Leader comment: Trump provides another hard lesson for the R&A

Donald Trump at Turnberry, one of the courses on the Open Championship rota. Picture: John Devlin
Donald Trump at Turnberry, one of the courses on the Open Championship rota. Picture: John Devlin
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It is ironic that just as golf appears ready to negotiate the final steps of what has been a political minefield, another has opened up in front of it.

As we report today, the embarrassment of having a favoured course for the Open Championship which does not accept female members could be close to acceptable resolution. A vote of members is to be held next month and the R&A has indicated that if the ballot accepts women as members, Muirfield will return to the Open rota.

However, the game’s governing body now has an issue over another of its Open circuit venues: Turnberry, or to give the resort its new name, Trump Turnberry.

Unfortunately, it seems that the R&A’s attitude to this situation has learned little from the Muirfield experience. “Staying out of politics and of opining on politics ... probably the best advice I can have is to stay clear of that,” said chief executive Martin Slumbers when asked yesterday about Donald Trump’s conduct. That’s an admirable principle, but if the Trump presidency continues to offend and alienate, it’s not a strategy that will work.

The Muirfield situation damaged the R&A because it made golf look like it was not inclusive. What we have now is an Open host course owned by a politician who wants to build a wall to keep out immigrants, and wants to ban people from Muslim-majority countries. This is exclusion on a grand scale.

It is not enough to say that sport and politics should be kept apart. History shows us that in many situations, they cannot be separated.

The R&A has time before Turnberry is considered again for the Open, but in the meantime, it should not try to pretend that Trump’s conduct does not affect golf.