May 26th, 2016
The two reasons for 'No' at Muirfield
And why they just don't stack up
Words: John Dean Photography: Getty Images
I’ve been reflecting on Muirfield’s decision not to allow women to join, and I wanted to get off my chest why I am just so angered with the ‘No’ voters, and why I think they and the wider membership should be deeply ashamed of themselves.
Their decision to vote against allowing women to join hinged on what were two crucial factors to a deciding faction of their membership.
Firstly, that it might have an impact on their lunching habits. Why this should ever be the case is not stated, but it is still clearly a big red line issue for the ‘No’ voters. I just don’t get what is so unique about their precious lunches, and why exactly they need to be preserved in aspic so to speak. But that is besides the point anyway - and god knows I love a good lunch too.
But how on earth could a handful of new women members bring to bear any influence on their current lunching arrangements? And why on earth would they want to anyway? I just don’t get this at all. And as there are women visitors to the club already, who are not disrupting their current ‘luncheon’ arrangements, what on earth is the big deal? Can anyone help me out here? Absolutely nothing would change here.
The second issue is they fear that women may have an impact on the speed of their morning fourball play and afternoon foursome play. Tee it up against Carly Booth and then find out who is quickest for a start. Again, not a shred of evidence is presented to substantiate this deeply prejudicial view, which is again undermined by the fact that they already have women visitors who have not as yet destroyed their pace of play.
In short it was these two, all-important, red line issues to a rear guard of their membership that influenced their final decision.
They had to weigh their decision on these two trivial issues against these factors:
1) That there would be damage to the reputation of The Open Championship, the world’s oldest golf championship, and an event in which they themselves had an important part in setting up
2) That there would be deep embarrassment to the R&A who are trying to get with the programme and bring the game to a new audience
3) That existing women golfers and potential new women golfers would be alienated, and at a time when the game so desperately needs to bring more women into the game
4) That younger golfers and their parents would be put off golf by this decision
5) That there would be a negative impact on the local economy and local people, as all the benefits that hosting The Open can bring to their very own area would stop
6) That there would be damage to the wider perception of the game both on a UK and global basis
7) That they would reinforce stereotyping of the game as being exclusive and elitist.
They knew all of this well in advance of making their decision: absolutely nothing here is new.
But they weighed all the evidence and decided that their petty, unsubstantiated, self-interests were far more important than any single one of these issues, let alone the combined impact that their decision would have.
That it is the oldest golf club in the world should also make them reflect further. With that historic role should come at least some sense of responsibility for the game.
But no, their luncheon arrangements and a chauvinistic claim that their speed of play might be affected, outweighed all these other considerations.
Muirfield’s membership comes across as a small, highly self-regarding, people-like-us only elite, which is prepared to bring the whole game into disrepute simply to preserve nothing of any importance whatsoever, whilst doing real harm to the sport they purport to support.
Even Augusta National managed to steer its way successfully around the no women issue, by inviting Condoleezza Rice and Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, to join. This completely defused the issue. And are these two new members now running the show, and interfering with existing luncheon plans? Of course not.
But by voting ‘No’ Muirfield’s members have demonstrated their true feelings and prejudices, which look pretty ugly from where we are sitting.
There may be plans for an emergency general meeting, but the reputational damage has now been done, and this genie cannot now be put back into the bottle. The ‘Condoleezza’ solution is not an option now. That opportunity has gone.
And the members who voted ‘Yes’ are probably mostly as culpable as their ‘No’ voting colleagues, because if they had any real sense of the damage that a ‘No’ vote was going to do the whole club, they should have campaigned a damn site harder.
Members of the so-called Honorable Company are now a bunch of pariahs as far as I am concerned. Just as they will want nothing to do with me, I want nothing to do with them.
One final thing to get of my chest is why on earth do they host the Boys Amateur Championships? In recognition of their thriving junior programme, which includes lessons on how to neck large quantities of Kummel?