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What women have to do in the golf wars? June 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Golf.
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OK, so golfers doff their caps when they win, abide by the rules, don’t argue with the ref or shout abuse at the crowd. They keep their shirts on when they play a good hole; they don’t rush around the green in a lap of honour or jump on each other in wild abandon. They are the epitome of Kenny Everett’s “best possible taste”.

There has never been a more suburban game than golf; it simply reeks of neighbourhood watch schemes and mock-Georgian housing estates. Everything neat, tidy and in order: Pringle jumpers and pink polo shirts.

So why do so many clubs apparently pursue un-gentlemanly behaviour on the greens and in the clubhouse by denying women equal status? The answer is obvious: nowhere are the gender roles more divided that in middle Britain, middle America, middle everywhere.

I have thought if God played a game, it would be golf; everything is clear cut, like the fairway. Once you are off the straight and narrow, you are in the rough. The whole language of the game is a metaphor for control, so it is not surprising then that the men who are drawn to the game do not want women around.

Women should be at home, cooking the Sunday roast in their pinnies, while men have a round, tell a few saucy jokes, talk about their local business, down a pint or two before they go home to wash the car and cut the grass.

This is not a game for exuberant passion or wild adventure, it is a game for estate agents and quantity surveyors. But now the bastions of British manhood are being challenged by the Equal Opportunities Bill to open their doors, changing rooms and club houses to women wielding clubs.

I feel sorry for the chaps: I mean, where else are they meant to go? Working class fellows go fishing or down their allotments and upper class toffs head off to their Club in St James, so what’s left for the poor henpecked, chore laden, earning-an-honest-living fellow if he can’t get a bit of peace and quiet on the golf course?

Only 800 of the UK’s 2,000 or so golf clubs have signed up to the equal opportunities legislation. The dilemma is that once a club has open membership for both sexes, by law it must have equal provisions. It is quite acceptable for clubs to be single sex and as discriminatory as they please. This will now put many golf clubs in a financial quandary, many survive by allowing women to use the facilities and the greens when men are working and designate weekends and early mornings as men-only times. You can see the economics, but of course, they are failing to live with the times.

Women work, men retire early, the rules of the game are not the same as they were in the 1950s. And this is the real mythology of golf, like Peter and Jane Ladybird books, they are stuck in a time warp.

I have no problem with men-only times on golf courses, just as you have women only times at the local swimming pool. On the whole, we swim slower. Men hit the ball harder, go round a course faster, so it makes a certain sense to let them go at their own pace. What, is of course, utter nonsense is segregation in the bar, gin and tonic apartheid.

But there is always another point of view, a mate of mine married to a golf addict in Surrey said she has never worried about the time he spends at “The Club” because she knows he is only drinking with male chums. “If the bar is invaded by swinging divorcees, femme fatales of the fairway,” she sighed, “I’ll have no choice but to take up golf, damn it.”

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