The Hacker: Women get equal rights but they will never get my vote

My colleague Sue Montgomery wrote in this space last Sunday about overhearing a group of male golfers at her club complain about the course being cluttered up by "bloody hackers and women".

She was greatly offended by this and I was, too. I don't like being bracketed with women.

But that's golf for you; it may well be the greatest of games but it is not always populated by the most gracious of people.

It is a paradox that a game that demands honesty, strict etiquette and politeness should harbour dark discriminatory thoughts.

As in life, some golfers are far more comfortable in the company of their own ilk. At one time, this restricted membership at many clubs to those possessing the right background, colour and religion.

There are still places where such requirements remain in force but, thankfully, most clubs no longer operate in that way.

In a couple of weeks the last bastion of discrimination will fall when the Equality Act becomes law and women will have the same rights as men in golf clubs.

They already enjoy that status at most clubs but at the two I belong to they haven't had the vote since they began 120 years ago.

They were both formed by men and when the ladies asked to join they were allowed to on condition they didn't become full members and played on weekdays when the men were at work (these were Victorian times remember).

Had those men had the vision to tell them to go away and form their own clubs we'd have far more golf clubs and far fewer arguments.

Attempts to change the rules and allow our ladies the vote have failed and I confess that I have been at the forefront of the opposition. I am an unashamed traditionalist and argue fervently against any change in the way we run the club.

It is unthinkable that if you were forming a golf club today there would be any difference between the sexes. Indeed, I believe that we'll soon end up playing the same game and that one day a woman will win The Open but that's another argument.

But altering a system which is so deeply imbedded in a club's culture carries a danger and my concern is for the future.

Ironically, the first victims of the new law will be the women who happily accepted the old regime. Equality means paying the same subscription as men and at one club that means almost £200 and at the other £800.

There is a fear that we will lose members as a result. The new law also means that no longer can reductions be made for older members although that has been delayed until 2012.

The biggest change will be at The Glamorganshire on Saturdays, most of which are taken up by men's competitions almost all of which are oversubscribed and many are unable to get a game.

This congestion isn't going to be eased with the women, understandably, now claiming spaces to play on Saturday.

But, for me, the most devastating blow will be the loss of two of the finest "Men Only" bars in the world. At The Glamorganshire the men's bar reeks with history, and many other smells, and, for 80 years, has been the watering hole of The Barbarians on their Easter tours of South Wales.

It's a small, dark room with an open fireplace and I'm not sure what the ladies will make of it. I have suggested we put a urinal next to the fireplace and call it the Gents. Not only would it keep them out, it would save us having to go upstairs. No one took me seriously.

Tip of the week

No 66: Always hit a provisional ball

On a recent trip abroad with a few golfing friends, we played a new course which none of us had previously played.

Standing on one of the par-fours, my tee shot was slightly errant and heading towards the trees.

As I couldn't be sure that I would find my first shot, I announced my intention to play a provisional ball, to which one of my playing partners said: "Don't worry, I'm sure we'll find the first one."

I had good reasons to play a provisional ball. If I didn't find my first ball I would have had to return to the tee to play another ball, so it would have saved me a long walk, and helped to speed up play.

Secondly, playing another ball from the tee gave me a free practice shot to try to correct my erroneous swing. And thirdly, my provisional ball should be at a similar distance to my first tee shot, so it would help me with the distance to look for my first.

Don't forget, if you're going to hit a provisional ball, you must declare it before you play it.

If you do not say the word "provisional", your second ball will be the ball in play, even if you find your first.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey.

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