The stakes were high as 648 eligible members voted at Murifield today. The question: should the club allow women golfers to join the Open-hosting club? The answer was an emphatic no. A two-thirds majority (432) was needed to admit female members and this was not achieved.
Concerns cited by ‘no’ campaigners included “fear of slow play” and making women “feel uncomfortable”, which is golf’s equivalent of not getting into a nightclub in case you hurt yourself.
The 272-year-old club insisted that their right to maintain tradition would be endangered:
“The risks for the club are that a major change will fundamentally change our way of doing things and once that process develops it will be impossible to stop.” said a letter obtained by The Scotsman.
For those who aren’t aware, The Open Championship – yes we do know “British” doesn’t proceed it – has been hosted at fourteen venues on a (semi) rotational basis since 1860. There are currently ten courses that have been used since 1932, here is each venue with the date of their last tournament.
- Royal Portrush Golf Club, Norther Ireland (1951)
- Royal Troon Golf Club, Scotland (2004)
- Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland (2007)
- Royal Birkdale Golf Club, England (2008)
- Turnberry, Scotland (2009)
- Royal St George’s Golf Club, England (2011)
- Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, England (2012)
- Muirfield Gullane, Scotland (2013)
- Royal Liverpool Golf Club Hoylake, England (2014)
- Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland (2015)
Many clubs exercise their right to exclude women, citing an array of reasons. For most it’s a case of wanting to be naked whenever humanly possible, others talk about the need to perform rigorous cleaning rituals with painful inefficiency. Either way, this decision will cost Murifield a very prestigious claim, its status as a major championship venue.
According to a statement by one of golf’s two governing bodies, the Royal and Ancient, it’s no longer acceptable to have an exclusionary membership policy and it’s impossible to understand how this can be argued with.
R&A statement on the announcement at Muirfield: Going forward we will not stage @TheOpen at a venue that does not admit women as members.
— The R&A (@RandA) May 19, 2016
It’s great to see one of golf’s more conservative institutions take a proactive step on this, it really is insulting and indefensible to talk about tradition as an acceptable excuse for preventing change.
“Traditionally” Victorian children were sent up chimney pipes to clean, “traditionally” parts of America had segregated bathrooms, “traditionally” women didn’t receive the vote. The decision to exclude women from golf courses was made nearly 300 years ago, what other historical rules should we adhere to? It’s ignorant to suggest that ancient social norms still dictate Murifield’s membership policy.
Many of the excuses Murifield have given are completely recycled, they’re invidious and marginalising for a sport that can’t keep this sort of shit up much longer. If Augusta National can accept women so can every golf club in Britain, it’s a shameful state of affairs. Good for the R&A for standing firm on this one!