With all the fuss about the people of Scotland voting to determine whether they would separate from the United Kingdom – and as we all know the Scots decided to stay in the fold – there was an equally important casting of ballots in that country; the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews voted overwhelmingly to allow female membership for the first time.
The name alone sounds prestigious enough (the club has been in existence for 260 years), but a female has never been allowed on the links in all these years. Perhaps members got thinking after the idea of Scottish independence was shot down for reasons that seem salient – the ties that bind Scots and the rest of the U.K. seem more tenacious than any bad blood from the William Wallace days of old (if you have seen Mel Gibson’s bloody film Braveheart you’ll understand those feelings). Whatever the motivation, 85% of the voting members voted to allow female golfers on the course that overlooks the Old Course of St. Andrews.
When I think of these male-only clubs (and there are many of them that have persisted even into this century), I always picture darkened wood-paneled rooms dimly lit by green bankers lamps, the smoke of cigars and the smell of old whiskey permeating the air. The old timers and even younger members gather around tables and talk of things we regular folks probably cannot imagine – and all of this in the sanctity of a male-only environment where I suppose men can be men (I have no idea what that really means). I guess the rationale is that they can relax in their swimming pools and saunas and massage rooms knowing that they can talk like men without females around to possibly object to their chauvinistic world view or colorful language.
Maybe I am wrong, and perhaps these male-only clubs consist of men who just like to get together without women – or perhaps get away from women for some reason. I am not sure why this ever got started in the first place, and I am certain someone with more knowledge than I have will come back and explain why male-only clubs were started in the past. I suppose it has to do with the antiquated notion that there are fraternal opportunities for men, that in the ancient times women were seen as inferior, and that there was no place in this world for women to be equally considered as employees let alone members of an elite club.
Unfortunately, this makes me think of a Three Stooges mentality, where guys who know very little about golf (or anything else for that matter), like to get together with like-minded males to protect their reputations from the rest of the world, especially the female population.
Now, I do understand getting together with my male friends from childhood once in a while. We go out to eat, shoot some pool, and share memories. It’s fun because we do that once every few months; however, I cannot imagine doing that consistently.
Some of you may remember The Little Rascals (also known as Our Gang). In a particular episode Spanky and Alfala designed the He-Man Woman Haters Club with similar intentions I would suppose as the adult version male-only clubs. Spanky watches Alfalfa take a “sacred” oath as a Woman-Hater, but later on he discovers that Alfalfa is sweet on Darla, whom he keeps seeing on the side. Perhaps all it took at R&A was a modern Alfalfa to see the light and open the door for the voting to take place.
So now the likes of Lorena Ochoa and other female golfers (professionals or not) will be able to be members at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. R&A spokesperson Peter Dawson said, “The membership has also acted to fast-track a significant initial number of women to become members in the coming months.” I am sure that presence of female members should brighten up things considerably in those old hallways and out on the links.
Of course, there will be different kinds of conversations now, new opportunities for members male and female to make professional and personal connections, and a general notion that they have shut the door on the past – the “ancient” maybe gone forever now – and they will all hoist some of the locally distilled beverages that the world loves and interact as equals in the bar and on the beautiful green golf course.
Scotland had two important referendums this week – one keeps things as it always has been and the other embraces change as inevitable. So while the U.K. remains intact (and Scotch whiskey prices will not rise dramatically as had been feared), the folks at Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews will never be the same. Cheers to the people of Scotland and the members of R&A for making the right call on both counts.
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