Harriet Shephard argues that having access to facilities during a round should be a right and not a luxury.
Image: Andy Hiseman
Let’s talk about on-course toilets, and while we’re at it, what you're meant to do when you come on your period on a course where there aren’t any...
We all know that 18 holes can take at least four hours.
And that time can seem even more lengthy when you're feeling soggy, uncomfortable and desperate to refresh yourself.
But male golf club committee members will have no idea what that feels like. So it's understandable that they might not consider on-course toilets to be a necessity.
I also imagine that some women will have just conditioned themselves to put up with these types of situations over the years, and that's perhaps the most worrying thing of all.
On the other hand, I understand that for some very old clubs, plumbing issues and costs mean that building even one toilet just isn't an option. I know that money doesn't just grow on trees and that these things are expensive. However, I'd also point out that there is such a thing as a portaloo...
Men relieve themselves on the golf course all the time. But somehow the idea of me squatting or trying to change a tampon behind a tree is a lot more unacceptable.
If you really need to go, or you find yourself in a period crisis (these things happen) the only option for us girls is to dig deep and plough on. It's a given that your game will obviously fall apart as a result, unless you happen to have the mental resolve not to worry that you’re leaking through your light-coloured skort.
A few weeks ago, one of our lovely W&G readers emailed me asking for help with her club's long-term campaign to get such a facility on their course.
“Most woman I know avoid drinking water until they've passed at least the front nine and some of the older woman won't do more than nine because there isn't a toilet out there," she said.
“Many members say, "oh well you've managed up to now" but the thing is we shouldn't have to manage. I always wonder if they would be happy if their wives and daughters had to undress on the course and use the bushes. Its grossly unfair.”
Ignoring how horribly unsympathetic some of these members sound, it's concerning to hear that older women are intentionally avoiding drinking any water at all whilst exercising. It's also sad that they can't play a full round, particularly when golf is so suited to older women in every other respect.
Meanwhile, I read the results of the BBC Elite British Sportswomen's Survey with a mix of interest and horror, with one feature by Amy Lofthouse stating that 40 percent of the athletes asked felt uncomfortable discussing their periods with their coaches.
I can totally understand this, and I wouldn't enjoy explaining the above to a male golf club member in person either.
Lofthouse concluded her article by saying: “We live in a world largely designed by men, for men. Sporting laws and stadiums are designed with men in mind, whether or not those in charge realise it.”
That's definitely true of golf, with most historical courses originally designed exclusively for men to use.
But, as golf no-longer wants to be known as the 'gentlemen's game', and instead wants to appeal to everyone, we need to adjust our facilities to reflect this.
The R&A is investing so much money into growing the women's game at the moment. Perhaps they should think about awarding grants to clubs who want to build facilities on the course; if it increases participation over the years amongst women, men and children (I think that's a given), then it would definitely be money well spent.
To put it simply, I (and I'm sure a lot of other women feel the same) would love it if golf clubs started providing more on-course toilets (complete with sanitary bins please if we're being very demanding).
It's definitely time we stopped being embarrassed to talk about this.