Early this morning the grumpy old Scottish loons at Muirfield Golf Club voted to allow female members for the first time in its history as a private golf club. In response, the Royal & Ancient (R&A) Golf Club (one of golf’s two major governing bodies) immediately reinstated Muirfield as part of the rota to host the British Open.
— The R&A (@RandA) March 14, 2017
Sounds like a good thing, right? Well…
This was something like the fifth or sixth time the issue of allowing female members came to a vote at Muirfield, one of golf’s oldest golf courses (founded in 1744). It was only until the R&A threatened and removed the course from the Open rota following the previous vote in May 2016 that anything was done.
So, Muirfield’s all-male membership realized the threat to its prestige as one of the best courses in the world on one of golf’s biggest stages and decided to play along. ONE FIFTH of the membership still voted “no”, but the vote passed and the R&A immediately reinstated them.
Call me a cynic, but this reeks of “Just give them what they want and give us back the Open.”
A better move by the R&A would have been to make Muirfield wait another year and to monitor the growth of female membership in terms of both volume and comfort. I’m willing to bet ladies aren’t busting down the doors to become members out of fear that they’ll still be treated like outsiders. I bet there isn’t even a women’s locker room.
The bumpy road to female inclusion has been seen stateside as well. Consider Augusta National, one of the most racist, homophobic, and sexist establishments in the history of the game. (Yeah, I know; I don’t expect an invitation anytime soon.)
They voted to allow female members for the first time in 2012. To the best of my knowledge, they’ve only added three female members on their roster since that time. Condoleezza Rice was the first ANGC member, who really came as a two-for-one figurehead… but I digress.
I’ve never been a fan of forced inclusion on anything. It comes across as, well, forced and disingenuous. The only reason Muirfield’s membership “gave in” was because something was taken away from them.
You know, kind of like how you’d discipline a child for not doing their homework and instead playing video games all day long. “Do your homework like a good little boy and you can have your XBox back.”
Make no mistake: the majority of Muirfield’s membership don’t want female members. And if I’m wrong (I’m not), then steps would have been taken long before the R&A brought the hammer down. It would have never gotten that far. Instead, the membership called the governing body’s bluff.
Some of my readers will fall into the “Muirfield is a private club and has the right to do whatever it wants” bucket. I actually agree with this sentiment.
But it should also be understood that in a changing society, some businesses can get left behind. So have your boys-only membership; you just won’t have anyone else ever again.
It will also be argued that today’s vote is a move in the right direction, but I challenge us to want more. Golf’s governing bodies need to hold their best golf clubs to a higher standard at all times instead of holding a negotiation. Sustainability of positive change is more important than taking the first step.