KPMG Ireland, a key partner of the 20×20 Campaign, challenged their employees to make a commitment to women in sport. Steven Culliton, an Associate Director in Management Consulting and a member of the KPMG Golf Society Committee, was eagerly awaiting such a directive and pledged to increase the number of women taking part in the society outings.
‘Even with a strong member of the committee who is a good female golfer – off seven out of the Grange Golf Club, we always had the challenge of attracting female staff to become comfortable enough to join in the society events so this was perfectly aligned because it gave us the mandate to increase our female participation by 20% over the 18 month period.’
Research undertaken by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland has found that time constraints, issues in relation to membership structures, purchasing equipment and lack of knowledge around the rules and regulations of golf are barriers to participation. Steven has come across similar feedback.
‘They [female employees] had this idea that everyone in the golf society would be really good, they maybe hadn’t played enough golf or played in a long time and weren’t confident to go out. The men are more than happy to go out and make a show of themselves with little or no experience!’ he laughed. ‘I was trying to come up with something that was more sustainable and create a community that would encourage each other to come out and participate in our events’
‘There’s a perception of elitism in golf which particularly in the corporate world which can put some people off. The Golf Society here plays at some of the best courses in the country but that can scare people off at times.’
After some discussion with the development team at CGI, the resulting outcome was a KPMG Women’s Golf Programme, held separately, until the participants were comfortable enough to integrate with the original Golf Society. PGA Professional Hazel Kavanagh would be the head teacher and sessions were to be held at Leopardstown Golf Centre – location was important to the planned success of the programme.
‘We wanted to make it very local, with busy work lives and family commitments,, it was so important for us to pick a course and driving range that was really accessible.’
An original offer was sent to over 1500 women in the firm and within two days an astounding 200 expressed their interest to take part.
The programme began with the first thirty budding golfers partaking in a six week programme of lessons – the majority beginners but some looking to take up the game again later in life. Structure was imperative and the team headed by Hazel at Leopardstown provided equipment and created a secure environment where it was OK to not know what you were doing right away.
‘It was important that they didn’t need to bring equipment with them,’ explained Steven, ‘They didn’t need to bring any specific clothes, they didn’t need to go and buy anything to participate. Up front expenditure on equipment and course membership in a sport that you don’t know whether you’re going to like or not is another barrier to entry.’
Jane Simington, a golf newcomer was charged with organising the communications and the lessons as it was important to us that we didn’t speak in golf jargon and understood the questions and challenges people would have as set out on their golfing journey.
It’s no surprise that KPMG Ireland is a very golf focused organisation with sponsored clients including Leona and Lisa Maguire and Paul Dunne and event sponsorship of the Irish Kids Golf Tour and it’s not just their Women’s Golf Programme which is under review. The Golf Society, which Steven has been involved in for five years, is likely to modernise too in the coming months.
‘We typically run five to six events every year but we are challenging ourselves and questioning whether we are running them in the right way to give as many people the option to play.’
‘We play 18 hole events in really top class courses and we try to bring them as close to Dublin City Centre as possible but it still takes half a day out of peoples work. They have to bring a car, they don’t necessarily have parking, they have to bring their clubs, and it’s quite an inconvenience if you can’t work from home for half a day.’
Comparing 2017 to 2018, nine-hole competitive women’s rounds in Ireland grew by 26% and a monstrous 91% by male club golfers. This is something the KPMG Golf Society is now also considering.
‘We’re re-thinking how we structure our events at the moment and are considering more nine hole events or venues which have an easier and more difficult course where everyone can meet for dinner afterwards. We want members to be comfortable with who they’re going out with, and they can play with people of a similar ability.’
‘The reason I personally joined the KPMG Golf Society was because I was a member of a club in Laois and wasn’t getting out enough to justify my membership. This forced me to get out four or five times in the summer and I’ve since joined Forrest Little, Julie McCarthy’s club. I live in the city centre so it’s 20 minutes out there at the weekend, I go out early, I am home by lunch time and have the rest of the day – that’s important for working people I think.’
The KPMG Women’s programme itself began in June and with phase one now complete for the first 60 participants. We are in the process of scheduling the remainder of the Phase 1 lessons with Hazel and her team who have been fantastic throughout. two subsequent six week blocks will see more of the 200 interested employees get their taste for the game by taking their phase 1 learnings to the course.
‘The feedback has been very positive thus far, our biggest challenge is that we have an oversubscription of interest so we’ve planned a social BBQ evening for anyone who expressed interest whether they’ve began or not in order to create that community.’
The feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive (even with the odd blister complaints).
“The golf lessons are a fantastic way to bring together strong KPMG women from different areas of the business in a common goal. We learnt the fundamentals of golf, more importantly in a safe and enjoyable environment.”
“The golf lessons in Leopardstown Golf Centre were fantastic – not only were they very informative with technical guidance given to each individual personally, but they also had a great sense of fun. John in particular is a great coach with clear technical discussion and instruction”.
“Golf has a reputation as a man’s sport so it has been great to attend group lessons for women; most of which were complete beginners. I have learned a lot in a short space of time and I am looking forward to getting out on the course.”