THE BLOG

'Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden?' Why it's Time to Change Golf's Ancient Tradition

01/04/2014 12:59 BST | Updated 01/06/2014 10:59 BST

It's been a long time coming. For years many of the world's most renowned golf clubs have dismissed modern phenomena, securing their men-only membership safely under the historic taboo of 'Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden'. However, this September could see a breakthrough for female players as the Royal & Ancient, the 'Home of Golf', prepares to urge members to vote the end of the club's long-established tradition of a male-only membership policy.

The vote, which is to be held on September 18th, alongside Scotland's independence referendum, could be significant in increasing pressure on other famous British clubs such as Royal Troon, Muirfield and Royal St George's, all of which have continually resisted the pressure to consider accepting female members. Times were seen to be changing in 2012 when Augusta National took steps to introduce two female members to the club, a move which was highly praised given the club's fame and prestige. However, although Augusta has never had an all-male membership policy unlike some of Britain's top clubs, the fact that female membership is even being discussed is a significant turning point in the history of the game and a factor that may well be enough to persuade such clubs to rethink their current membership policy.

Mr Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A who is closely linked to the Open Championship, commented: "We've been talking about this for quite a while in the R&A, and it is actually our governance role which has been the driving factor in making this happen.

"We are a governing body for the game, for the rules of the game and so on. Society is changing, sport is changing, golf is changing or indeed has changed, and I think it's appropriate for the governing body to take this step.

"I think this is a time for looking forward rather than backwards, to be honest, and I'm absolutely delighted that the club is recommending this to the members."

Aside from breaking the elitist image of golf, the focus on female membership can only be a good thing for the LPGA. Whilst junior golfers have the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and the ever-present Tiger Woods to look up to, female tour professionals are far less familiar. Talents including the British player Melissa Reid and US star Michelle Wie are perhaps the only two pros who have made it into the golfing headlines in the past few years and this surely needs to change.

As a female golfer, I've often felt the invisible tension that surrounds male and female members. Whenever I turn up on the driving range, particularly early morning when I'm clearly intruding the male atmosphere, I frequently notice the raised eyes and unimpressed glares as the men silently mutter, "Blonde with a 7-iron? Give me a break". So, the news that the R&A are attempting to break with tradition is welcome not least with the ladies at my local club but also with those across the country who play diligently and wish to be accepted into the clique of the clubhouse. Of course, if the R&A vote "No" on September 18th then we will revert back to square one. However, following Mr Dawson's comments and the increased pressure coming from advertisers, the admission of female members at the R&A would be a significant step in the right direction for the future of the game.

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