The Niggle: Are single-sex golf club memberships acceptable?

The Scoop

Muirfield maintains its stance on no female members after a vote described as 'embarrassing'

Today saw the news that Muirfield will not stage another Open Championship after maintaining its ban on women members after a vote.

The Scottish club said voting in favour of allowing women had fallen just short of the required two thirds majority.

The R&A have said that it would not stage the Open at a venue that does not admit women as members.

It raises the question in the 21st Century is it acceptable for any golf club to have single-sex members.

Do you think single-sex golf clubs are acceptable in the 21st Century? Let us know your views in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

The team at NCG gave their views on this controversial topic:

Tom Irwin: Muirfield is a club so the fact is they really ought to be able to choose who is and isn’t a member. The very nature of a club is discriminatory, so the headline ‘Club chooses type of member it wants’ is not news in itself.

The potential impact on the club and more importantly the sport is obvious. If you choose to have that membership policy there is no way you should expect to  be able to host the Open. The Open is one of a handful of  golfing events that interest the wider world – that comes with a responsibility to demonstrate what golf could and should be which is relevant, inclusive and open to all.

Personally, I cannot think of any good reason that you would want to have a single sex club it is weird and boring. Some of the ‘no’ voting members of Muirfield presumably have wives, daughters, and grand daughters – how do they rationally explain to them that they are a member of a club where their sons and grandsons can join but they can’t? Perhaps they also encourage their sons to study at university and their daughters to learn the basic of home economics, but I doubt it.

Emma Abbott: Do they not realise it is 2016 and if a woman can become a politician, astronaut or run for president I’m sure that they can choose where to play golf. This all boils down to stubborn, old fashioned upper class men wanting to keep us out of their golf clubs.  Emmeline Pankhurst is turning in her grave as I write this.

TI: It would not surprise me if the membership of Muirfield are well aware that this vote means no more Open and would rather keep their club the way it is and lose the Open, there is precedent at Cypress Point in California, wildly regarded to be in the world’s top 5 golf courses. They were part of the early season Pebble Beach Pro Am for many years, the PGA tour expressed that if they did not move to address their all white membership policy  they would not be allowed to host tour events. The club chose to maintain it’s own membership policy and lost the event.

Mark Townsend: There was a ‘good’ line in the Guardian yesterday that a female executive of the European Tour had to eat in the Muirfield kitchen at the Senior Open as she wasn’t allowed in the clubhouse. If anything sums up what a stinker of a place anywhere could be then this is it.

The really alarming thing is that they ‘only’ needed two thirds of the vote and they couldn’t even manage that after a two-year consultation process.

So, of the 648 members, they couldn’t manage 432 people to vote the right way.

Some will say fair play to the R&A but, given it is 2016, any praise should be kept to the bare minimum. And so to Royal Troon and this year’s Open Championship….

Dan Murphy: It is progress of a sort that the R&A is now taking this stance (obviously one that wasn’t available to them until a couple of years ago).

I’m not exactly proud of golf – what with this being the 21st century – but it is a step in the right direction.

Personally I don’t think any club, be it the Honourable Company or the WI, should be able to discriminate on membership based on gender but there we go. They should certainly not be allowed to host the Open. The world has changed and is changing. Golf hasn’t changed but is beginning to change.

What a shame this kind of nonsense detracts from our great game. The damage done to the game’s reputation in the wider world when these kinds of debates are raging is incalculably large. I long for the day when I can proudly announce myself as a golfer in wider society rather than being looked at as some kind of dinosaur.

TI: I think the R&A have to be applauded. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary there will be many who think that the best courses, of which Muirfield is clearly one, should hold the Open regardless of their policies. Changing history is quite a big thing and there is nothing more historical than THCOEG. If you look at the whole thing dispassionately – yes they are late to the party but the R&A have made the right decision and Muirfield have made the right decision for them whether you agree with it or not. It is all very sensible, fair minded stuff.

The R&A have had 2 Chief Exec’s since 1984. Peter Dawson was in post for 16 years, coming to post in 1999, and prior to that Sit Michael Bonallack for another 15 years.  Golf participation numbers were growing worldwide & in mature markets for  25 of those 30 years. When what equality means is still not a fully formed concept in wider society, expecting a CEO with one eye on retirement in a game which was thriving, to change 100 years of history was never going to happen.  It is much easier to affect this size of change with a new broom and when necessity demands it. I think Martin Slumbers particularly deserves credit  for recognising that and for acting so promptly.  No Open at Muirfield is still a massive thing regardless of the ludicrousness of it staying there.

Given that every single current Open course is having to stretch beyond normal boundaries to stay relevant then moving elsewhere, perhaps even to a ‘new’ venue could be a good thing anyway. Maybe we will end up at Trump Aberdeen, I can’t see any social or political arguments about that.

MT: In 20 years we’ll all look back and wonder what on earth was happening in these types of places so I don’t think they should be applauded at all. It’s their club and they can do what they want with it but it’s a nonsense to hold the Open there.

It’s all a big, big shame given that it’s a lot of people’s favourite Open course, and would be mine to play, and its most recent winners take some beating – Mickelson, Els, Faldo (2), Watson, Trevino, Nicklaus, Player, Cotton…

TI: Totally agree.

 

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