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Politicians Should Butt Out of Augusta’s Business

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Augusta National isn’t America’s oldest golf course, but it is by far the most well known. The club was founded in the midst of the Depression by retiring amateur golfer Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, a Wall Street investor. The course was designed by Dr. Alister Mackenzie with Jones’ input. The club opened in 1933 and the first Masters was held in 1934. It is the only major tournament played on the same course each year.

For those who aren’t aware, Augusta National Golf Club and IBM have a particularly close relationship, and the past four IBM CEO’s have been offered membership to the exclusive club. Now, it seems the whole nation is up in arms as to whether or not IBM’s female CEO will be offered a membership to the club (Augusta does not admit female members). Even the president is on record in opposition to Augusta’s male-only policy. To be fair, Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich have expressed similar opinions. No word on Ron Paul’s view. That said, they should all butt out, because it’s none of their business.

Augusta is a private club. Its members, and its members alone, will decide when, and if, to admit a female member. And that’s the way it should be. Further, IBM isn’t likely to pull their sponsorship because they need Augusta more than Augusta needs IBM.

In fact, the last time we had this debate and women’s organizations threatened to boycott sponsors, golf fans got to watch commercial-free as Augusta’s members, in the words of then-chairman Hootie Johnson, absorbed the advertising fees that would have been paid by IBM, Coca-Cola, and Citigroup. The feminists never really recovered from that. And now, given their boycott efforts were a total flop, these same women’s organizations want IBM to give up some of the most valuable ad space on TV because their CEO might not be offered a golf membership? You’re joking, right? Any day now, we’ll be hearing about a million man march for equal access to Curves®.

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About Erik

  • zingzing

    heh. sounds like a pretty good arrangement.

  • STM

    Yes, men could always go into the lounge bar, he idea being that that’s where you might go if you were taking your girl or wife out, or you were out with a family group, etc.

    However, the public bar was where labourers went after work, shady types did dodgy deals, and drunks hung around ’til closing time.

    That is still the case, but by law women are allowed in since the 1970s, and in many older pubs in the inner city or the country, the front bar is quite pleasant and a good place for everyone.

    However, in the vast majority of “older-style” pubs, most women probably wouldn’t want to go into the public bar even if they can.

    Remember, too, we’re talking about a country that used to have a pub on every second street corner.

    So there’s no lack of choice. If you don’t like a shitty public bar, you usually don’t have far to walk to find another pub. Within a 100m radius (not even, probably) of my old city office in Sydney, there were about 10 pubs and another half dozen clubs and drinking establishments (not counting restaurants, of which there were about 30).

  • zingzing

    “women are by law no longer confined to the lounge bar”

    was that really a thing? isn’t half the fun the ogling? were the men able to enter the lounge bar? when did this end? fascinating stuff. (all that said, i was recently on a great boys’ night out when some female tourists from norway asked if they could sit with us. and we were polite enough to say yes, but it really ruined the fun we were having.)

  • STM

    And the reason for that is that if we depend on politicians to butt out, they’ll soon be turned into venues attended exclusively by anyone.

  • STM

    I like the way the Aussie public bar has evolved. Since women are by law no longer confined to the lounge bar, men have made the front bar at most pubs places women – mostly – wouldn’t want to drink in.

    There’s no overt sexism, but they’re just very blokey and too blokey for most sheilas.

    I don’t see a problem with men having their spaces. Women have theirs too, and there are plenty of places where men and women can mix without issue. This is the way to attack the issue.

    Rich old blokes’ clubs like those long-established blue-riband leather armchair and scotch establishments in London, Sydney and New York are still places mainly frequented by men, even if women by law are now allowed in.

    Being blokey is the key to maintaing men’s rights to have places of their own.

  • STM

    Well, don’t be fooled by appearances. He’s also young at heart and wears silly hats.

  • Kyle Hunter

    I’m learning a lot about you today Clavos

  • Clavos Juarez Santana Zapata

    another part wants the rich old guys to stand firm so that we can keep making fun of them.

    Being made fun of will not deter them, nor should it. I, too, would like them to stand their ground; I’m confident they will.

  • Clavos

    That’s not hypocritical, Glenn.

    But it IS disingenuous.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Actually, I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here because I really don’t have a problem with, say, single-sex universities (there are some good studies indicating that such are better and more effective, especially for women). I think it’s more of an example of me enjoying seeing a mostly-conservative organization getting its chops busted. So I’ll back off and let Augusta be.

    Besides, if I just want to sling mud, the Republicans have given us evil lib’ruls plenty of ammunition in their ongoing culture war on the fairer sex.

  • Poor rich old guys… folks are always picking on ’em.

    The difference is that the rich old guys understand exactly why some people are pissed off and want them to change their membership policy.

    And I’m sure they understand why, with their sponsor’s CEO being female and them having offered membership to male sponsor CEOs in the past, it has put them in an awkward position.

    I dunno, maybe Ginni Rometty doesn’t even like golf.

    Hmm. My POV on this is ambivalent at the moment. Part of me agrees with Glenn’s point about commerce (though Augusta National is very, very, very far from being the only private club to indulge in it), but another part wants the rich old guys to stand firm so that we can keep making fun of them.

  • Clavos

    Harassing a bunch of rich old guys just because they want to keep their club as it has always been is on the same level of stupidity as closing down an entrepreneurial kid who lacks a business license. It won’t be long before the establishment will be raiding littler boys’ clubhouses with “girls keep out” signs on the door.

    There’s no reason that a group of rich old women couldn’t start their own club, and in fact, there already ARE organizations exclusively for women

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Oh, that’s good, Clavos – comparing a multi-million dollar operation that gets national attention every year with the biggest names in professional golf to a lemonade stand operated by children.

    But I understand – any excuse will do, no matter how ridiculous it is, huh?

