Jim Lyon – They may be unenlightened but it’s their club, their rules

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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I may well be stepping on to dangerous ground here but please bear with me.

I am going to talk sexism - perceived or otherwise.

The fact Muirfield, where the 142nd Open Championship is currently taking place, does not allow female members has attracted a great deal of attention.

Politicians have been queuing up to condemn the club’s policy and words such as “embarrassment”, “anachronistic” and “bigoted” have been used by the likes of Harriet Harman and Nick Clegg.

But, as they have probably not taken the time to discuss the issue with anyone from the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and would jump at the chance to have a pop at the packaging of a Solero if they thought it would get them some attention, their views almost wash over me.

Do not misunderstand. I do not necessarily agree with the policy.

But what these soundbite politicians fail to appreciate is Muirfield is a private members club.

Who are we to dictate who can be allowed in. It is entirely up to them who they permit to join.

Harman said: “It’s time that Muirfield dragged itself into the 21st century and let women in. It’s time to ban men-only sport clubs.”

It should, perhaps, be pointed out to her there are also female-only clubs in this country.

And presumably she will also be calling for the Women’s Institute to be outlawed as well then?

The WI state on their website: “Have men ever demanded their right to join?

“Not as far as we are aware, and they wouldn’t have got very far anyway! The Constitution and Rules are very specific and rule 9 states: “Membership of the WI is open to women.”

Their choice and one they are perfectly entitled to.

There are not many men who would ‘demand’ to join the WI.

And, similarly, it might well be the case that women would be well served staying away from Muirfield and joining a club with a more liberal attitude anyway.

Thankfully the number of high-quality female golfers now playing to a top level is helping to change some opinions.

Indeed our own Charley Hull described Muirfield’s policy as ‘stupid’ and I have to agree with her.

I have been in golf clubs where the almost misogynistic attitudes have appalled me.

There is a well known story, apocryphal I am sure, of a club where a group of ladies having a drink on the patio near the 18th complained of foul language being used by a male fourball finishing their round.

The committee heard their complaint - and decided to ban women from the patio.

Such actions, true or not, obviously have no place in society.

But back to Muirfield.

I think a more pertinent question is whether a club which is not inclusive should be rewarded by being allowed to host the Open.

Let them go on with life and exist with their own perfectly legal and acceptable - if a little unenlightened - views but do not give them the big prize of high-profile competition.

It is unlikely that will ever happen, though.

Such a move would also mean scrubbing St Andrews from the Open schedule which we all know would never be allowed.