Muirfield Doesn’t Allow Women – Who Cares?

I won’t even bother with the rhetoric about “in this day and age there are still clubs that don’t allow women to play…” and so forth. For a feminist rant about how far we have NOT come go elsewhere.

However, if you pay even just cursory attention to The Open Championship, one of four majors on the PGA Tour, you’re bound to hear that the club hosting this year’s Open has a single sex membership policy. In essence, women are not allowed to be members of the club.

Sound familiar? This was also the case at Augusta National, where the Masters’ is held every year, until, without warning; they decided to invite two women to be members; former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Businesswoman Darla Moore in August of 2012. Once this happened eyes turned toward Muirfield, one of the last holdouts of courses with longevity to exclude women, and slated to host the next Open Championship.

Saying that such a policy is sexist is like saying that the current President of the United States is black. Who cares? That’s not the question. The question is whether a club with such a limited membership should be included in the rotation of professional golf tournaments. Indeed, if not part of the solution then one is part of problem and by continuing to host events at such courses, and allowing them to reap the plethora of benefits that comes with being a Tour venue, one might argue that golf’s leadership is thus condoning the policy. There has been no clear stance from golf’s governing bodies, i.e. the USGA and the R&A, who essentially maintain that a private club is allowed to determine the basis of membership on its own.

Of the professionals who will be playing in the event none of them has taken a strong stance in any direction as well. Tiger Woods never plays politics and made no exception in this case when asked about it in his press conference. Last year’s champion Ernie Els and next year’s Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley also tip toed gingerly around the question as though it were a landmine. They do have wives to go home to after they finish playing. It’s okay to have an opinion, boys! They won’t take away your score just because you disagree with their policy.

Unfortunately, the PGA Tour, Titleist, Callaway, Nike, Ping, shoe companies, ball companies, clothing companies, and so forth, know full well that despite the uproar about a club in the rotation with an all-male membership, their sales won’t suffer. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Who cares if a few women and possibly even their commiserating husbands boycott The Open Championship, PGA Tour events, or golf altogether? People will still spend $500 on a new driver with just the barest promise of hitting it further, the fairways will still be dominated by retirees with the money and time to play golf and they may or may not care about the policy of some golf course across the pond they probably never heard of and will never get to play, and people will still spend oodles of money on lessons, greens fees, balls, drinks after the round, and so forth.

In the old days women weren’t allowed in for typical reasons. Prohibition of anyone who was a not a white male was standard. In the new days, such a policy is allowed to exist because money is the driver of all things. Women don’t have a lot of buying power in golf. So why cater to them? Collectively, the golf industry knows they can get away with such obvious and pitiful sexist policies. If Muirfield doesn’t want to allow women so be it. Let sleeping dogs lie, they must think, as long as they keep paying us.♣