  • Clavos

    Oh bullshit, Glenn.

    You’re as ridiculous as the cops who close kids’ lemonade stands.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Augusta National is NOT a business.

    Until it starts acting like one, and sells stuff to the general public, at which time it becomes a business.

  • I chose not to drag the colleges into it because I thought the visual of a bunch of men picketing Curves was amusing.

    You’re absolutely right, Erik, it’s hilarious. There’s the makings of a skit in there somewhere.

    And I agree with you about colleges. There was a case for women-only educational institutions a few decades ago, to help redress the historical obstacles placed in the way of higher education for women. Nowadays, however, well over half those enrolled in college are female, and it has been that way for some time.

  • Re: comment # 10, Erik, well said.

    Re: comment # 11, Clavos, very well said, especially the part about Hillsdale College.

    Jet, I ask you the same question I asked Glenn: Are you for real, or are you here only for comic relief?

  • Clavos

    The real reason is that they’re so poor they can’t afford to put in ladies’ rooms.

    I dunno,Jet. Nowadays unisex bathrooms are all the rage…

  • The real reason is that they’re so poor they can’t afford to put in ladies’ rooms.

  • Clavos


    No, because the two examples you gave are not clubs. The ONLY purpose for clubs like Augusta National is to offer a venue where like-minded people can hang together; it is not intended to, nor does it serve the general public, and I disagree with Doc; Augusta National is NOT a business.

    The better parallel is a party in a private home. I don’t have to invite anyone I don’t want to a party in my home, and I shouldn’t be forced to.

    The opposite side of the coin should also be true; Black people should be able to exclude whites and other races, women should be able to exclude men, etc.

    Now, if the club is receiving government funds, either directly or indirectly, it should comply with non-discrimination laws.

    There is a college in Michigan named Hillsdale College, which decided a long time ago that it did not want to be subject to government criteria when choosing its students. It was not a decision based on race; they regularly admit Blacks, Native Americans and Asians, as well as whites. It was a political matter; the college is conservative politically and does not want to be told what to do by the government. To accomplish this, they accept NO moneys from ANY government (they are not a Land Grant college), to the extent that if a student applies who is recipient of a government grant, or student loan, etc., they will only accept the student if he/she returns the government funds. Hillsdale then replaces the returned funds with money from their endowment. Their concept has been tested in court several times over the years; Hillsdale has always won in court and to this day retains its complete independence and freedom. I didn’t go to school there, but I admire what they’re doing and regularly donate money to them.

  • Re: Dr. Dreadful

    I suppose I could have used Wellesley, or Smith College as my example at the end of the article. Both are woman-only, and I believe both accept federal dollars. I chose not to drag the colleges into it because I thought the visual of a bunch of men picketing Curves was amusing.

    Secondly, I believe women can play at Augusta national if they are the guest of a member.

  • A quick observation here enlarging on my earlier comment: Curves, while it calls itself a chain of health clubs, is not actually a “club”, but a business.

    The Augusta National, though technically a private club [cough] that didn’t even accept black members until 1990 [/cough], and therefore free to define its membership criteria as it wishes, moves into the realm of business the moment it starts accepting massive corporate sponsorships from the likes of IBM.

    Personally, if I were a woman I wouldn’t want to touch Augusta National with a ten-foot pole, although if I were a golf-playing woman, it would be galling that I was barred from playing on one of the world’s best courses purely because of the anatomy I was born with.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Or, since it’s a private club which receives no taxpayer funds, anyone they want to.

    So, in your view, if a private business wants to base their hiring decisions on race, creed, color, or religion, you think that’s okay?

    And let’s take it just a little further – should a private company be able to sell only to those customers they want to sell to, regardless of what criteria the company deigns to use?

  • Clavos

    I think it’s fine for Augusta National to continue with its men-only policy as long as they think it’s fine for the rest of us to keep on making jokes about it, most of which contain some reference to large prehistoric reptiles.

    Fair enough, Doc. I doubt the members really care what people think of them.

  • Curves isn’t actually a good tu quoque example. The company was founded and is owned by one Gary Heavin, who possesses, in common with 100% of the founders and members of Augusta National and 0% of his target market, a willy. Heavin is a conservative male to boot, who has donated to pro-life and pro-abstinence causes and was one of those who pulled support from the Komen Foundation after they gave grants to Planned Parenthood.

    In addition, Curves does allow men to join in most states, since in all but eight of them single-sex health clubs are illegal, and the company has had legal issues in the past over its women-only policies.

    I personally don’t see why a man would want to join Curves, since its program is specifically and precisely tailored towards women’s fitness, and there are an abundance of gyms and personal trainers offering fitness programs for men. And there are modesty, privacy and other issues that can sometimes make co-ed fitness situations uncomfortable, not least the reputation many of these places have as public ogling centers.

    Last time I checked, though, women can and do play golf, and I’ve never heard of a golf club at which a player felt harassed because a member of the opposite sex was checking out their swing.

    I think it’s fine for Augusta National to continue with its men-only policy as long as they think it’s fine for the rest of us to keep on making jokes about it, most of which contain some reference to large prehistoric reptiles.

  • That’s the same stupid argument Rand Paul used for making a resturant in Kentucky Whites Only.

    Just how shallow are you going to get?

  • Clavos

    …ban left-handed gay jewish marriage counselors who don’t smoke…

    Or, since it’s a private club which receives no taxpayer funds, anyone they want to.

  • …but only if they’re liberals… which goes without saying

  • Of course Warren probably thinks they should be able to ban left-handed gay jewish marriage counselors who don’t smoke too if they want to.

  • Erik, well said, especially the part about Curves. Who is or is not a member of Augusta should be of no concern to the public since it receives no public money. But, unfortunately, that is NOT how politics is played in this country.