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International Women’s Day 2024

This International Women’s Day theme is Inspiring Inclusion. Wales Golf has a series of articles and videos from the inspirational leadership women within Wales Golf, and golf within Wales. 

Thought leadership – Inspiring Inclusion with Hannah McAllister 

Thought leadership – The future of golf is Inclusive with Zoe Thacker 

Inspirational Leaders – A video call with Brandie Deignan, Katie Sandow, Hannah McAllister and Zoe Thacker 

Why Inclusion is important in Golf – PGA Professional Georgia Lewis, GB&I and Welsh International Izzie Kelly and Newbie Golfer Beth Roberts 

Take a look below! 

International Women’s Day: Inspiring inclusion starts with leadership – Hannah McAllister CEO Wales Golf 

When I attend the golf industry CEO forum, I can count on one hand the number of women in the room. As a leader in a male-dominated sport, I’m certainly in the minority.

I’ve never let gender be a barrier to my personal growth or career; I remember my family pushing hard to make sure I could play in the Club Captain’s Day competition about 30 years ago when my dad was Captain. I’ve concentrated on working hard and creating a tribe of support around me, challenging when I have felt challenge is needed.

From a young golfer turned Development Officer, through to CEO and the first female to head up a merged golf governing body in GB&I, I can bring lived experience to my role. Being female adds diversity of opinion in a male-dominated environment which can be the key to innovation and progression in the sport.

Despite just 12% of golfers in Wales being female, at Wales Golf, more than half of our team are women, and our board has a 50/50 split. We are bringing a unique perspective to the future of golf.

I want women and girls to experience the same joy I have taken from golf – both in playing it and throughout my career. The friendships, the travel, the competition, the fun and laughter, and the life-changing health benefits on offer should be accessible to everyone.

I chose to go down the Development route in my career, but there is a wealth of other opportunities in greenkeeping, coaching, and club management, and we need more women!


Leading by example

Since starting our Equality Standards journey 15 years ago, we’ve been working hard on gender diversity within Wales Golf. We were the first national governing body in Wales to achieve Advanced Equality Standards in Dec 2021.

As leader of a national governing body, it’s my job to make sure organisations and clubs are supported to foster an equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace. We often support other national governing bodies and Sport Wales on EDI practices as well.

In a sport steeped in male-centric traditions, there is work to be done to ensure women are given the same opportunities as men, on and off the course.

I want to encourage golf clubs to ensure strong female presence within their organisations. My team leads by example, showing the positive impact a balanced organisation has on a business.

We’ve seen a great take up of Wales Golf schemes like New2Golf by clubs that recognise the importance of opening up the sport to a wider cross section of the community.

Not all of my team are golfers, and that’s been valuable to bettering our understanding of the barriers to accessing the game.

It’s really important that senior teams recognise that within the organisation, there might be unconscious bias and/or a general lack of understanding about underrepresented groups.

Last month, we welcomed Brandie Deignan onto our board as Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to increase diversity of opinion within Wales Golf.

With Brandie on board, we ensure decisions are well thought out and address challenges faced by underrepresented groups. I’m confident this will increase our ability to attract more non-golfers to the sport.

This month, we launch our Living Experience Network. Chaired by Brandie, this group will create a dialogue between Wales Golf and people with a wide range of experiences within golf, with a view to informing our decision making and help grow the game in the right direction.


Inspiring inclusion

The future of golf relies on it becoming Everyone’s Game; which is the title of our 2023-28 strategy.

The friendly, accessible tone of the document reflects that important shift we need to see in golf, where it becomes a sport open to the whole community – however, people want to consume it.

I wanted words like ‘fun’ and ‘real’ to be included to reflect my leadership style and strong belief that if we at Wales Golf enjoy what we do and are our real selves, people can trust and connect with us.

I know I do a much better job as a leader when I can just be myself, and that’s the message I want to instil in my staff and to everyone: don’t try to be anyone else, just be the best version of you.

The positive language in the strategy will filter down through our organisations, to the clubs, and into Welsh golf.

We want everyone to feel golf is their game and have fun playing it.


The Future of Golf is Inclusive – Zoe Thacker, Director of Development Wales Golf 

Historically golf has been a male-dominated sport. In 2024, there are still clubs that restrict women’s access to prime tee-times, run non-inclusive competitions, have less favourable facilities for women, and (if they do allow mixed competitions) have separate women’s results. With all the progress that has been made in recent decades to achieve gender balance it’s bizarre these kinds of practices can slip through the net.

Wales Golf is headed up by CEO Hannah McAllister. Over 50% of her team is female, and we have an even gender split on our Board as well. You can see where I’m going with this…

As a golfing organisation, we are unique (probably globally) in our female leadership. Through our new strategy: Everyone’s Game, we’re determined to use our position to make sure everyone has the opportunity to fall in love with golf and can progress to the level they wish.

For women, that extends further than just playing the game: we need more female representation, including club captains and coaches, volunteers, instructors, and board members. Women have been underrepresented in leadership positions within golf clubs, such as on boards or committees, which can influence club policies and decision-making processes.

There are changes to policy we can make – like insist every club in Wales has an Equality and Diversity policy, which we’ve done.

However, this in itself isn’t enough to encourage women and girls to get into golf, or provide the welcome they need when they do. The cultural change that needs to happen is a lot more difficult to instil.

Clubs that offer free membership to women don’t see membership numbers spike. Why? Because women consume golf in a completely different way to men and the cost is often irrelevant.

Typically, a man who wants to get into golf will borrow or buy golf clubs, sign up, play with confidence regardless of performance, and gradually pick it up over time just by going out on the course with friends.

Many women don’t get into golf that way. All our evidence shows that on average, it will take a woman two to three years to go from complete beginner to a competent, confident club member.

Wales Golf’s flagship scheme, New2Golf has had a 60% take up by women. The series of golf lessons is paired with mentoring, fun competitions, and lots of social events. Equipment is provided, there is no formal dress, and it’s very relaxed. 55 Welsh clubs ran the scheme in 2022.

Through our new strategy, we are working to create a gradual cultural shift that will result in clubs being much more inclusive across the board – not just to women and girls. The future of golf relies on it becoming a thriving sport to be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of gender, age, financial means, impairment etc.

More and more golf clubs are recognising that in order to ensure golf is around in 50 years’ time, they must diversify.

The impact inclusivity can have, is illustrated well when we look at resort vs private member clubs. Resorts need to make money on a different scale and recognise the importance of good customer service. What’s good customer service when it comes to a golf club? Making sure everyone feels welcome and has a brilliant time.

Member clubs need to become more family focused – the hub of the community. I’m not a golf club member myself, so when I think about what we’re trying to achieve at Wales Golf, I think about how easy (or difficult) it would be for me to play the sport with my 8-year old son and perhaps my mum and dad. What would the welcome be like? Would there be flexibility of tee times? Would we feel supported?

We can learn a lot from Scandinavian countries that have made great progress in creating a more equal gender split in clubs.

Golf is a fantastic way to keep fit, find connection with nature, make friends, and improve mental health. It should be open to all, and at Wales Golf we’re really walking the talk – encouraging clubs to create more diverse leadership teams, and using our own organisation as an example of how it can benefit a business.

Our vision includes things like modernising language used (phasing out of the term ‘ladies’ for example), flexible tee times, female golf equipment and clothing in pro shops – with a wide variety of sizes to accommodate all body types, family friendly facilities, more mixed gender competitions and social opportunities, and changing areas designed to meet the needs of all genders.

The relaxing of some traditions and more inclusive, accessible environment at clubs will create a more welcoming environment for many other underrepresented groups, not just women and girls.