Yesterday, it was announced that members of Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland voted to continue to not allow women members to join the club. Within an hour of this announcement, the Royal & Ancient Club, who runs The Open Championship, or what we call the British Open in the states, said they would take Muirfield out of the Open rotation due to this announcement. Not accepting women into prestigious golf and country clubs has been a practice for hundreds of years. However, things have changed drastically over the last five years. Augusta National Golf Club, without question the most well known club in the states due to its hosting off The Masters tournament each year, accepted women for the first time in 2012. Just two years ago the Royal & Ancient (R&A) who run the British Open, but also have their club just behind the Old Course at St. Andrews began to accept women as well. People should not be excluded, but it also begins to form a fine line.
I had the pleasure of going with a relative on a golf trip to Scotland nearly five years ago and I was fortunate enough to play a round at Muirfield. We managed to play at many of the finest courses around the country, but Muirfield was by far the most exclusive and stuffy. A few things happened that day which were a bit strange. It is a tradition in Scotland that you do not show up to the course in your golf shoes. Rather, you change into them in the locker room. Following that tradition when we came to the club, a man met us at the gate, and I asked where the locker room was to change our shoes. He told me that we were forbidden to go in the locker room, but we could change shoes in the hallway. When we got to the first tee, I asked the starter which tees we should play from. I pointed at a set of tees, and asked, ‘Is those the ladies tees?’ I was quickly reprimanded. “Sir, we do NOT have ladies here.” Point taken. As we finished up the round, while I was on the 18th green, I looked at the beautiful clubhouse. The specific portion I was looking at was below the clock and had floor to ceiling windows. It was then that I locked eyes with a large naked man sipping from a coffee mug, who gave me a friendly wave. I guess when you don’t allow women, you feel rather comfortable walking around in the buff? In all honesty, our day at Muirfield was the least fun of the trip, we felt like complete intruders, and I wouldn’t return.
The point is, the Royal & Ancient can’t stand behind a club who will not allow women, and they have every right to cease taking The Open Championship there. It is a shame because it truly is one of the best courses in Scotland, and professional golfers rave about it. Jack Nicklaus even named his club after it in Columbus, Ohio Muirfield Village. Since the announcement came out, just about every news outlet has come out trashing Muirfield for their archaic stance on the topic. For me, this is where it gets confusing.
If this is indeed a private club, paid for by the members, shouldn’t they be given the freedom to admit whomever they choose? While their stance is silly and I don’t agree with it, shouldn’t they have the right to do as they please. They obviously don’t seem to care that The Open Championship won’t be played there, so why should we let it bother us. If a group of people want to get together, shouldn’t they be allowed? If there was a Women’s Tennis Club in New Jersey, would the media jump all over them for not allowing men? We have progressed so far as a society. Odds are we will have a female President in November, but the political correctness is going a bit over the top. If a bunch of old men in Scotland want to get together, play golf, and drink coffee naked, do we really need to write 30 editorials condemning them? Frankly, I think there are plenty of more important things to worry about.