Sport Ireland's €200,000 boost for female inclusivity in Irish golf clubs

Sport Ireland's €200,000 boost for female inclusivity in Irish golf clubs
Noreen Sheridan (Rathcore) holes the winning putt on the 16th green to clinch the AIG Challenge Cup at the 2019 AIG Ladies Cups and Shields East Leinster Finals at The K Club Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Noreen Sheridan (Rathcore) holes the winning putt on the 16th green to clinch the AIG Challenge Cup at the 2019 AIG Ladies Cups and Shields East Leinster Finals at The K Club Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Ireland's female golfers are punching above their weight on the international stage but the time has come to increase participation by women and girls in Irish clubs.

As Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire fly the flag in the professional game and Lauren Walsh and Annabel Wilson embark on college careers in the US, it’s time to bring participation by women and girls up to par at home.

Thanks to Sport Ireland's new Women in Sport Policy, golf has been awarded €200,000 from a €3 million allocation to help part-fund a programme designed to maximise their inclusion.

Following a competitive bid process, the funding allocated to WIS initiatives for 2019 and 2020 includes a crucial €200,000 fund for the Level Par programme, an initiative tasked to establish fairness for all within golf.

Level Par will set targets for participation, coaching, officiating, leadership and membership for women and girls.
— Sinead Heraty, Chief Executive, Irish Ladies Golf Union

Promoting equality and inclusivity was a key component of the Golf Ireland proposal that was overwhelmingly approved by clubs in January.

Thirty years ago, just 13 per cent of female members were allowed to attend their club's AGM, and only 7 per cent of those had a vote.

Today, over 50 per cent of female members have chosen to obtain full membership, making this one of the most significant shifts in modern-day club membership in Irish golf.

Women and girls represent 22 per cent of membership across Ireland's 400 clubs — significantly higher than other home nations but well short of the 37 per cent female membership of clubs in Germany.

According to the Irish Ladies Golf Union and the Confederation of Golf in Ireland, this "highlights a clear opportunity to voice the views of women and improve support structures available to clubs as the transition period towards Golf Ireland continues."

Level Par will be led by ILGU and the CGI and offer leadership, guidance and support to clubs on how they can maximise the inclusion of women and girls from grassroots to management committees.

Removing barriers and providing clear pathways to increase the involvement of women and girls of all ages, abilities and backgrounds is a core value of the programme which has been split into four pillars to mirror those included in Sport Ireland's policy:

  • Coaching & Officiating

  • Active Participation

  • Leadership & Governance

  • Visibility

The Level Par Activators programme has already been launched as a pilot this summer where amateur golfers were welcomed to assist PGA Professionals in delivering golf sessions to Juniors.

For golf to thrive into the future there is a need for a more equal environment which embraces women and families.
— Pat Finn, CEO, Golfing Union of Ireland

A Level Par Coaching and Mentoring programme is planned to provide female PGA Professionals with the opportunity to develop and learn from industry leaders.

Projects to target participation of women under 40 and educational seminars for women involved in golf club governance are additional components of Level Par which will be underpinned by constant communication showcasing the importance of each pillar.

Overall, the programme aims to strengthen the focus on gender balance and provide a united position for the golf industry in Ireland.

Increasing the number of women, girls and families participating in golf continues to be important while additionally increasing the number of women progressing to leadership roles at all levels.

"Level Par will set targets for participation, coaching, officiating, leadership and membership for women and girls," explained Sinead Heraty, Chief Executive of the ILGU.

"In the transition to Golf Ireland, we want to support clubs to develop an inclusive, welcoming and inspiring environment for all within golf."

Pat Finn, CEO of the GUI, said: "For golf to thrive into the future there is a need for a more equal environment which embraces women and families.

"We're confident that these latest initiatives will be of significant benefit to our game as we prepare for the launch of Golf Ireland."