Despite golf being a male-dominated sport, here's why Hannah McAllister, CEO of Wales Golf, has never let gender be a barrier – and why.

By 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.