Charity calls for sponsor boycott of the Open

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2013 11:51

A charity that aims to get more women involved in sport has called for sponsors of the Open to pull out as the host golf club does not allow women to be members.

WSFF (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation), which counts Conservative MP Tracey Crouch as one of its trustees, has said that hosting the world famous golf tournament at Muirfield, a men-only golf club, is “damaging to the sport”.

“The R&A [golf’s governing body] is deeply out of touch with both golfers and the wider general public,” said a spokeswoman. “WSFF is urging the public to contact the sponsors of the tournament, such as Mastercard, Ralph Lauren and HSBC, to urge them to withdraw sponsorship unless the Open is held at clubs that allow women to join in future.”

The announcement comes as a new survey of British adults, commissioned by WSFF, has found that the vast majority do not think that men-only clubs should be allowed to host the Open Championship.

The Ipsos MORI survey of more than 2,000 people found that the majority of golfers, 62 percent, believe that having men-only clubs hosting the tournament makes it less likely for women to take up golf, and that more golfers than non-golfers (56 percent) think this.

Just 15 percent of British adults agree that clubs with male-only policies should be selected to host the Open and just seven percent of adults think golf clubs should be allowed to restrict membership to one sex. Meanwhile, 60 percent of women believe that companies should not sponsor the Open when it is held at a club that bans female members.

Commenting, WSFF chief executive Sue Tibballs said: “It is clear that the R&A is totally out of step with public opinion and with the vast majority of golfers in the country.

“Muirfield’s sexist membership policies are absurd in the 21st century, and holding the Open at a club that bans women members is damaging to the sport. A number of golfing bodies are working very hard to break down the traditional perceptions of the sport and encourage a new generation of female participants, and these clubs do nothing to help that cause.

“It is frankly embarrassing that out of all the major golf tournaments in the world, the Open is the only one hosted by a club that doesn’t allow women to be members. This kind of policy is outdated, out of touch and it’s bad for golf.”

Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A, told CNN recently that the issue has been blown out of proportion.

“Single sex clubs are still something of a feature in Scotland,” he said. “It’s a historical thing actually because women came to the game of golf when men were already established.

“It’s something that is reported as an issue far more than the actuality of it. We have a situation where about one percent of clubs in the UK are single sex – it’s a very small number.

“Golf has moved on from the stereotypes of 50 years ago. It is chalk and cheese and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the year ahead.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2013 11:51
Write a comment


  1. Jemima Laithwaite July 18, 17:29

    I’m sorry but I agree with the WSFF, good on them!

    Reply to this comment
  2. paul jenkins July 18, 12:45

    I do see this as headline grabbing nonsense. Private members clubs have the right to set their membership criteria as they see fit. There is no law against that. Neither does this impact on ability of both sexes to play the course either as members guests or full visitors on those courses who allow full visitors. Nor do these clubs prevent access to the club house into those areas where the male changing areas are not compromised by ladies getting an eyeful so to speak. There is no right answer on this but you cannot claim a right to be a member of any club just because you are female or male as the case may be. If you want a proper debate then it is about the inequality of membership in mixed member clubs were lady members pay the same as the gents but have far less access to their course, now that is inequality.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Anonymous July 18, 09:14

    I have no problem with a men’s only club or a women’s only club. Who cares? But are Muirfield, Royal St. George’s and Western Gailes (and perhaps others) breaking the law on equality?
    A private members’ club has the dispensation to be single sex BUT the guidance notes all say that where the club is open to the public it is no longer an association but becomes a service provider and equality applies. The key thing here is that Muirfield, Royal St George’s and Western Gailes all take green fees from the public and therefore lose the right to be single sex.
    They use the sham of calling the visitors “guests” and I believe this absolute pretence that the people coming in are guests and that it is a bona fide members’ club. It isn’t. As we know the whole issue of describing visitors as “guests” is a big issue in golf. Many of the naughty boys in blazers and with their old school ties round London hide all the green fees by pretending they are “guests” of members and they then don’t pay tax.
    Now we see these men only clubs doing the same. Frankly no one has a problem with single sex clubs but these aren’t that

    Reply to this comment
  4. trentparkgolf July 16, 13:51

    I must be part of the 7% !

    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: