Comment: Dinosaurs in danger of damaging the game of golf

Royal Troon will host The Open in July for the first time since 2004 but  a mixed membership being in place  at the club by then would seem unlikely. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Royal Troon will host The Open in July for the first time since 2004 but a mixed membership being in place at the club by then would seem unlikely. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

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So, Royal Troon announcing yesterday that it has now written to its 800 male members “seeking views on the issue of the admission of women members” could actually be linked to an imminent decision on the same matter on the opposite side of the country.

It did seem an odd declaration by the Ayrshire club after its captain, Martin Cheyne, had admitted just three weeks ago that he didn’t expect a special general meeting on the results of a membership review which started 16 months ago to be held until the “back end of the year”. That may still be the case, but Cheyne’s tune had definitely changed in a press release issued by the club. All of a sudden, he started talking about “caring very much for the reputation of Royal Troon Golf Club”. Even more 
significant was his remark about how “it is important that the club, much like the wider game, reflects the modern society in which 
we exist”.

It made this correspondent think that a decision might be made, after all, before The Open returns there in July for the first time since 2004, but a phone call out of the blue around tea-time threw some light on what is actually going on here. It was from a trusted source who revealed that Muirfield, where a similar membership review has been ongoing for even longer than the one at Royal Troon, fears a “no” vote 
is in the offing when the results of 
a ballot are revealed tomorrow. Yes, that’s right. The club we probably all feared would throw a spanner in the works as golf was marching into that “modern society” could indeed be on the verge of doing just that.

The board of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers has, I understand, recommended that the club goes the “whole hog” by recommending that membership to ladies is offered on the “same basis as men” and should be applauded for doing so. A postal vote on the matter closes today, with the results set to be declared around lunchtime tomorrow. Everything, it seemed, was progressing nicely until a “no” campaign was launched by 33 members as they put their names to a letter outlining why they believe the proposal should “not be approved at this time”. In gaining support from other members, the group have severely dented the board’s hopes of securing the two-thirds majority it requires for the proposal to get the green light. In fact, it seems unlikely that sufficient support will be forthcoming, putting Muirfield back in the men-only spotlight and causing major disharmony behind those wrought-iron gates.

What a crying shame that would be. While those members who live in the real world can see that clubs like Muirfield and Royal Troon have to follow the lead set by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of 
St Andrews and Royal St George’s inside the past two years, an element still exists within those clubs who are dinosaurs and always will be. They obviously think otherwise, but they are damaging their club, not protecting it. And it really is quite absurd for them to think that, if Muirfield remains a male-only club, it will still get to host The Open. Great as the golf course there may be, that simply won’t be happening,boys, so it’s time to get those heads out of the sand before you do the game a grave injustice.

It could be the case that sense has been seen over at Royal Troon. After all, the aforementioned Cheyne also referred to the club being “cognisant of the recent articles in the press and social media, the public discussion surrounding the club, and the statements made by senior politicians”. The only way that can be displayed in a tangible way, though, is by a mixed membership being in place for mid-July and that would seem unlikely due to the time factor.

From what I’ve heard, Royal Troon would appear to have been over-thinking this matter and, in fairness, that has perhaps been caused by the existence of The Ladies Golf Club, Troon, with the pair jointly hosting this year’s Claret Jug joust. There’s simply no excuse for this matter not being resolved by now, though, and it’s sad that a situation elsewhere has finally made it look as though progress is being made.

It is bad enough Scotland being faced with the prospect of a media frenzy this summer due to The Open again being held at a male-only club but for one to now be on the brink of a “no” vote is truly shocking and embarassing.

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