absurdly expensive skiing has become in the US, it’s a huge class bias (poor people don’t grow up skiing). There was other stuff to do (skating, sledding, etc) but it really was basically a ski trip. Anyway they stopped because we got too big.

    1. Kel*

      I have broken a bone every single time I go skiing, and should not be allowed NEAR a ski hill, I’m a danger to others! Anything physical like this has to be looked at for inclusion of folks with disabilities too.

      1. Kel*

        Sorry, those were meant to be two separate thoughts; ‘I can’t ski’ and ‘people with disabilities should be considered in planning this type of thing’.

  31. bittersweet*

    This is completely beside the point, but I cannot imagine wanting to go on a weekend trip with my bosses and coworkers. Even if it was to somewhere nice and to do an activity I enjoy.

    1. Raida*

      Yeah, but this event is for salesmen – people who are focussed on looking good, sounding good, being liked.
      For them it is another day at work – go and have fun with the people who can give you a professional benefit. No customers or other departments in the way, have some drinks, make a good impression, get invited to their kids’ graduation party.

      1. allathian*

        Tey’re a part of life’s rich tapestry for sure, but I can’t stand being around most people who excel at sales, at least not the routine sales that always seem to involve some sort of manipulation to get people to buy things that they may or may not actually need. That manipulative attitude seems to be an integral part of their personality and they can’t shake it off even when they aren’t working.

        I’ve worked retail in the past, but thankfully upselling was never a part of my job description when I did. The closest I’ve come to sales work was when I did customer surveys by phone. I had to use some of the same skills that good salespeople do, but all I asked for was a bit of their time rather than money so it felt less iffy to me.

        The only sales people I actually like spending time with are those who’re invested in providing the best possible solution to the customer and who’re selling customized, high-value solutions to businesses. Many of these people are introverts with a high EQ rather than typically extroverted sales folks. Granted, the best sales people have a high EQ whether they’re introverts or extroverts.

        For what it’s worth, I can’t imagine going on a weekend trip with my coworkers and manager, either. I can’t tolerate being “on” for more than 8 or 9 hours a day at most. At least if I attend a professional conference, I get to meet people I don’t work with all the time. Although I have to say that I really like the fact that the two-day conference I attend every year is always held on Thursday and Friday, leaving me with the weekend to decompress afterwards. I try to make sure that I don’t have any social obligations booked for that weekend.

  32. Person from the Resume*

    It is intended to be a reward, and little if any business is discussed when we are there.

    Goal of trip = reward in place of bonus other employees get

    There you go. Come up with another reward in place of bonus or just adjust your pay structure to pay a bonus to salespeople. I bet most would appreciate cash in place of the trip.

  33. frida*

    I once worked at an office that did a Christmas trip overseas instead of a Christmas party (we’re in Europe so feasible to do for not an insane amount of money), and after witnessing everything from every possible pairing of office hookup to the procurement of drugs regardless of local legality to hospital visits to multiple employees being arrested to barfights that ended in brothel trips to every possible bodily fluid ending up in places it doesn’t belong… just give them cash and a day off. Just give them cash and a day off!!!!!

  34. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    I think Allison is wrong on this one. The trips don’t have to stop, especially if the clear majority of those receiving them as a reward want them to stay (which it appears they do). Plenty of women play golf. Plenty of men don’t.

    She is right that the “cart girl” thing is a terrible, atrocious idea that in no way should be considered, but the weekend golf trip is fine. A more reasonable approach would be to allow employees a selection of similarly valued rewards. The weekend to the golf resort is fine, but create alternative opportunities, like a trip to an amusement park, or a say at a spa, or (possibly) even (as suggested) an alternative cash reward (but of somewhat lesser value, since it is clear that part of the trip is to connect people and encourage team bonding.

    A few jobs ago, we had something similar. A long weekend with “some” work stuff, but then individuals could choose golf, the spa, a beach day, etc., and then everyone came back together for a nice celebratory dinner (with light entertainment).

    So yes, new opportunities to make sure everyone has things they perceive as a reward, but no, the golf weekend doesn’t need to end. It’s not discriminatory or repressive, and it combines the legitimate goal of team bonding and loyalty. Evolution….not elimination

    1. BellyButton*

      No, because as Alison pointed out- if the managers are all into it, and the majority of the male employees are attending, they are getting face time and building relationships/trust that those who opt out aren’t getting. That isn’t equitable or fair. They will receive advantages/exposure/opportunities that others wont, simply because they play golf with the bosses.

