Mind Games: No woman, no cry at British Open

2013-07-21 10:00

When you think of it, in this day and age it is incomprehensible that the British Open championship is being staged at a golf club that does not permit female members.

It might have been acceptable in 1860, when the old championship was first contested, even late into the last century in a male-dominated society – but in 2013? Surely it is just not right.

The issue of the refusal by the Muirfield club, whose members somewhat incongruously call themselves the “Honourable” Society of Edinburgh Golfers when, in fact, they fall short on this key issue, has been a distraction to the playing of the 142nd Open championship this week.

Interestingly, all but 24-year-old Rory McIlroy of the great golf champions gathered in Scotland have been willing to speak out about what surely is discrimination.

It’s a question of morality, of what is right and proper, and the game is not dealing with it.

The poser was put to each of the former major winners and current leading players trotted out before the media in the vast marquee, with space for some 400 journalists.

Most chose to avoid the issue, mumbling platitudes that “it is what it is” and that they don’t make the rules.

Certainly, when the world’s oldest championship is at stake and your entire being is focused on playing as well as possible, you don’t want to be dealing with controversial issues, but it was nevertheless surprising that only McIlroy was in any way critical – and even then he had to be coaxed.

The young Northern Irishman, who is involved in a well-publicised relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, might have expected to be grilled over his dramatic loss of form since switching to Nike clubs, but instead was interrogated over an issue from which his elders shied away.

In the end, his criticism, seized upon by the press as “hitting out”, was actually quite gentle: “It’s something that we shouldn’t even be talking about. It’s something that shouldn’t happen. I don’t think it’s a real issue any more. Clearly for some clubs it is,” he said.

The R&A, golf’s governing body, and Muirfield are not the only exclusively male domains. Two other courses on The Open roster, Royal St George’s and Royal Troon, are also male only and, of course, it wasn’t until earlier this year that Augusta National in America, where the US Masters is staged, admitted its first female members, former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and financier Darla Moore.

It has been claimed that “golf” stands for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden” and there is a tale about the former secretary of St Andrews who, when asked about the club’s lack of lady members, replied that it was because the club had no toilet facilities for women.

Asked why these were not built, he archly replied that as the club had no female members there was no demand to build them! The R&A, by way of secretary Peter Dawson, has consistently defended the right of groups to associate with whomever and under what conditions they like.

Said Dawson: “For some people, it’s a way of life they rather like. If, on a Saturday morning, a guy gets out of the marital bed and plays golf with his chums, that is not on any kind of par with racial discrimination, anti-Semitism or any of those things. It’s just what people do.”

Fair and well, but when golf, or any other activity for that matter, moves into the public realm, the rules of engagement change.

What I find unacceptable is that all these men have wives, girlfriends, daughters. How do they square it with them?

» Talk to us: Do you think women should be allowed to be members of all golf clubs? Why?

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.