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« Vijay's Case Is In The Appeal Stage, Dawson Says | Main | Calamity Jane, Dwight Eisenhower And Alister MacKenzie Walk Into A Restaurant... »
Tuesday
Apr232013

Dawson: R&A Will Not "Bully" Clubs Into "Completely Overblown" Membership Diversification Talk

Martin Dempster does a super job setting the stage for the "frank exchange of views" session organized by the R&A for select reporters at Royal and Ancient Golf Club clubhouse.

While it would be wrong to suggest he was “buttered up” with a few easy questions – a proposal to outlaw anchoring, after all, could have all sorts of consequences for the game – Dawson’s assembled audience sat up straight almost in unison when it got round to the main topic of the day – single-sex golf clubs.

“The elephant in the room,” said 
Dawson, who quickly apologised to Global Golf Post correspondent Lewine Mair, the sole woman in attendance, in case he’d offended her.

I think it's too late at this point old chum. Besides, what reporter, male or female could resist the comments that followed.

Dawson said the R&A had started a “journey” with a re-organisation in 2004 – its governance committees, for example, now include representatives from other organisations – and that he believed the “temperature is changing” amongst members. “I completely understand the view that many people have that any kind of discrimination is a complete no-no,” he added. “My personal position is that I totally believe in equality, but I do also believe that there are times when men need to socialise with men and women need to socialise with women.”

The Guardian's Ewan Murray didn't sound like he bought Dawson's assertions considering the Royal and Ancient Golf Club has its own male-only policy to deal with before telling a host club what to do. He also included this from Chief Executive Dawson:

"To think that the R&A might say to a club like Muirfield, 'You are not going to have the Open any more unless you change your policy' is frankly a bullying position that we would never take," Dawson said.

"Muirfield has a huge history of the Open Championship, this will be the 16th time it has been played there and who are we to say what they should do because they are behaving perfectly legally?

Dawson even threw in shots at Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Augusta National, just in case you thought he was an equal opportunity grouch!

Derek Lawrenson's extensive account of the day includes these eye-openers, including this "depressingly" bold angling for "wriggle room":

Rather depressingly, he felt the need for wriggle room. ‘I suppose that is the logical extension but I would add the caveat that, while having a small amount of women members would send out some positive messaging, it wouldn’t change anything in British golf,’ he said.

‘Here the Old Course is closed on Sundays and people walk their dogs on the links or play football. At Augusta they have 20-foot high fences and 24-hour security. So you think to yourself: “Who actually provides the greater access?”’

24-hour security to keep the little people out...wait, is he describing the R&A clubhouse at St. Andrews?

Dawson believes the issue of men-only clubs has been badly distorted by politicians and the media. ‘On the day Augusta announced its two women members, I remember Gordon Brown opportunistically standing up and saying: “If they can do it in South Carolina why can’t they do it in Scotland?”

‘People in the game just thought to themselves: “If he can’t even be bothered to research the American state where Augusta is situated, why should anyone listen?” Comments like that are not helpful. Reasoned debate will speed up the journey."

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Reader Comments (14)

Methinks it is Peter Dawson who is the elephant in the room. I am so sick of individuals like him manipulating the truth in order to justify the status quo. For example ... how about this little kernel which is regularly lobbed into the debate by the Peter Dawsons of this world ...

"...and there are more women-only clubs than men-only clubs."

How many of british women-only clubs have golf courses attached to them Mr Dawson? Go on then, count them up. I promise you, it won't take long. In fact, I doubt you'll need all fingers of one hand. And, don't forget, the few that did manage to find the wherewithal to set up on their own only did so because the men wouldn't let them into their clubs!

The club situation in St. Andrews was the very worst example he could have cited as none of the clubs, including the R&A, own the golf courses. They belong to the town.

The strange thing is, provided women have equal access to sports facilities, I really don't think it matters how individual clubs are formed. However, that the R&A continues with its stance on the Muirfileds of this world is, frankly, indefensible.

Re his pathetic joke in linking Lewine Mair to that of an elephant, I guess that must make him a woolly mammoth!
I am a member of an "Old South" country club that is older than Augusta National. I successfully proposed a female for membership in the '90s, and she is still a member in good standing.

That said, I fully support the right for any private club to choose their own criteria for membership and exclude anyone or group at their choice. The fact that they host a golf tournament does not mean they need to forfeit that right.

The mere definition of "private club" means that they exclude certain people.
You don't have to "exclude" people.
You just don't invite them in.
04.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStanley Thompson
No longer ... the difference between Augusta and Muirfield is that the former runs its own event whilst the latter merely hosts it. As custodians of the game, the R&A sets a rotten example in taking its flagship event to sexist establishments. There is, however, no need for the R&A to "bully" such clubs. Just don't take any events to these venues.
Weren't we just talking about "growth of the game"? Telling 50% of the population that they, at best, they may be tolerated doesn't seem like the best marketing opportunity.
04.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHBL
"My personal position is that I totally believe in equality, but I do also believe that there are times when men need to socialise with men and women need to socialise with women."

Spoken like it's 1823. Because socializing solely among boys (or girls) is impossible when you're a member of the same club. Excuse me while I lean back in my chair and roll my eyes...
04.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex H.
C & C- I am OK with your last 2 sentences, I think your main problem is with the governing body, not with Muirfield's policy, we can agree there. However, I still think that a club that host's its own tournament shouldn't be forced to change membership policies just because the tournament is successful.

Lot's of clubs without diverse memberships host small to medium tournaments that benefit worthy organizations or communities. The fact that a private club's event is super successful should not generate a requirement to change membership policy
Oh but No longer, we can't agree on Muirfield. It has sports facility, does it not?

As for Augusta, any establishment that places itself in the public eye but which doesn't conform to accepted current social practices will inevitably come under public scrutiny. Just because it runs a successful competition was never going to protect it from such scrutiny.
And the next paragraph of the Dawson article that Geoff edited out:

"I don’t think the general public realises that, of the 3,000 clubs in this country, only one per cent are single-sex clubs and there are more women-only clubs than men-only clubs. There are more women playing golf in St Andrews than in any other part of the country."
04.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJones
he won't bully clubs, but he will outlaw a legal putting method that has been around for at least 80 years.
04.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterrmp
c & c, so you are saying that women have to access to every single sports facility? I cannot go down that road. A private sports facility constructed on private land, by private money can exclude whoever they want by whatever criteria they want legally and in my book as well.

I will agree that a "ruling body" should not conduct championships at private venues that discriminate, but private venues have no obligation to be inclusive.
I've played Muirfield with my wife in 2001, amazing experience. Members were nice to my wife, albeit they were 97 yrs old
Good deal, you commenters. So, you know, don't join Muirfield.

Seriously, they are what they are. They'll join the 21st century when they're good and ready. You don't want the kind of society where they're made to, because of all the other things that would enable and imply.
04.25.2013 | Unregistered Commenterstephenf
People have a right to associate with who they want, on the basis they want. The do-gooders and social engineers need a good bop up side the head to smack some sense into them, probably something they failed to get at home as children so they still act as children when they don't get their way. Girl Scouts, sororities,and a ton of other female groups effetively exclude 50 percent of the population but no one mentions that. Get a dictionary and look up the word "private" and then act like grown ups and leave people alone.
04.28.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNospin

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