    2. Czhorat*

      Yes, there are women who golf and men who don’t.

      That doesn’t at all change that fact that in THIS office and in this scenario none of the women golf and most of the men do. Golf as a reward is de facto excluding women. It absolutely IS discriminatory in practice even if the rules are formally gender neutral.

      If you create alternatives, how do you insure that those going on the non-golf outing have equal access to leadership, and equal networking opportunitues? If the whole c-suite likes to golf as well as the rest of upper management then you’re still creating a very much unequal set of opportunities.

      1. LTR, FTP*

        Exactly. If a bunch of dudes still go golfing with the managers, they’re getting a better opportunity than anyone else.

        Those trips, like it or not, are about face time. If there’s an activity all the bigwigs are doing, I’ll be awfully pissed if it’s not available to me.

        1. Czhorat*

          Right. Or if you sign up for the “historical town walking tour” and find it’s all jumior-level staff while upper management is hitting the links.

          It’s hard to make things like that equitable when it starts from such a male-dominated status.

      2. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

        You can never assure “exactly” equal opportunities. If I see my CEO in the bathroom and she gives me a kudo for a project I did well or asks how my new team is doing? No man will ever have that “exact” opportunity. Focusing on “exactly equal” opportunity is a fool’s errand. Will the neuroatypical analyst on my team (who has a very difficult time talking with anyone he doesn’t know well) have the same “opportunity” as the highly outgoing sales analyst who freely talks to everyone she meets? No.

        But that is why you have things like team dinners (as noted above) where everyone can spend some time together. You work to ensure equality and equal opportunity, but you simply have to accept that in the real world, there will be differences.

        Plenty of men won’t play golf. Plenty of women will. And the next woman I hire could very well LOVE golf and be put at a disadvantage if I make the highly sexist assumption that it’s only the men who like it.

        The situation I described (with multiple events available, coupled to alternative events that other people would indeed see as a”reward” for their hard work) is fair, equitable and easy to manage.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          so… you’re okay with actual discrimination as long as there’s a theoretical possibility it won’t be discriminatory if the people involved were different.

          1. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

            Since there is no discrimination anywhere in anything I said? The answer would be “no”.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              “The trips don’t have to stop, especially if the clear majority of those receiving them as a reward want them to stay (which it appears they do). Plenty of women play golf. Plenty of men don’t.”

              This reads pretty bluntly as: So, if things were different and some women played golf, it would be okay. Therefore, these trips *as they are* are not discriminatory and don’t have to stop.

              I stand by that reading. Yes, you also offered additional options, but it’s established that at THIS location, this activity is gendered (And ONE woman who plays or ONE man who doesn’t wouldn’t be enough to alter that dynamic, btw), and THIS activity is the one the management is doing.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          But even if you are just putting “people who don’t golf” at a disadvantage, that alone would be reason to end the trip. You don’t want people who golf getting promotions, etc over people who are better at their jobs.

          Even if it weren’t illegal discrimination, giving one group of people an entire weekend of additional facetime over others would be a problem. I think it would be fair enough to spend a couple of hours golfing, if that were followed by a dinner and then a trip to a theatre and then drinks that evening and the following day, a tour of the historical local sites. Something like that. But a whole weekend focused on one interest is…not a great idea.

          And even though there are people from all demographics who golf, one shouldn’t ignore the fact that historically, golf has been a very male, white, middle and upper-class activity. It’s not just about who actually plays golf. It’s also about the message it sends. A company that seems to be predominently male having an entire trip centred around golf, especially when all their female employees don’t play? The pretty clear message is “be like us if you want to succeed.” And that…is not the message one should want to send. There is an implication that the women have to adapt to what is a predominently male culture. And no, golf doesn’t have to be just for men, but in the context, it is quite clearly saying, “OK, we’ve hired some women, but we assume they will adapt to our culture.”

          In an ideal world, golf would just be golf, a game some people enjoy and others don’t, but in our world, it has long been an indication of being part of an in-group.

    3. Kel*

      My mom was in a company like this; she was the ‘trailblazer’ in the late 2010’s because she was the first woman at the entire (HUGE) company that was like….hey, can I play golf? Instead of this spa day you give all the women?

