In a totally terrible outcome, Henry Fairweather, Captain of Muirfield Golf Club (pictured above), announced that the club will retain its “mens only” membership policy. In case you didn’t know, Muirfield Golf Club is a private golf club in Gullane, Scotland, about 20 miles northeast of Edinburgh.
After Fairweather’s statement to the press, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive officer of the R & A, the body that organizes The Open, said Muirfield would no longer stage the Championship because of its ruling. The exclusive club was 1 of 10 courses in The Open rotation and it has held the event 16 times, most recently in 2013.
A 2/3 majority vote was required for the change but 36% voted against allowing women. Before the vote, a 30-member group vigorously lobbied against the inclusion of female members. Among their concerns was the possibility of slow pace of play and an uncomfortable atmosphere.
One high profile 81 year-old member told The Scotsman that they wanted to keep the mens-only policy to prove that change was not going to happen despite outside media pressure.
“It wasn’t so much a vote against the ladies as a vote against the media and the press telling us what to do. No one likes being hammered all the time. We knew what was going to happen with the R & A and The Open. But we feel that we had to prove a point with a strong bunch behind the vote.”
Of course there’s going to be a media frenzy when you exclude half of the population. Golf has been battling with gender equity for decades. Not to mention the sport has been declining in popularity, so excluding women from Muirfield is very unappealing to a younger generation of golfers.
In top of that, golf commentator Peter Alliss suggested women who want to join Muirfield should “get married to someone who’s a member”. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Alliss revealed that the wives of Muirfield members are allowed access to its facilities. We really can’t take this comment seriously.
Even Rory McIlory, world ranked number three player, got in on the action by saying the decision damages golf’s image by making it look “stuffy” and “old.”
We suspect Muirfield will change the ruling in the next 5-10 years. After all, The Open made a positive impact on the local economy. Women will continue to be welcome at Muirfield as spectators and guests in the clubhouse; however, they will not be allowed to play on the links.