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Ban women? In 2016? Seriously?

When I was nine years old I picked up my first golf club and trudged out to the practice ground with a group of 10 boys for my first ever junior golf lesson. My mum, a passionate and very good golfer, drove me there and waited in the pro’s shop for an hour with all her fingers crossed that I’d return with even a tiny amount of the passion that she has for the sport instilled in me – which I did. It was 1986 and I was the only junior girl playing at my golf club.


Week after week, year after year I learned to play, the pinnacle of my short love of the game coming when I was 16 years old and won the club’s annual Ladies Open.


My parents and brother regularly told me that despite my love of hockey, tennis and badminton, my talents lay in golf – it was something I should pursue. So why didn’t I?


It was the late 80s and golf clubs were sexist. There was a clear hierarchy in the club: firstly men, then women, then junior boys, and lastly junior girls. My brother and I would queue up on the first tee on a Sunday afternoon and regularly wait one or two hours while adults came and went, taking priority. Add to this the fact that I’d been brought up by a mother who absolutely believed in equal rights for girls and boys, yet finding myself in an environment which had ‘men only’ lounges in the club house where my younger brother could go but I couldn’t, meant my frustrations grew. The final nail in the coffin was the dress code: as the only teenage girl in the club my lessons were with the boys I went to school with, yet being forced to wear out-of-date, old-fashioned outfits meant I regularly tried to bend the rules, and regularly got told off by the adult male members (who in my opinion should have been concentrating on their own games rather than mine).


What I didn’t appreciate at the time though was the fact that, being a girl, I actually should have been grateful I was allowed on the course at all! Nothing in my education had prepared me for the fact that girls wouldn’t naturally be allowed the same permissions as boys. And is there anyone who can actually believe that, 30 years on, women still aren’t allowed to walk on all courses in the UK?


A lot has changed since the late 80s and the club I played at as a child has been very inclusive for decades now – no areas are out of bounds for either women or men, the dress code is more relaxed which has invited in a whole wave of younger people (and junior girls!) which will ensure the club continues to thrive for decades to come. Like a lot of changes of policy in this life, I put this down to a new generation coming in and leading the club forwards.


So I’m proud, really proud, of the decision by the R&A to refuse to let Muirfield host The Open because it has voted to remain a men only club which continues to ban female members. It’s the only decision that could have been made by the R&A, but at the same time a decision that shouldn’t even have to be made in the first place. How embarrassing for golf, which incidentally this year is hosting the Championships at another Open venue which still excludes women, Royal Troon. 


Muirfield is yet to really comment on the decision, other than to defend its member's voting system. But after enjoying such an illustrious heritage for well over a century, I’ll be enjoying watching the outcome of this antiquated decision, while pondering how in 2016 it’s even possible that this debate is taking place. And if any PR agency steps forward to defend Muirfield, good luck to you (unless of course the decision is reversed) – sometimes the indefensible really is just that: indefensible.



Tagged with: golf, Leisure, Lifestyle, Manchester, Muirfield, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West