      It gave her a massive advantage. Great for my mom, shitty for all her female coworkers.

      (They did end up getting rid of that type of trip, but not before a few more folks switched ‘sides’ so to speak and some of the men got to have a spa day, something they’d much rather have been doing for years).

      The men are getting facetime with owners/high level management by playing golf.

    4. Observer*

      especially if the clear majority of those receiving them as a reward want them to stay (which it appears they do).

      When the “clear majority” is men and all of the women do not golf, that’s not good enough. There are reasons why there are protections for people in the minority.

      There are two problems here. One is the issue of face time with company leadership. That’s been covered enough times that I don’t think it’s going to matter if do it again. But I strongly urge you to really read and take in what others are saying about this.

      The other problem is that this is intended to be a bonus of sorts. Both legally and ethically, a bonus that is effectively only being give to one gender (and it would be the same if it were only women) is a real problem. And in this company, that is *exactly* what is happening.

    5. subaru outback driver*

      I agree with this, this just takes the company renting clubs for the nonplayers and matching up everyone and playing a best ball style tournament.

      I get the vibe a lot of folks on here are really trying to twist something that they don’t like into something that should be stopped. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it discriminatory.

      1. Admin Lackey*

        That’s very true, but in this case it actually is discriminatory, no twisting needed. For Heaven’s sake, it’s golf, *thee* stereotypical rich white man sport

    6. Lenora Rose*

      If all the C-suite was women and they all went to a spa day with only the female employees, would that be okay?

  35. Sara without an H*

    I remember this one from the first time it was posted, and I really wish the Letter Writer would give us an update.

    To me, part of the issue lurks in the expression “smallish family-owned business.” It sounds as though the LW’s business had reached a cultural tipping point where they needed to put the emphasis on “business,” rather than the “small, family” aspect. At one time, a golf trip for all the sales people may have been a good idea, but they’ve grown to the point where it’s no longer serving a useful purpose and it’s time to move on.

    Yes, some people will be unhappy. Change is often stressful. But if the LW wants to run the place like a business, they can’t be held hostage to people’s feelings.

  36. A Simple Narwhal*

    “Many of our team have young children, and the weekend getaway is well received and appreciated.”

    Are you paying for the spouses to attend too and providing babysitters? Or is this trip just for the men, and their (I assume) wives have to stay home and care for the kids by themselves for 3+ days?

    I’m sure it’s not the intention, but the idea that one of the LW’s described perks of the trip is a chance for men to get away from their families rubs me the wrong way.

  37. Bored Lawyer*

    So, avid golfer here. The last firm at which I was an employee and not an owner had an annual golf trip for those of us in a certain practice group. Our senior partner organized and hosted it at a VERY exclusive club down south that none of us could ever dream of playing on our own. He shelled out for catered dinners, we played 3 rounds of golf, had a tournament scoring system, everyone talked about it all year. The weekend must have cost him in the low six figures.

    Eventually, a turnover in firm leadership diversified our practice group, which led to the end of the golf trip. There were five or six of us on the team who had been disgruntled for a while, mostly due to compensation (seriously, this golf club had to be costing the senior partner mid six figures per year in addition to whatever the initiation fee was, and the trip itself would have cost close to our annual salaries). We left to set up our own shop pretty immediately after the trip was cancelled. Senior Partner decided ending the trip, leading to us leaving, was the fault of the female lawyer who had been “foisted” on him and decided to make her life miserable. We were happy to hire her away. She made partner a few years ago. And was not the one who complained- she played college golf and could have dusted him, not that he bothered to investigate.

    Our annual firm outing is a lobster bake, on a Thursday evening in the summer at a partner’s house, and everyone can bring their entire family. The Friday is our “service day” where we all do a volunteer project.

    If my old boss called and said he wanted me back, and the golf trip is back on? …. I’d think about it even with the pay cut.

          1. Bored Lawyer*

            Oh, haha.

            I guess technically I’d daydream about it while my spouse threatened to take the kids in the divorce.

          2. Czhorat*

            Yeah. It seems pretty tone-deaf and almost deliberately blind to the real equity issues SO MANY have pointed out about this kind of trip.

