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Join the club? Not if you’re a woman say Muirfield golfers


Deborah Cowan
WVoN co-editor

Golfing news this week (be still your beating hearts).

Muirfield, one of Scotland’s most elite men-only golf clubs have said they will continue to exclude women from becoming members.

If you are familiar with Monty Python’s Life of Brian, you may well be thinking about the ‘are there any women here?’ scene, where large groups of women turn up to a public stoning – strictly a men only event – in fake beards in order to take part.

And why does one behest the other?  Because they are both practices that are outdated, sexist and unfathomably ridiculous.

Even Augusta National Golf Club, home of the US Masters tournament, has woken, Kraken-like, from its 80 year sexist slumber and has condescended to allow women to become members (all two of them).

It would seem, however, that Scotland, (the home of golf I might add) is reluctant to follow suit.

For ‘tis not only Muirfield living in the past by barring women from joining – the great clubs of Royal and Ancient of Saint Andrews and Royal Troon are also floating around in cloud caddyland circa 1845.

Despite the fact that the Scottish Government has made it clear that male-only membership is outdated and should be changed, and although Harriet Harman has labeled the club ‘out of touch’,  Muirfield secretary Alastair Brown is carrying on regardless, insisting that there is no real pressure on the club and that nothing would be changing.

He said: ‘The state of the membership of Muirfield is a private matter for the members to decide – it is not an issue for the outside world.’

By ‘a private matter for the members to decide’, he does of course mean its male members.   So quite a balanced review going on there then.

He went on to say ‘It is simply the freedom of people to keep their own company – men or women.’

Ah Alastair, Alastair.

Just what is it that you are doing in there that you don’t want us to know about?  Are you and your men secretly watching ‘Beaches’, downing troughs of milk tray and wailing into box after box of paper hankies to the sound of the wind beneath Bette Midlers wings?

Or are you sitting around talking about…erm…golf?

So entrenched is his belief that Muirfield membership should continue to be distinctly male, Alastair Brown has said that he would even be willing to sacrifice the clubs status as a host venue for the golf Open rota – Muirfield are in fact supposed to be hosting the British Open this very year.

He said, somewhat dismissively, ‘The Open is not a huge money-spinner for Muirfield. We happily host the event because we happen to have one of the world’s great golf courses here and the R&A want us on their Open rota.

‘But it is not a big ticket item for the club. Yes, we receive a fee for staging the Open, but our members have to do lots of work in preparation.”

Members?  You mean the men?  Do the poor lambs have to actually mow a lawn or two?

Although the underlying issues here are serious – that sexist and exclusively male organisations are allowed to flourish, that men are allowed to dictate where women can go and when, that women are treated as second class citizens (they can visit the golf clubs as ‘guests’), a hearty belly laugh at a practice which is surely on its way out is probably the best recourse.

So over to Scottish comedienne Elaine C Smith, who said, ‘I’m appalled by Muirfield on so many levels but I suppose, outside a gay disco or circus, this is the only place men can wear a lavender V-neck and tartan trews* without being laughed at by women.’

*For those of you reading in anything other than tartan, ‘trews’ are, in fact, trousers.

However……. if, as William Wordsworth once said, golf is just a day spent in a round of strenuous idleness, perhaps it is a pursuit best suited to the male form after all.


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