Muirfield '˜No' bid cites slow play, foursomes fear'¦and lunch

The Muirfield members behind a 'no' campaign in the vote on allowing women to join have cited slow-play worries and fears about making ladies 'feel uncomfortable' among their reasons for trying to derail the East Lothian club's bid to join the modern world.

A female spectator at Muirfield during the course's hosting of the 142nd Open Championship in July 2013. Picture: Jane Barlow

They have also suggested the creation of a “lady-friendly” second course and clubhouse at the East Lothian venue as an alternative to membership to women being offered on the same basis as men, claiming it would allow a status quo on the current course and clubhouse “without uncomfortable compromise”.

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The 33-strong group outlined why it was recommending fellow members to vote against the move to admit women at the 272-year-old club in a letter which has been obtained by The Scotsman.

As exclusively revealed by this newspaper yesterday, it has left the club captain, Henry Fairweather, and his committee fearing that the two-thirds majority required for the proposal to be carried will not be forthcoming when the result of a postal ballot among the 750 members is announced at 11.30am this morning in front of the iconic Muirfield clubhouse.

Under a headline entitled “the risks”, the letter states: “We are not an ordinary club. Our special nature; ‘a gentleman’s club where golf is played’ is quite unique with its fraternity built inter alia on foursomes play with a round taking only the same time as lunch and leaving enough time for a further round after lunch (even in mid winter). This is one of the miracles in modern day play and is much admired. Our foursomes and speedy play would be endangered. “

The letter adds: “We are criticised by some for being ‘elitist’, but if we are that is entirely due to a membership selection process which emphasises an overriding requirement that prospective members appreciate and accept our traditions.

“It is understood that change is necessary in all associations and from time to time change may be ‘imposed’. Such imposition may result not from law but from convention and may not be well defined. Its wisdom may be uncertain or even absent. This may be the case here. The risks for the club are that a major change will fundamentally change our way of doing things and once that process develops it will be impossible to stop.”

The “no” campaigners claim any woman member at Muirfield is “bound to feel uncomfortable” and would be placed in an “unenviable if not impossible situation”if they are “trickle fed”.

The letter says: “The introduction of lady members is bound to create difficulties. Regardless of the conventions when they first join they are likely over time to question our foursomes play, our match system, the uncompromising challenge our fine links present, our lunch arrangements. It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them in the template which is suggested and the ladies’ membership as a whole may not meet this standard.

“It seems very strange to take a step to fundamentally change a strong institution with real risks to that strength in order to retain a ‘one off’ event that happens rarely. This is made even more strange when it is possible that the change may not work.”

On the subject of a second layout, which is believed to be in the pipeline anyway, and clubhouse the letter says: “The course would be designed to offer high-quality golf in a marvellous location and be outstanding in its own right. The clubhouse would be more modest with changing and food and beverage facilities to meet its individual requirements and its design would no doubt benefit from female input. We may have a once and for all chance to obtain consent to develop these facilities if part of the requirements to admit lady members.”