Ladies On The Links

Those of us who have played golf for some years will recall a time, not too long ago, when more than a few golf clubs did not permit women to join. It has not been surprising to see most of these all-male clubs, albeit somewhat grudgingly, change their policies in recent years.

Famously, Muirfield held a members’ vote some five years ago to change their policy to allow female membership, but the two thirds majority needed for this was not achieved. Muirfield has hosted The Open Championship 15 times, the most of any British club other than St. Andrews. After realising that the political heat was being turned up, and that they would never again be considered as an Open venue if they didn’t change their rules, the members were again summoned to the polls. This time 80.2 percent voted in favour. It is not known how many of the 19.8 percent that voted against the motion resigned in disgust.

Earlier this year, Pine Valley in New Jersey decided to finally allow women to become members. In the past, a woman could play as a guest of a member, but only on a Sunday afternoon, when demand for tee times was low.

It is less than a decade that Augusta National finally invited women to join the club, but only after a lot of pressure had been exerted from several quarters. The club best known for being the home of the US Masters still reserves the right to “invite” new members to join, and not just any women can join this ultra-exclusive club. The first two ground-breaking invitations that went out to females were to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Darla Moore, then reputed to be at one time to be the highest-paid female banker in the industry. Moore was also the first women to be featured on the cover of Fortune magazine.

The membership of Augusta is still a closely guarded secret, but it is well-known that the third lady to receive an invitation to become a member was Virginia Rommetty, then the CEO of IBM. Considering that IBM was an official sponsor of the Masters, and that all her male predecessors had been invited to join the green jacket clan, the club could hardly not invite the lady that was signing the sponsor’s cheques.

It was only in 2014 that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews admitted women members, so for the first 260 years of its history the club was a bastion of male golfers only. On the rare occasion that a woman was allowed into the member’s clubhouse, she would suffer the ignominy of being considered a “honorary male” for the day.

Despite the changing, more inclusive world, there are still all-male golf clubs that doggedly refuse to change their policies, come what may. Most are run by a group of grumpy old men, one wag suggested that the average age of the members at these exclusive clubs is “deceased.”


One example is Butler National in Chicago, the long-time host of the PGA Tour’s Western Open. Among about a dozen all-male golf clubs still operating in the US, the club was informed by the PGA Tour in 1990 that their new policy was to forbid any club with discriminatory membership policies to host their events. Butler National was happy to wave goodbye to the Western Open. The last time the members here (which includes Jack Nicklaus among other famous names), voted to change their policy was in 2012, and the result was a clear decision to stick with tradition and to hell with political correctness.

WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO KEEP LADIES AWAY FROM FAIRWAYS? (Photo is of former star Michelle Wie, on the comeback trail).

Where was a fellow at my golf club who had a thing about women playing golf, and he made no bones about the fact that in his mind, the club would be better off without them. Viewed as a harmless eccentric, he would bore anyone who would listen with his arguments against women golfers, and at every Annual General Meeting he would try make his case for converting the club to an all-male institution, which nobody took seriously.

To this guy’s credit, he had always been a reasonably good player, and the one year, against all odds, he won the club championship. Soon after this, at the 19th hole one evening, someone pointed out to him that as club champion, he would be required to team up with the club’s lady champion to compete in a better ball tournament, a long-standing event in the region. He of course made it quite clear that he had no intention to playing in this event.

Word got around, and soon after, he was called into a committee meeting to discuss his refusal to play in this tournament, and with tongue in cheek, the club captain told him that his unwillingness to represent the club was viewed in a very dim light. He was in fact told that should he refuse to play, the committee might well strip him of his title of club champion. He swiftly relented, and the members of the committee then went a step further. It was suggested that in order to familiarise himself with playing with women, he should enter the Mixed Matchplay competition.

The day of the first round dawned, and our rabid, all-male advocate was drawn to play against a high-handicap lady. Such was the interest in this match, that a small gallery assembled to watch the clash. Giving away two shots a hole, our stoney-faced club champion and his somewhat overawed opponent proceeded to half the first seven holes, before there was an amazing turn of events on the next hole, a par three. The club champion, who had never had a hole in one, hit his tee shot and remained emotionless as his ball disappeared into the hole.

His opponent, after offering her hearty congratulations, then played her shot, a very average scuff that ended in a bunker. She also made a hash of her second shot, but the shot hit the lip of the bunker, hopped onto the green and then dropped into the hole. She had made a two (nett nought), so she was one up! This was more than our champion could bear, and he removed his cap, shook the hand of his opponent, and declared that he was conceding the match. He walked off the course, resigned his membership, and never played golf again.  -IRC.


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