The Case for All-male Golf Clubs

Marion Hollins, the captain of the first American Curtis Cup team and the founder of Women's National Golf & Tennis Club. (Photo by Puttnam/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Seroquel apotheke Marion Hollins, the captain of the first American Curtis Cup team and the founder of Women’s National Golf & Tennis Club. (Photo by Puttnam/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The men-only membership policy of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was scandalous and indefensible, since the R & A is the main worldwide governing body for all of golf. But the men-only membership policy of Muirfield is not, since the tournament it will no longer be allowed to host, the British Open, is also men-only. Why shouldn’t a sports event whose participants are all of one sex be held at a sports club whose members are also all of that sex?

I wrote about this issue in Golf Digest thirteen years ago, when the controversy involved Augusta National and the Masters. The bitterest argument then was that the absence of women from the membership of any golf club is, ipso facto, the sexual equivalent of racism. At that time, the Rev. Jesse Jackson described men-only membership as “gender apartheid,” and said, “The gender bigotry is as offensive as racial bigotry or religious bigotry.” Others made essentially the same claim: that operating a social club whose membership includes no women is morally indistinguishable from operating a social club (or a society) that excludes blacks or Jews.

Yet Jackson’s accusation depended on a false analogy, and on his own (willful) muddling of the possible reasons for making distinctions between human beings. Racism is a belief in nonexistent racial differences, especially ones that imply the inferiority of one race in comparison with another. Sexism is more complicated, because genuine, non-prejudicial differences between men and women really do exist. (Maintaining separate restrooms for whites and blacks is morally repugnant; maintaining separate restrooms for males and females is not—and the current debate about restroom access for transgender people underscores that truth, since the one thing both sides agree about is that the differences are monumentally important.) Indeed, one of the transforming accomplishments of American feminism has been to foster a broader appreciation of the meaningful ways in which men and women are not the same. Women who prefer to be treated by female physicians, or to join women-only health clubs, or to be represented by female divorce attorneys aren’t guilty of “gender apartheid”; their preferences merely reflect the fact that they, like men, have needs and emotions and desires that are not sex blind.

If you aren’t tired of this issue already, you can read my entire argument here.

Marion Hollins and Maureen Orcutt, 1932.(Photo by J. Gaiger/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Marion Hollins and Maureen Orcutt, in England for the first Curtis Cup, 1932. (Photo by J. Gaiger/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Was This the Model for the Bunkers at Royal County Down?

The bunkers at Royal County Down, in Northern Ireland, are famous for their ball-devouring overhangs, which are savagely rimmed with marram grass and may serve as portals to another dimension. I once wrote that their densely tangled upper margins resembled the eyebrows of old men. I thought I was kidding, but maybe not.
Collages

The upper image is of one of those bunkers; the lower is of the eyebrows of William Hugh Griffiths, a.k.a. the Lord Griffiths, a past captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, who died on Sunday at the age of 91.

LordGriffiths

Jerry Tarde, the editor-in-chief of Golf Digest, describes Griffiths as “my favorite R & A captain.” David Fay, a former executive director of the U.S.G.A., agrees, and writes, “I will never forget his speech at the U.K. Golf Writers dinner, where he summarized his judicial philosophy: ‘Always rule against the shits.'” (Griffiths was also a judge.)

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18 Good Things About Golf: No. 9

Looking at clubhouses counts as sightseeing. Royal & Ancient Golf Club, Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, May, 2008.

9. Golf provides an organizing principle for travel. Mere idle globe-trotting doesn’t appeal to me; I like a trip to have a purpose. For that reason, I enjoy traveling with children. Having kids along forces you to do things you really enjoy (buying ice cream, visiting a dungeon museum, taste-testing foreign candy) and to skip things you really don’t (going to plays, touring the wine country, looking at statues). Keeping your kids from slitting each other’s throat compels you to find activities that actually are interesting, as opposed to merely sounding like the kinds of activities that people engage in when they go on vacation. When children are not available, golf can serve a similar function. Rather than tramping aimlessly around Scotland in the hope of being moved by the differences between it and America, you tramp around Scotland checking off names on your life list of Open Rota courses.

On a golf trip, every day has the same unimprovable agenda: wake up, take shower, drink coffee, eat bacon, play eighteen holes, eat lunch, play eighteen holes, drink beer, take shower, eat dinner, go to sleep. The best golf trips, unlike the vacations that wives plan, never leave you wondering what to do next, and there is never an empty three-hour time block in which you might suddenly be expected to look at a cathedral. You don’t have to wait between lunch and golf, or between golf and beer, or between beer and shower, or between shower and dinner. When one agreeable activity ends, another begins. And on the last day, during the long drive back to the airport, you can pass the time by planning the next trip.

I did actually have a look at a Scottish castle in April, but it was on the road between golf courses and I needed to take a whiz.