Martin Slumbers has screeched the R&A into the twenty-first century at breakneck speed, but are golf clubs struggling to get out of first gear? 

Michelle Wie


Martin Slumbers has screeched the R&A into the twenty-first century at breakneck speed, but are golf clubs struggling to get out of first gear? 

By Becky Gee

Martin Slumbers has disembarked from the R&A’s vintage motor, got behind the wheel of a shiny new Tesla, and screeched the institution into the twenty-first century at breakneck speed.

Admittedly a decade or two later than expected but determined nonetheless to be the life and soul of a party the R&A had long appeared determined to avoid.

Rules have been modified, handicap systems altered, and females reassured with an exciting new Women in Golf Charter that should mean that gender is no longer a barrier to golfing participation. Meanwhile, short formats of the sport have been embraced and relaxed dress codes have been mooted as a possible way to ensure that this new-fangled notion of the game is a ‘welcome to all’ sort of affair.


RA Women In Golf Charter min


Meanwhile, England Golf is on a joyride of their own. Crashing down long-standing barriers as they accelerate towards a shiny new vision for the game. A future where girls are as common a sight on the first tee as boys and where golfers of all ages, sexes, and backgrounds are made to feel at home in the golf club environment.

Revelling in what the Women in Golf Charter and the host of other initiatives launched with the aim of balancing the current inequalities within the sport over the past few years might mean for the game of golf, I arrived at an all-female golf taster session last week excited to see the evolution of this new movement for myself.

Two hours later, after watching one beginner golfer kindly asked not to enter the clubhouse unless she changed out of her trainers, and witnessing several other members, of both genders, shoot hostile glances at the group of leggings-clad women taking their fledgling steps in the game, the poignancy of Slumbers’ claim that ‘golf must adapt or die’ became glaringly obvious.

Let’s be honest...

Golf’s governing bodies may finally have their foot firmly on the accelerator but too many clubs are still struggling to get out of first gear.

Happy to cling-on to out-dated traditions, it is here where the stereotypes of golf as old-fashioned and elitist are exacerbated and where all too many women are discouraged from taking up the game.

Nowhere is this more accurate than the insistence by some clubs to hang on to out-dated dress codes.


Jazzy golfer min


"It seems crazy to me that it’s OK to wear a skirt or skort on the course, but that leggings, which are far less revealing and more suited to playing golf, are often banned," said social media star The Jazzy Golfer, who is on a mission to inspire more youngsters into the sport.

"I was recently invited to play at a club, only to be told when I arrived that I would need to change out of my leggings if I wanted to go out onto the course," she told us. "It is these kinds of attitudes that need to change if golf is to appeal to more women."

On some levels, golf is changing almost as fast as the R&A’s remarkable about-face. England Golf’s new Get into Golf campaign featuring leather-clad social media stars being the prime example. But if Slumbers’ calls upon announcing the charter that, "if you spend your whole life looking backwards, you never achieve anything" is to be a defining moment for the sport, then golf clubs must heed attention and follow suit.

Relaxing the dress code seems a good place to start…


Image credits: Chris Lee/R&A/R&A via Getty Images


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