            Bored Lawyer should reflect on what it says about him that he’d gladly go back to a place for a perk which, in practice, perpetuates gender discrimination

            1. Bored Lawyer*

              Listen, I don’t know how much I need to defend a throwaway joke about a hypothetical that will never happen at the end of a comment, but here I go.

              I 100% agree that this was a perk that should not have been offered. It isn’t how I run my own company, where it is my job to make sure that all my employees are treated well and fairly. Ending that weekend was absolutely the right thing to do.

              Having said that, my analysis completely changes if you are on the other side of that coin. If you are an employee and you are offered a perk, or more money, or any sort of increased compensation that has value to you, TAKE IT! I’m for sale! All of us are for sale! We are selling our time and energy and talent, and employers are buying it! Your job, as someone who works for someone else, is to get the most for you in exchange for what you are willing to offer. Spending three days at one of the best golf courses in the world, expense free, and rubbing elbows with CEOs and board members of some of the world’s largest companies has A TON of value to me.

              The statement was incredibly hypothetical- that firm isn’t going to hire me back after my partners and I left and took a substantial book of business, then poached some more employees. And the new leadership is smarter than re-starting that golf weekend. But just because it would be a bad idea for the COMPANY does not mean that, if offered a job that has a perk like that the EMPLOYEE should think anything beyond “is this valuable to me.” I’ll advocate for including any of my co-workers who wants me to advocate for them. But if you offer me something valuable, I’m accepting. If you are offered a raise, take it!

              Next lets chat about the firm that employs one of the best mid-amateur (age 25-50) golfers in the country as an “of counsel” attorney (he is licensed but couldn’t tell you at all how to log into a firm computer) for $500,000 a year and his job is to travel the country and play in big golf tournaments and be a ringer for BSD company directors’ member/guests.

  38. Sharon*

    The issue is that a substantial portion of the PEOPLE eligible for the trip would not enjoy golfing. Dividing your salesforce and offering different options based on gender is definitely not the way to go here. Figure out a reward that works for everybody, and give everybody the same options to pick from.

  39. Student*

    I don’t know how old your sales staff are. I’m about 40.

    When I was in high school in the late 90s, prime learning-to-sports-age, my parents and many other adults in my life still subscribed to the belief that women should not play school sports. The reasons these nitwits provided ranged from fears about “protecting girls from injury”, fears “that women who looked to muscular would never find a man”, comments that it was “too expensive for a girl’s unimportant hobby”, complaints that “it might break [my] hymen” and thus make me… somehow less valuable as a potential future wife.

    When I fought through that and actually did a sport anyhow, they pulled me out at the first injury and wouldn’t allow me to ever do a sport again while I lived with them.

    Then, in college, my options for sports were pretty limited. Since I hadn’t been very involved in sports up to that point, I was never going to be eligible for anything very competitive. I didn’t have much money, so sports that require a lot of money were also off the table. For the most part, I also didn’t know the rules for any sports. I had some general cultural knowledge that baseball scores with people running bases, football scores with kicks and touch downs, and you hit the golf balls at a hole with a stick – but that’s a long way from knowing enough rules and techniques to play any of those.

    And nobody, ever, at any point through this, invited me to play sports with them, or encouraged me to do so.

    When I got my first job in my 20s, some of the guys I worked with played golf. They did not invite me to join. When I asked about it, to try to fit in with them, they definitely were not shy about telling me the following: (1) a golf partner who does not know the rules is a drag (2) a golf partner with no sports ability is a drag (3) a golf partner with no equipment is a drag (4) a golf partner that doesn’t get drunk with them is a drag and a pill and a nag and completely missing the whole point of the activity. If there was a physical welcome mat to pull up, they would’ve done so. So, no, I didn’t push the issue and didn’t go. So I never learned golf. Now, I probably never will.

    There’s a decent chance that your women sales team members went through a similar life, at least with regards to golf. Can you maybe try for a few minutes to imagine if the situation were reversed, how awful that’d feel? Can you remember back to getting picked last for sports in middle school, and maybe summon up those feelings, but add some social pressure to impress your boss and co-workers to the mix?

    1. Moose*

      If you’re ever interested in learning the game, most driving ranges have nights where you can rent a club and get a lesson. I think it’s super fun but ymmv.

  40. Leaving at 5*

    This jumped out at me given the unfortunate way childcare responsibilities tend to be divided along gendered lines.
    “many of our team have young children, and the weekend getaway is well received and appreciated.”

