Madeleine Winnett: Muirfield misogynists put golf back decades

Golf News

Madeleine Winnett reacts to Muirfield's decision to maintain their single-sex membership policy..

Congratulations to the Muirfield misogynists who have put golf back decades.

Golf is on the decline, there is no denying that. Clubs are closing left, right and centre, and up and down the land committees are scratching their heads trying to work out how to attract more ladies and juniors to the game.

That is a hard enough task for those already enamoured with the game, but to the outside world who have always perceived the game as elitist, sexist, chauvinistic and largely run by misogynist dinosaurs dressed in tweed – their views have just been reinforced.

Sterling efforts have been done by campaigns such as This Girl Golfs to reinvent the image and to show that things have changed.

Unfortunately, though, the furore that the mindless minority have caused (remember, it was only just over a third of members who voted to exclude women) will continue to reinforce the sterotypical image.

Muirfield misoginists

I feel very sorry for the majority of members who wanted change. The fact that their wishes were overturned by a handful of relics from the last century must be galling to them.

People are very proud of their golf clubs, so for these members to see their club as the object of derision and scorn, not only in this country but across the golfing world, must be mortifying.

One of the reasons given for not wanting women members was because they perceived ladies as playing too slowly.

Oh my word! How many people’s hearts have sunk as they they’ve spotted a men’s fourball a few holes ahead?

If you are drawn to play with one of our up-and-coming junior girls, you will find your round takes under two-and-a-half hours.

How many codgers from Muirfield can keep pace with that?

Of course, it is a spurious argument. There are slow ladies, and there are slow men. It is merely ridiculous to propose that it is a gender thing.

Equally ridiculous, I’m afraid, are some of Peter Alliss’s comments.

Muirfield misogynists

I have defended Peter time and time again over the years as people have been too quick to take offence at his off-the-cuff quips.

I abhor political correctness and people who want to be offended by the slightest thing, but now I can’t defend him any more.

For him to claim that if women want to play Muirfield they should marry members isn’t a throwaway, humorous remark: it reveals his deep-set beliefs.

He compounded his error by saying that the open letter which was sent to the men of Muirfield bemoaning the slow play of women and that their entry would ruin lunches by trying to say that it had probably been written by a woman.

Muirfield misogynists

By the time I read his view that the clubhouse was “full of bloody women” I had seen enough.

Alliss may be known as the Voice of Golf but with these views he is the voice of golf no more.

He is the voice of bigotry and blatant sexism and therefore now it really is time he hangs up his spikes.

Thankfully, the R&A is far more enlightened these days in the hands of chief executive Martin Slumbers, and it received worldwide acclaim for moving so swiftly to remove Muirfield from the Open rota.

However, I don’t think people should worry about its loss, because I’m confident it will return as a venue very shortly.

Muirfield misogynists

In a couple of years when the vote is taken again, a few more of the boys-in-blazers brigade will have departed, and women will be admitted very readily.

The day before the vote, James Corrigan was certain that things were about to change, and he wrote in the Telegraph: “The fact that the vote is even said to be close is embarrassing.”

Yes, it is embarrassing – as, of course is the outcome – but I find the hypocrisy of the media equally embarrassing. They are so quick to condemn sexism in golf and yet their own coverage of women’s golf is now derisory.

In the days of Sue Mott and Lewine Mair, the Telegraph used to provide wonderful coverage of women’s golf at both amateur and professional level. Now, it is virtually non-existent.

When I wrote Alison Nicholas’s book, Walking Tall, I trawled through bag after bag crammed with newspaper and magazine articles about her golfing exploits.

If I am to embark on a similar venture with Charley Hull in the future, I can only advise her to keep a diary because there will be so little material available to look back on.

Muirfield misogynists

For months on end the papers are filled with pages leading up to a Ryder Cup, but how many lines are devoted to a Solheim Cup even when it is in full swing? Melissa Reid made more column inches when her mother was tragically killed in a car accident than she has done for her lifetime of golf.

The papers and the mainstream golf magazines only want to know about women’s golf when there is a human interest story or a controversy.

I spent some time with Mel going through her fitness routines and gym work, with a view to doing a series of articles about her lifestyle.

None of the male-dominated golf magazines were interested in the idea, but they were all fawning over themselves to intrude on her grief time and time again.

The Telegraph covered the Muirfield story on page five. When has women’s golf ever made it out of the sports section onto the main pages, let alone page five?

Even worse, they featured an eight-inch photo of some chap dressed in a tweed coat and cap who looked more like he was going shooting than playing golf. You can measure any photo of a woman golfer in millimetres if they ever feature at all.

Muirfield misogynists

Recently in the picture round at my local pub quiz, every single team recognised Ian Woosnam. However, if one of our female Major winners, such as Catriona Matthew had been pictured, I can guarantee I would have been the only one to have known who she was.

Social media and golfing media ran amok with comments about what an embarrassing day for Scottish golf the Muirfield decision was. And yes, it was.

But while you are denigrating Muirfield for its sexism, remember that magazines and newspapers seek to omit women golfers from their pages in just the same way as the Muirfield men seek to omit women golfers from their fairways.

The guilt is the same. Only the hypocrisy is different.

You perpetuate the same sexism by ensuring that the only time women’s golf hits the headlines is for all the wrong reasons.

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