17 July 2013

Golf and Girls and Eating Sandwiches in the Car Park

Muirfield Clubhouse
There’s a lot of debate going on at the moment about Muirfield Golf Club or, as it rather grandly pronounces itself, ‘The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’. It is, of course this week, the stage of the British Open Golf tournament, or again, just as grandly titled, as we invented the game, The Open. The web site says that a single round of golf in 2012 was £195 ! Let me say that again - £195! What the cost is this year when it’s hosting The Open is anybody’s guess.

The debate is over its treatment of women, and in particular, women golfers. But before the facts which may appal the more enlightened among us, let me tell you about the one and only time I played golf at Muirfield.

It was back in the early eighties and I’d not long joined IBM in Glasgow. One day the office was virtually empty and when I asked the secretary where everybody was, she replied, ‘Oh they’ve all gone off to play golf at Muirfield.’  
That day was a nightmare with every telephone enquiry coming in my direction and I vowed that it would never happen again. I got myself a set of golf clubs and a trolly and practised in the local park and the next time there was a golf outing to Muirfield, I was up for it.

Now somebody really should have warned me that Muirfield is no place for the beginner. I lost several balls, ended up in bunkers so deep, it was difficult to see daylight and the rough was so rough, I even lost my trolly when I left it to go and look for yet another lost ball.
One of the nicer parts of the course

All in all, it was a rather difficult day but I had a nice shower, changed into the mandatory jacket and tie and settled down for a nice post-game dinner.

I had just started to eat when I noticed that the only girl who had come along to play (and she was a very good player) was not in the dining room. From memory her name was Evelyn and when I asked where she was, I was told, ‘eating her sandwiches in the car park.’

I thought this was a joke but when I enquired further, I was informed that whilst ladies could play at Muirfield, there were no facilities for them and they were expressly forbidden from entering the bars or the clubhouse. Poor Evelyn couldn’t even have a shower and yes, she was sitting in her car in the car park, eating her sandwiches.

Now, those golfers among us will know about Augusta National Golf Club in the US where the club's exclusive membership policies have drawn criticism, particularly its refusal to admit black members until 1990, a former policy requiring all caddies to be black and its refusal to allow women to join. In August 2012, it admitted its first two female members, Condoleezza Rice (former US Secretary of State) and Darla Moore (a banker and philanthropist). 

Now, Augusta is about as conservative an organisation as you’ll find on this planet but Muirfield beats it. It still does not admit lady members and despite scouring their web site, the only reference I could find to female players is that, ‘at the west end of the clubhouse near the entrance gates is a small, ladies' Locker Room’. It does not state that ladies will NOT be admitted to the Clubhouse.

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s Prime Minister by any other name, will not be attending The Open castigating the all-male clubhouse environment. Salmond, who is a keen golf fan, told the BBC: "I just think it's indefensible in the 21st century not to have a golf club that's open to all.’

So this week as Muirfield hosts the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, they will accept thousands of pounds from female spectators. They will be allowed to spend even more money in the tents and temporary eating establishments but after The Open ends and Muirfield returns to ‘normal’, the women will have to resume their normal place – in the car park eating their sandwiches.

1 comment:

Allison said...

You mean they don't have the women in the kitchen actually making the sandwiches? I thought that was all women were good for ;)