The Royal and Ancient Golf Club

Week 27 (21 - 28 March 2014)

Golf took a step further to becoming a gender equal sport this week with the announcement that the Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club in Scotland has urged its members to vote in favour of abolishing its men-only policy.

The vote will be held in September and if the R&A Golf Club's 2,500 members do ratify the change in policy, it will reverse over 250 years of tradition which has allowed only men to join the iconic St Andrews club.

Traditions – even ones as anachronistic as excluding people based on gender – are hard to undo in any sport and the R&A Golf Club has been wary not to upset their members by making knee-jerk decisions without consulting them.

Instead, they have cut a delicate line between giving their members a say in the matter and dealing with the negative media stories surrounding its unfair rules of membership.

The bad press hit a peak last year when it emerged that BBC presenter – and darling of British sports reporting – Clare Balding revealed that she had refused to cover the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013 because of the club's men-only policy. There have been other voices of concern from sponsors as well. In January, HSBC made it publically known that excluding women was a "very uneasy position" for the bank. 

Yet the R&A Golf Club chose to carry on at its own pace and the slower path has perhaps smoothed – and ultimately strengthened – the Club's push for equality.

The extra time has allowed senior R&A Golf Club members to generate support for this change in policy amongst its main body of members, ensuring that the vote to welcome women into their club is more than likely to be met with a "yes".

Should that happen on September 18 then the myth that golf is an acronym for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden can likely be downgraded one more significant notch.

Photo: Judy Broom