Women golfers must be welcomed

By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive

Many golfers would have followed with great interest the recent Muirfield deliberation on admitting female members to its club.
After a “comprehensive” two-year consultation process described as “thorough” and conducted “with all due diligence and professionalism”, voting in favour of allowing women fell just short.
To admit women golfers as members, Muirfield — a privately owned links in East Lothian run by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers — needed two-thirds (432) of its 648 eligible voters to back the move.
The club stated: “A majority voted for women as members but the two-thirds majority that we require for a change in the rules was not met. The club, therefore, will retain its men-only membership policy.
“The Honorary Club is a members’ club and the members decide the rules of the club, including its membership policy. Women will continue to be welcome on the course and in the clubhouse as guests and visitors, as they have been for many years.”
Public comment on this matter was fierce, however. In the main, most were baffled with this outcome. Perhaps most importantly, the Royal & Ancient (R&A) was very quick to announce within hours that it would not stage the British Open “at a venue that does not admit women as members”. What a fantastic leadership position for the R&A to take. Decisive and swift. Fantastic stuff.
While the decisions of Muirfield and the R&A are somewhat removed from us here in New Zealand, my own view is that we still have some reasonably major issues here at home with regard to gender inequity.
For many women, playing golf as a club member in New Zealand is an exercise in being treated like a second class citizen.
Changing rooms at the back of the carpark, restricted tee-times and being labelled as slow are all par for the course if you are a woman golfer.
While some clubs and golfing organisations in New Zealand are already well advanced in their thinking towards gender equity, it seems many have yet to switch the lights on.
The inequity manifests itself in many ways but mostly it is enabled and supported by the constitutions and rules that govern the way we operate. It is also embedded in the attitudes and daily practices in place in many parts of our game.
When I raise this issue, I often get told the same old things. I get told that there isn’t any inequity in golf, that women only make up 25 percent of the membership and there are plenty of women only clubs that men are not allowed to join, so what’s the big deal. I hear these things all the time and quite frankly it is embarrassing that some people in our game still hold these views.
The simple fact is that women are entitled to play golf on the same terms as anybody else. We have to find a way to make this a reality and, in fact, we need to go further. We actually need to be doing everything we can to encourage more women to play this great game.
My view is that inequity of any type has no place in golf and I’m currently looking at how New Zealand Golf can help address this issue. In 2016 there is just no place for it and it is time for us as a golfing sector to address this matter.

Sarah HeadComment