Men-only row overshadows Masters’ preps

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 2, 2012 10:23

Augusta National Golf Club may grant membership to a woman for the first time in its history as it prepares to host the Masters this week.

The 79-year-old American golf club has been men-only since it opened and has given membership to the last four chief executives of IBM, due to the computer company’s sponsorship of the Masters tournament.

However, earlier this year, Virginia Rometty, who is a golfer, was named CEO of IBM, which has also run the club’s website since 1996.

Women are allowed to play the course at the club, but they are not allowed to be members or wear the famous green jacket, which is reserved for about 300 men, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Arnold Palmer, who joined the club on an invitation-only basis.

The club has been the subject of controversy over its exclusivity in the past; it admitted its first African-American member as recently as 1990, at a time when a storm was erupting over Shoal Creek, an all-white American club where the PGA Championship took place only after it admitted its first black member. And the 2003 and 2004 Masters were broadcast without commercials because of pressure on corporate sponsors after Martha Burk, then chair of the influential National Council of Women’s Organizations, contended that hosting the Masters tournament at a single sex club constituted sexism.

Neither Augusta National nor IBM have made a comment on the issue, but Burk has stated that if the golf club makes Rometty anything less than a full member then “they’ll be making a statement that they don’t consider her an equal to her predecessors.” She added that she would not be surprised if IBM pressurised Rometty to say she does not want to be a member, although this could result in bad publicity for the company.

Last year’s Open Championship’s preparations in Britain also proved to be controversial as the host club, Royal St George’s in Kent, does not allow female members.

The R&A’s chief executive, Peter Dawson, was forced to defend the decision to choose the course as the championship venue, stating that Royal St George’s membership policy was a private matter for the club.

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 2, 2012 10:23
Write a comment


  1. chris morley April 4, 12:25




    Reply to this comment
  2. Jacquie Wade April 2, 19:00

    So guys, in order to get equality moving, do we have to move from the top down? Or should we really be starting at the bottom and especially with the clubs in England following the Equality 2010 Act which is ‘supposed’ be the law now.

    Reply to this comment
  3. (@golfclubadvisor) (@golfclubadvisor) April 2, 17:04

    sorry boys but this is a disgrace, there is no argument other than blatant sexism here..sort it out

    Reply to this comment
  4. Sean Mysel April 2, 16:08

    Augusta National needs to catch up with the rest of us here on Earth. While racism and sexism in my country is still a major problem, we aren’t unleashing police dogs on people or hammering them with fire hoses. This whole policy about not letting women become members is flat out stupid. I certainly hope Rometty throws her weight behind forcing the club to acknowledge women’s equality and catch up with most of the rest of the world.

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment


Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

For editorial enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

For advertising enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

Social media