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Saturday, July 2, 2016

And Then There's Muirfield

Unlike a lot of people, I'm not going to rag on Muirfield for not opening its membership to women. Muirfield is a privately-owned golf club and, as such, has a right to set its own policies -- including their decision concerning who they will allow to join their club.

But with Royal Troon's decision Friday to allow women members, it does leave Muirfield in the awkward position of being the only course in the Open rota that doesn't allow women.

Excuse me, I should amend that statement: Muirfield is the only course THAT USED TO BE in the Open rota that doesn't allow women.

Muirfield sign

In fairness, it should be pointed out that at least some women are allowed to play Muirfield as guests for free. In an article with the UK Telegraph, Peter Alliss said he believed women would balk at paying a fee to join. Here's one quote:
“The fact is if you talked to the wives of members of Muirfield they would be horrified at the prospect of being allowed to join. The wives can use all the facilities at the club but it doesn’t cost them anything. If they had to pay to join they would be horrified."
Do the perks of being the wife of a member extend to women who don't hold that position? The article doesn't say. But the rest of the article makes for interesting reading, as it certainly sounds as though other women wouldn't be as welcome as the wives.

After the Muirfield vote, it was reported that Troon intended to have a similar vote, in hopes of heading off a possible boycott of this year's Open, and many expected that the women would win the day. Were the results of the Troon vote further influenced by the R&A's decision to take Muirfield off the rota? It's hard to believe the ban wasn't at least a consideration, and the R&A wasted no time reassuring the club that they would remain on the rota going forward.

Muirfield is supposed to hold another vote sometime soon. The club’s captain, Henry Fairweather, was quoted in the Guardian as saying:
"The club committee believes that a clear and decisive vote in favour of admitting women as members is required to enable us to begin the task of restoring the reputation of the club that has been damaged by the earlier ballot outcome.”
But the damage may not be so easily undone. Even if a new vote gives women the nod, that doesn't mean that the attitudes of the members themselves have changed. And even though it appears that the first vote didn't represent the predominant attitude of the club members, it's hard to believe that the negative vote will be forgotten soon. It's just not human nature to forgive and forget.

Muirfield may find that lesson a hard one to learn.

The photo came from the Telegraph article quoted above.

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