    I think a weekend trip of any type could be a bigger burden on employees with anyone they have to care for at home. As ypur employee base expands I bet there will be more and more people who will find a weekend work trip more burden than pleasure.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      That part squicked me out too. Like bonus these guys can dump a weekend of childcare on their wives! They love it!

      I mean, some men like spending time with their kids? And maybe the company doesn’t need to get involved in how people divide up their home lives by making mandatory weekends away that burden a non-employee partner? Maybe some of these employees have partners that work weekends so can’t easily cut and run on their care giving responsibilities?

  41. Moose*

    I agree that golf trips are poor outings for offices where not everyone golfs. I agree that the way this office is running is an example of gender-based discrimination.

    However, every time this topic comes up here I bristle at all the “golf is for MEN, only MEN enjoy golf and companies need to have opportunities for activities that aren’t STRICTLY AND SOLEY FOR MEN.” The golf scene can be an old boy’s club and comments like these from well-meaning folks just aren’t helping.

    Signed- Woman Who Golfs

    1. Kel*

      Golf has traditionally been a sport that shut out women, people of colour, people with disabilities and poor people. You can read many, many comments upthread about the specifics.

      The comments aren’t saying ‘men only golf, only men ENJOY golf’; they’re saying that having a work activity that gets you face-time with your boss that is generally considered a gendered activity and has been a ‘men-only’ ‘boys club’ sport for like, basically it’s entire existence is not condusive to an inclusive environment.

      The same could be said for a beer league hockey game, a pick-up basketball game, a cigar club….

      All of these have women involved at this point, and are no longer considered things ONLY FOR MEN but they are largely and historically so.

      1. Moose*

        “Golf has traditionally been a sport that shut out women, people of colour, people with disabilities and poor people. You can read many, many comments upthread about the specifics.”

        Believe me, I am well-aware. As a golfer, I am probably more aware of the history and implications of the sport than most people who do not golf. I do not appreciate being talked to like I am unaware of when I plainly stated that this office is running their excursion in a way that is based in discrimination on the basis of gender.

        I think it is a very poor choice for a business activity. It excludes many folks with disabilities as well. I also have big feelings about companies doing activities that cause as much climate damage as golf does. I play golf but I have my own thoughts and feelings on it.

        However, my point is that there are many, many comments here that reinforce that golf is for men. Not all comments, but many. It is evidence of how society still views the sport. And, it reinforces that golf is for straight, white men. And as a queer woman who plays golf, I get enough of that IRL. This space tends to be thoughtful and progressive and I would love to see more acknowledgement from commenters that yes, women play golf. That golf being a poor choice for a work activity, which again I agree and did not need a history lesson on, does not mean it is a gender-based activity any more than say, skiing or tennis.

        1. Czhorat*

          I get your point. Two things can simultaneously be true:

          1) Golf is not an inherently gendered activity
          2) In this particular case, the choice of golf is creating a gender-based disparity.

          I understand how frustrating it must be for people to ignore item 1 in order to address item 2.

          1. Moose*

            Thank you for seeing my perspective.

            I can only imagine the comments section if anyone called cooking a “gender-based activity” or called a cooking activity one “based around women” or “massively gender biased.” But make it golf and suddenly the comments start coming left right and center to erase women. I once was at a work party for an ex-girlfriend and they were talking about how inclusive the office tried to be. At one point, someone gestured at me and said something “You don’t need to worry about anyone boring you to death talking about golf here.”

            Because of course, queer women only do queer women things.

            1. Czhorat*

              I just looked through my comments; I did say that golf is a “male-coded activity” which probably feeds into the issue you have.

              My other points – that in THIS office it is de-facto exclusionary (and yours that it’s not office-appropriate) remain, but I’ll be more careful how I phrase it next time.

              1. Moose*

                IMO “male-coded” and “gendered” have a nuanced difference but I appreciate you thinking about it.

            2. Kel*

              cooking for free is gendered to women. cooking for money or for show is gendered for men.

              we get it, you golf. lots of women golf! lots of women love golf! but only 28% of golfers are women; it IS a gendered activity.

              1. Moose*

                I think that activities, except for very few exceptions I can’t even think of in the moment because they would be so few and far between in my perspective, are not gendered. People do things. Some (most?) people have gender. One does not dictate the other.

