Kevin Garside: Golf's outposts of prejudice should follow R&A's example and vote on whether to admit women

Early indications from the members are very positive indeed

Like statues of Lenin in former Soviet states, the last attachment to a bygone age is about to topple in golf, brought down from within. Common sense permitting, women are to be ordained into the golfing church of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the last bastion of Victoriana in sport.

The R&A chief executive, Peter Dawson, spoke a year ago about a direction of travel pushing tweed-suited members of golf's most important institution towards the modern age. To reach the voting stage within 18 months of that pronouncement represents warp speed, given the glacial pace at which decision-making proceeds in an environment as conservative as golf.

The committee of the R&A recommends that women are to be admitted to the club as members, a motion that is to be put to the vote in September. We can safely assume which way the decision will go. The committee has not brought the issue to the fore to have its anachronistic misogyny reinforced so publicly.

The Open returns to the home of the R&A, St Andrews, next year. The last thing the game needs is to revisit then a debate that rumbled so negatively a year ago at Muirfield, and which should have ended when women burnt their bras.

"This is welcome news from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and I urge its members to follow their committee's recommendations and vote 'yes' for women members," said the Sports Minister, Helen Grant. "It would mark a step in the right direction for the sport and I would hope encourage the remaining golf clubs that still have anachronistic single-sex member policies to follow suit."

Are you listening Muirfield, Royal St George's and Troon, the other remaining outposts of patriarchal prejudice? Though Dawson insists the move to admit women to the R&A after 260 years has not been made with the Open Championship in mind, it is hard to see how those who persist in keeping women out can survive on the nine-strong rota.

"We very much hope once the vote is taken we will be welcoming women to the club. It's something that has been expected; I'm not going to say overdue but I'm sure I'll be asked that question," Dawson said.

"Early indications from the members are very positive indeed. We obviously wouldn't be entering this if we didn't feel there was strong member support for this and I hope that turns out to be the case.

"We have seen other organisations have more than one bite at this and [if there were a no vote] we would have to decide whether to come again or not. One has to pick one's time for this. Let's hope we have picked the right one.

"We have been talking about this for quite a while and it's our governance role which has been the driving factor. Society is changing, sport is changing, golf is changing and I think it's appropriate for a governing body to take this step. This is not about the Open Championship. This is about our governance role."

Women's membership at golf clubs has dropped by 20 per cent from the 2005 high of 210,000. Participation among men is also falling. There are issues to do with cost and time that discourage engagement.

By giving women the same status as men, the game projects an inclusive message that might yet precipitate greater change. Why not throw in a crèche and make the game a family affair at weekends? By opening its doors the game has nothing to lose but its exclusivity, vital if the lapsed golfer is to return.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all