Our 8 handicap columnist was invited to play at Muirfield, the golf club that only voted in favour of allowing female members earlier this year. Here Naga describes her experience.
How long does it take for a leopard to change its spots? Much depends on the willingness of the “changee” but also on those who are urging the change too. How supportive are they going to be?
I ask this because I played at Muirfield in September for the first time. I had been there before; I spent a week there covering The Open in 2013 and walked the fairways which lay in grounds of a club that did not admit women. I sneered a lot that week at what I, as a result of the no-female member policy, saw as fuddy-duddy, old-fashioned, snooty and backwards-facing members.
Fast-forward four years and there I am at the clubhouse, ready to play with my husband and two friends who are members. From the car park to the 1st tee I was greeted warmly, courteously and I honestly felt without judgement.
There’s a phrase, ‘two and a half, two and a half, two and a half’. It refers to the time that should be spent playing golf and having lunch in between! It’s a very civilised way of doing things I found, although I’m not sure it would be something I would want to do every day as my trouser belt alone would struggle to cope, let alone my liver!
I’m also not a fan of changing clothes for lunch, although everyone did look very smart and the atmosphere was civil and jovial. It was impossible not to notice how small the changing area was for women, tucked away at one end of the clubhouse. I was told that this is going to be expanded when the clubhouse is extended and refurbished in the coming years, but at the moment that is a weak point. The men’s changing area, I was reliably informed, is spacious, comfortable, clean and smells of history!
During lunch I met many of the members who are based locally and abroad. Inevitably I spoke about the process about admitting women members and the disappointing fact that it took a second vote and the threat of being left off the Open rota to vote sensibly. Not one of the men I spoke to disagreed about how damaging it had been to thereputation of the club or, more surprisingly, how it was a good thing that women members are now going to be admitted (there are applications from women being considered now - and as at many popular clubs there is a waiting list for prospective candidates).
Members are keen to preserve the character and traditions of the club. I don’t disagree with that either, but I also argued that the sex of a person should not be the basis of a judgement on whether they can play good golf and enjoy a good lunch, in a timely fashion.
I know that the men I met there may have been mindful about saying the ‘right thing’ in front of a TV journalist, however, I cannot stress enough how welcome we were made to feel and how lovely our experience was.
The above is an extract from the latest issue of Women & Golf magazine, on sale Monday 16 October. Never miss an issue click here to subscribe and enjoy W&G delivered to your door.