It was hugely disappointing last week to read reports of the decision of the Muirfield Golf Club to continue to exclude women members from joining their ironically named ‘Honourable Company’. Admittedly, a majority of the members did vote in favour of overruling this hugely outmoded law, but the fact that a strong core of old members resisted (and actively campaigned against the change) is symptomatic of the deep misogyny embedded in the sport, at least in some quarters.
One of the more senior figures in the world of golf, Peter Alliss, did little to remedy the situation, with a casually sexist comment that women who wished to play there had “better get married to someone who’s a member”. I don’t feel a need to expand further on how exclusionary, small-minded and even incidentally homophobic this is.
The cost to Muirfield in the longer term has actually been quite severe, which is encouraging to see from the wider gold community. The club has had the right to host the Open, one of golf’s most prominent and prestigious events, taken away from it, as well as having received censure from a number of prominent players in the golfing rankings, including world number 3 and highly successful British golfer Rory McIlroy. Despite this, a quick search of the internet uncovered a large number of opinion articles from club members defending their decision to exclude women.
These individuals are not only openly prejudiced and deluded as to people’s perceptions of them (or perhaps simply don’t care). They are actively harming their sport and its popular perception. This is particularly disappointing given the sport has just recently been admitted to the Olympic Games, and is due to feature for the first time this summer.
Recently years have also seen a huge increase in the amount of sponsorship, publicity and prominence of women’s golf, and, alongside cricket, this has been one of the most successful sports at levelling the playing field for people of all background, genders and funding levels. Decisions such as the one taken by these members of the Edinburgh club could knock the sport back decades.