Women & Golf received a promising golfer's essay that earned her top marks in her school leaving exams, but it has the power to make a much bigger impact.
To protect her anonymity, we've kept this gifted reader's name private and refrained from naming any golf clubs or establishments.
This moving essay from a schoolgirl and golfer proved no-one should think that discrimination is a thing of the past in our Royal and Ancient game.
It's time for equality...
Women make up approximately 25% of all golfers in the world. In the UK we are lagging behind with only 14% of golfers being women, and the numbers are falling. I am proud to be a part of that percentage. However, many people, including myself, are tremendously disappointed with the sport’s ethos.
So what’s this big dilemma with golf? Well, the phrase “Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden” is a famous acronym for golf from long ago, and many believe that this acronym is unfortunately still relevant to the sport today. You may be forgiven for thinking that golf is a modern, welcoming sport for all but, for girls and women like me, it is still a sexist pursuit and has a lot to answer for. In truth, I often wonder why women want to play at all, only then, when I stop and think about it, I realise that the reason I persevere is to prove the relevant men wrong and because I want to carry on enjoying the sport I love regardless.
There are over 3,000 golf courses in the UK and, even now, a handful of them continue to promote their outdated, sexist values by remaining male only.
Golf should be a game open to anyone. I am not going to mention any of the remaining single-sex clubs by name, but I know of one where the men have said, outright, that their course is “too challenging” for women. In saying that, these individuals are treating women as second-class citizens - and that is simply not acceptable. One way and another, it prompts the question as to how many of our traditional Open championship venues opened their doors to women because it was the right thing to do. Or was all about hanging fast to their slots on the Open championship rota? (For the record, Muirfield Golf Club voted for women not to be members in 2013. This was simply indefensible and due to the result of the vote, they were told they would not be allowed to host the Open. This caused another vote to occur in 2016 when the results were significantly different because the members realised the ramifications. Over 80% of the membership then voted to allow women.)
In many cases, the golfing media is as sexist as the men they write and speak about. When the row about men-only clubs was at its height, golf commentator Peter Alliss told the Telegraph, “If you want to join, get married to a member. The wives can use all the facilities at the club for free. The clubhouse is full of bloody women; they love going there for nothing.” This uncalled for remark about female golfers just proves the inequalities that remain in this sport.
Alliss is a symbol for the sexism that lies in the game, not because of remarks such as the above but because of the comments he is apt to make about female golfers and even the male golfers’ wives. Back in 2015, he made a comment about Kim Barclay, the wife of Zach Johnson, just moments before Zach holed a wonderful putt to win the Claret Jug. “She is probably thinking - 'If this goes in I get a new kitchen’.”
While there are plenty who still regard Alliss as golf’s voice of the BBC, others regard him as a bit of a fanatic, a chauvinistic man who enjoys voicing his outdated opinions of women and golf on the television. He gets people talking, only it’s not the kind of talk the game needs.
Some men argue that women on the golf course are too slow or too weak and have no potential and no place in their “gentlemen’s sport”. By that, they mean that they do not want women invading their space. They want their own “boys’ club”.
However, we women think that the men feel intimidated; they are afraid of us playing in their competitions and possibly outdriving them from time to time. All they want to do is win. Why can’t they accept that while there are many male golfers who are better golfers than female golfers, there are female golfers who are better than male golfers?
I, personally, have had my fair share of sexist experiences inside and out of the clubhouse doors. I am a member of two clubs, one of which decided that they were living in the past with their men-only policy and took steps accordingly, and the other which has resisted change to the point where there are still separate doors for the sexes to enter the clubhouse. Men are allowed to enter the club at the front door. However, women are forced to enter at the side of the building. On top of that, there are segregated lounges which make me feel very unwelcome as they highlight the division between the sexes vividly. As for the course, it is only open for female golfers from ten o’clock onwards whereas the men can tee off from seven. Not all early-birds are men. I would love to be out on the course first thing but I am forced to prioritise the old, middle-class men who have all day to play.
Moving on to prize-money and the recognition that goes with it in our game, professional male players get very different treatment than the women in the larger competitions.
The lack of acknowledgement affects many of the female players’ views of the sport, with Juli Inkster, the on-going US Solheim Cup captain, saying, "It makes me a little upset because I think we've got a great product.” Here, Juli is discussing how fewer people come to view ladies golf when, in her opinion, ladies golf is a quality sport.
Not only do the female golfers feel that the lack of viewers is disheartening but they feel the same about the differences in pay. Along with cricket and cliff-diving, golf has one of the largest disparities in prize money between the top males and females. Huge differentials remain much the same, and that though the men and the women are doing the same job. Why does it happen? Oh yes, it is due to the unfair chauvinism that lies within the sport.
If I could only change one thing about golf - and it is all I would want to change - it would be the inequalities that unfortunately live and breathe in it at every level, from beginners to professionals. Let’s just hope that the phrase “Gentlemen only ladies forbidden” starts to become a reflection of the past sooner rather than later...