Pressure on Troon and Muirfield as Royal St George’s admits women

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 5, 2015 11:22

One of the three men-only golf clubs to be on the rota of venues that host the Open Championship has said it will allow women to be members for the first time in its 127-year history.

royal st georges pet_r

Royal St George’s GC. Image by Flickr user pet_r


The move by Royal St George’s in Kent, which was ridiculed in a BBC satirical programme in 2013, puts pressure on the other two venues, Royal Troon and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield, which have both suggested in recent months that they will end their men-only policies.

One bookmaker is offering odds of just 1/10 that Royal Troon will still be an all male club by the end of this year, and odds of 8/15 that Muirfield will be the same way by December 31.

Royal St George’s has become the first of the three to state that it will allow women to become members of the club after a proposal put to an extraordinary general meeting last month and a subsequent ballot of its full membership.

“A resolution to alter the club’s rules to make ladies eligible for membership has been duly passed,” it announced in a statement. “Under the club’s rules, the resolution would only be passed if it obtained the support of three-quarters of the votes cast on the ballot.

“More than 81 percent of the full members took part in the ballot and a decisive 90 per cent voted in favour of ladies being eligible for membership. The alteration of the club’s rules has immediate effect and the club looks forward to welcoming ladies as junior and full members.”

Commenting on the result of the Royal St George’s ballot, a spokesman for the R&A said: “We welcome such a positive decision by the club’s members.”

Not everyone in golf thinks the move will have a significant effect on the number of women who play the game in the UK, which is disproportionately low compared to most other countries.

Telegraph columnist James Corrigan wrote: ‘Royal Troon will almost certainly follow suit. And although the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is fantastically belligerent, and really does not like being told what to do, it has, like Troon, launched ‘a comprehensive review’ of its membership policy. And it, too, will eventually follow suit in disbanding the suits.

‘Job done. The bigots will have been scattered and those fine moralists and freedom fighters who suddenly swarmed an ancient sport for which they truly never cared, can at last take their leave to seek out new discriminatory pastures to launch their next noble, and highly publicised, crusade.

Of course, the fact that only one in eight of golfers in this country are female, compared to one in four the world over, has plenty to do with the old, crusty traditions of the pursuit in this country. And no doubt the perception of the golf club as last male bastion has, to some degree, been perpetuated by the most famous golf tournament being staged at courses which defined their membership policies by gender.

‘But to believe that a few female millionaires joining up with several more male millionaires in these ultra exclusive establishments will change much at all is based in the land of absurd fantasy. British golf’s problem of female participation remains a problem for golfing unions and golf clubs the land over, where yes, women members have always been “welcomed”.’

‘Females would be encouraged to commit to the sport if clubs were ‘less masculine’, ‘less intimidating’ and treated them as ‘valued customers’.

‘What an indictment on the clubs that is. If female golf is to progress in this country then the culture has to change and it has to change soon and it will only do so with a complete overhaul of attitudes.

‘Allowing females to play as equals is one thing. Making females believe they can play as equals a different thing entirely.’

The BBC show The Revolution Will Be Televised visited Royal St George’s in 2013 to mock its single sex policy. The presenters made crude remarks in the clubhouse before they were asked to leave the premises.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 5, 2015 11:22
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