                Also how does that even work? If cooking “for free” is only gendered for women, what does that mean for men who cook for their families? Are they being women when they cook? Men the rest of the time? Are they men doing a “women’s activity?” It’s just not my world-view at all. Am I “being a man” when I golf? Like, what’s the point?

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  The point is, while there are individual exceptions to activity trends, it is worth looking at those activities and WHY they are applied more to one person than another.

                  Women from many classes have traditionally been tasked with housework and cooking at home where there’s no prestige involved. Men have traditionally golfed. A man does not become a woman because he can feed his kids, but there will, to this day, be people who express surprise that a man can find his way around a kitchen just to feed his kids, even though he isn’t any kind of chef.

                  A woman’s uterus does not fall out if she golfs, but at the same time we have a whole dedicated history of reasons women were kept off the golf course, and had fewer opportunities to learn. Annika Sorenstam doesn’t stop existing because of this trend, but neither does the existence of Annika Sorenstam negate the disadvantages many women had in access to the sport.

                2. Worldwalker*

                  Most men, and too many women, would say that men cooking for their families are doing “women’s work.” Hence the coding.

                  When you golf, a lot of people will see you as playing a man’s game.

            3. Dahlia*

              The alternatives offered in this very example, a spa day or shopping instead of golfing, are also massively gender biased, actually.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                Which is funny as there are so many non-gendered activities (Tours, wine/beer tastings, escape rooms, poolside parties, theatre)…

    2. subaru outback driver*


      I am with you on this. My experiences with golf in the workplace and with coworkers does not compute to what a lot of commenters are claiming on here as fact.

      1. Moose*

        IMO golf does not belong in the workplace as a work-sponsored event. If a group of co-workers like golf and want to go golfing on their free time I suppose I think that’s fine. But in general, it does not belong in the workplace.

        But it’s also not a “gender-based activity” any more than tennis, camping, cooking, or knitting. And the folks here making a big deal out of it being “gender-based” are actively contributing to attitudes that women have to deal with any time someone sees they golf. It’s annoying and this place is usually better than that.

      2. dawbs*

        It’s interesting, because when I pointed this out to my dad, he also said it didn’t compute to what he remembered.

        Because it didn’t affect him. As a sporty white dude, even a sporty white dude with moderately progressive views and 3 daughters, it didn’t affect him.

        When I poked harder at his memory (“what about Ms. A? she worked with you and was sporty as heck, did Dr. T invite her to golf?” “so, what about X, Y, and Z, your coworkers of color, did anyone ask if they weren’t interested in these events, or did they just not show up–probably because it wasn’t safe {yes really} for them to?”) it turned out to be a blind spot made out of unexamined privilege.

        It might not be that for you, but, even if your reality is different, a bunch of us are saying we wouldn’t even have been allowed on the courses in our formative years and can back that up with facts.

    3. HA2*

      The golf scene can be an old boys club, and it would be great if that changed!

      But I think golf as an appropriate gender-neutral workplace activity has to FOLLOW the golf scene changing, not precede it. When the golf scene changes and isn’t an old boys club anymore, then it’ll be a fine workplace activity, but “golf might one day not be sexist” isn’t a good reason to use it in the workplace NOW.

      1. Moose*

        I’ve said this several times now but I guess I’ll say it again: Golf is not an appropriate activity for the workplace for many reasons. IMO workplaces(other than pro shops maybe?) should not plan or pay for golfing events. There are many many reasons this is true.

        However, I do not think golf is a “man’s” activity.

  42. Have you had enough water today?*

    My company does the same thing but we have a bunch of women who do like the game as well. I do not play but I do enjoy driving the cart & watching drunk people, plus it is a day out of the office with a really nice club house lunch.

  43. NothappyinNY*

    My company has sponsored golf lessons for women and trying to get golf for all. I think that golf is frequently a way that people connect with clients and cutting it out does not help women.

      1. Quill*

        If I was in an industry that golfed (I’m not, I’m a lab tech) I wouldn’t be able to compete. Not just because of the fact that it would probably out my disability, but because I’ve never had the kind of money that I could sink into any sports hobby, and being *bad* at the sport everyone is playing, especially if it means they have to slow down for you, is not conducive to good networking!

