• PGA in Scotland secretary Shona Malcolm welcomes decision
• But she insisted it must happen with will of Muirfield members
MUIRFIELD | SHONA MALCOLM
Shona Malcolm, the secretary of the PGA in Scotland, has said she would welcome Muirfield scrapping its male-only membership policy – but stressed that the change must happen with the will of the East Lothian club’s members.
An article in The Sunday Times said it ‘understood’ that the Open Championship venue, home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, would be holding a postal ballot to determine whether to admit women members, with insiders believing such a method would make a vote in favour more likely as it will encourage more members to take part in the vote.
And Malcolm, former chief executive of the Ladies Golf Union, says that although it’s great to see movement, she hasn’t differed from her views in 2013 when Muirfield received hefty criticism in the media, where she said the sport was in an ‘evolutionary process’.
“I’m very consistent in my views on that,” Malcolm told bunkered.co.uk. “If we were starting out the game of golf today, we wouldn’t have single gender clubs at all. We have the benefit of all these years of tradition and history, in Scotland particularly, so I think change, if it happens, has to be for the right reasons and it has to happen with the will of the members from each individual club.
“If Muirfield is at that stage where it is willing to consider that, it must go over to the members to decide whether or not it works for them at this time and that the benefits of doing it outweigh the drawbacks. It’s great to see movement in a lot of these areas now but it is very much over to the members. It’s their decision.”
The 2013 Open, won by Phil Mickelson, was partially overshadowed by criticism from a number of senior politicians, with then First Minister Alex Salmond boycotting the event, while Prime Minister David Cameron even weighed in, saying ‘exclusive memberships of this sort look more to the past than the future’.
With such public outcry, Malcolm acknowledged the importance of the wider public’s perception of the sport, believing that if Muirfield did scrap its male-only membership policy, it could only be seen as a positive step.
“Public perception is really powerful, it’s everything, and anything that works to improve the perception and inclusiveness of golf has got to be a good thing,” she said. “It’s all part of the evolution. Everything is moving in the right direction but I can’t over-emphasise enough that it must be down to the members who believe it’s right for their club at that specific time.”
If Muirfield does end its male-only membership, it would leave this year’s Open Championship venue Royal Troon as the only one of its kind left on the rota, after Royal St George’s lifted its ban on female members in early 2015.
But the Ayrshire club, which said in January 2015 that it was reviewing its policy, has separate men’s and ladies clubs, and Malcolm said she’d be disappointed if there was similar uproar to 2013 when golf’s oldest major heads there from July 14-17.
“I’d be very disappointed if that did happen,” she said. “While Troon is a single gender men’s club, 100 yards away there’s the ladies club with 370-odd members. Both of them are working together to help present the Open this year.
“There were no negative comments when the Scottish Open went to Royal Aberdeen in 2014, which is a male-only club with a ladies club nearby so, if there are negative comments about it, I’d like to think that it would come outwith golf rather than within golf and again, that’s down to perception.”
bunkered.co.uk tried to contact Muirfield for confirmation of the Sunday Times article, but was unable to get a reply.
A spokesperson for Scottish Golf said: "This is a club matter. That has been our stance on this subject, and will remain so."
Muirfield to review male-only membership :: A positive step?
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