  44. Jo-El*

    250+ comments and many people saying “find alternative activities” but I haven’t seen any suggested (but I MAY have missed them). I think it’d be instructive to read suggestions of activities that are 100% inclusive and that everyone can and will want to do………..cause I have tried but I can’t think of any.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      Here’s the secret; it doesn’t have to be inclusive of everyone every time. BUT. It has to not be the only opportunity, each opportunity has to exclude/include different people, and the C-Suite/management need to be aware one of the perks is access to their time and awareness, and at least some of them need to be involved in the options.

      I’d be excluded from a wine tasting, but look, non gendered activity many people would enjoy! Escape room; some people find them stressful or like they don’t contribute, but wow, it’s a different crowd than the golfers OR the wine tasters. Board game night – you can see Jesse’s eyes glaze over at the mere thought, but this is the first thing we suggested that Sebastian is interested in. Mary Anne has offered to teach us how to cook a Sri Lankan dessert. Ellie is out because she’s allergic to mango, but she’s in on the golf trip!

  45. Notasecurityguard*

    Am I missing something or is there a reason the women can’t go golfing too? I mean I get not liking golf (I’m a guy and if you gave me the option of going golfing with my boss or handwriting TPS reports I’d have to sit down and think it over. and I get hand spasms) and so this perk like sucks but is it inherently sexist?

    1. Lenora Rose*

      If you read through the comments, you’ll see a number of examples why golfing has historically excluded women, from clubs where they weren’t allowed, clubs where they were allowed but given separate rooms, to lack of opportunities to learn, to being made to feel unwelcome when there in person. Yes, in theory the barriers have been removed, but change doesn’t happen overnight, and even the examples above of places trying to redress the difference are fewer and further between than the places where the difference mattered.

      Less than a third of golfers are women. It may be less than a quarter, I’ve seen two different numbers cited.

    2. Nom*

      Yes, Alison’s response (which i recognize may be behind a paywall for you so you may not have had the chance to read it) lays out why it is sexist even though everyone has a “choice” to participate or not.

  46. Coyote River*

    I try to take my team on a hunting or fishing trip once a year. Up until last year this hadn’t been a problem, my company is quite small so it’s easy to make sure everyone is on board, but last year we had a new employee who was uncomfortable with these activities.

    The alternative we arrived at was a golf trip. We only have two female staff members, and both were very enthusiastic about playing golf. Not only that but it turned out one of them, my daughter, is a much better golfer than her father!

    My point, I guess, is that the situation in this letter is less about gender and more about the fact that you have an activity that not everyone on the team can fully enjoy or be involved in.

    1. HA2*

      Yep, that actually seems totally wholesome – there was a small group that used to like some particular activity, the company grew and had to find a new activity that suited everyone. That seems great!

      I like that as an illustration that it’s not just about golf specifically being a bad choice, it’s about the approach of “well, a MAJORITY of people like this particular activity, so the minority should deal with it, even if that majority/minority split is along gender lines”. The right approach is to find an activity that suits everyone, or if there isn’t one find a collection of activities to do that’ll give everyone an equal opportunity to network even if not everyone likes every activity offered.

  47. Forrest Rhodes*

    “Cart girl”? Wow. Oh, well, at least she didn’t say “beer babe.” That’s something, I guess.

  48. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Not only do these things end up as discriminatory because golf tends to be more popular with men than women, but the whole “weekend away from the family/kids” aspect of it often tends to be trickier for women than men. Not every single man/every single woman, but on average, it is well documented that women do more work in the home, take on more caring responsibilities etc.

  49. Mariko*

    Hmm, if the golf event could not be moved for this year, can you just get whoever is new to golfing an instructor or something? We had a little bit of golfing at a previous work event (among several other choices for activities) and plenty of women signed up. I’m a woman, I tried it, I was awful, but it was fun enough. Not any worse than other team building events where I was lukewarm but not against the activity. Golf is not particularly physically taxing and there’s a lot of chatting and stuff. Not sure why golfing has to be so coded male?

    1. dawbs*

      People who are good at sports do not not NOT want to play with beginners. That would be the opposite of a good networking event. It would be the boss saying “FFS, don’t pair us with Jenkins, she’ll make us loose”.

  50. Caramellow*

    I’m a pre-Title IX woman who had little to no opportunity to experience sport at any level in high school or college. There are still women of my era in the work world. We were completely hamstrung by an inequitable educational system. Every time the men in my office got special treatment to golf or play baseball or whatever….it burned.

  51. Scooter34*

    I work in government and I have found these outings to be pervasive. Because it is government, people have to take the day off and buy a ticket to attend, but it is still a huge missed opportunity to interact with seniors in a relaxed atmosphere.

  52. PB Bunny Watson*

    I’m a little annoyed by the idea that golf or sports are something women don’t like. It feels just as gender biased as the shopping trip. Sure, they should change the activity or perk or whatever because they have people who don’t golf and have no interest in learning… and it’s falling along gender lines because it’s expected that women don’t golf and men do… but I’m just annoyed that we’re still assuming interests based on gender. Just look at the recent situation with Georgia Ball.

    1. basically functional*

      It’s not an assumption or an expectation, though. At this particular company, the men play golf and the women don’t. Thus, disparate outcomes based on gender. Some people are also pointing out that there are systemic barriers to women playing golf, but that’s not the same as saying women don’t golf and men do.

    2. Nom*

      I don’t think the LW is assuming, i think he’s stating factually that the women have declined to participate.

      1. Former Employee*

        Would they get to reinstate it if they suddenly had women who played golf? Would it then be anti-male if the employees who didn’t play golf were men?

        I think this is dumb. Keep the golf outing and the women can ride along just like the men who don’t play.

        1. HA2*


          If actually EVERYONE at the company actually likes some particular activity, then there’s no conflict and nothing to write to Alison about. Go ahead and have your golf or fishing trip or movie night or whatever. (As long as everyone is ACTUALLY interested, rather than some people being pressured to play along because learning some random activity they hate is required to have extra access to networking with upper leadership).

          If there’s some activity of interest to some of the company but not everyone, then yeah, it’s a dumb idea for the company to make that particular ONE activity somehow a global perk (or, even worse, making participation in that one activity a way to advance professionally, such as by making it a rare occasion to interact with leadership).

          Specifically, if interest in that activity breaks down by race or gender lines, then having that activity be a company-sponsored trip is race or gender discrimination, respectively.

  53. Galf*

    Im a middle aged middle class white heterosexual man, and I would rather dig my eyeballs out with a rusty spoon than play golf, let alone play golf with the tiresome bores I work with.

    Find a place with golf course and a variety of other attractions. The golfers can golf, and the normal people can lounge around a pool or play canasta or whatever

  54. SleepyWolverine*

    Gah, these companies. I’m a man and a golf networking excursion sounds like hell on earth. I do not play golf, nor do I have any interest in doing so. I also drink very little alcohol and never beer– the smell reminds me of bad experiences with drunk family members, and I’m allergic to hops.

    These companies need to sit back and realize that not everyone is the same, and what might be a perk for some employees would be punishment for others.

  55. Marshmallows*

    Change up the “tournament” structure to best ball teams or scramble style and pay for the women to rent clubs. Unless they are physically unable… just because they don’t golf normally doesn’t necessarily mean they could learn enough to still participate. You said men that didn’t golf would just ride in a cart and drink with the players. Why is it different for the women? Can’t they also do that? Does being female mean you can’t hang with the golfers?

    When I used to go with coworkers and we did scramble they all loved having a woman on the team for the tee box advantage… some of them sucked enough that just starting at the women’s tee even if the lady on the team only hit it like a foot was a huge advantage. It was always laid back and fun. If you’re gonna do golf stuff these days it needs to be laid back, fun, and inclusive of all skill levels. Maybe offer to pay for an hour of an instructor before the weekend so those that have never touched clubs can at least participate (and again… offer to pay to rent clubs).

    I am biased because I love golfing (which I was introduced to by some patient male coworkers…I’m not good at it… but I enjoy it enough to be in the women’s golf league at my company… which isn’t company sponsored, just informally organized), so you can take my advice with a grain of salt… all I’m trying to say is that, unless your golfers are trash piles that can’t have fun playing the game unless everyone is getting par or better all the time, there should be ways to make it fun and inclusive.

    1. Former Employee*

      Thank you for this. I don’t play golf but that’s a choice. I see no reason why the women can’t ride along just like the men do who don’t play.

      It’s not as if they are looking for a way to exclude the women nor are they playing a truly male only sport.

      I would look at this very differently if they were playing tackle football.

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