The R&A takes a major step forward

2014 03 Peter Dawson

Consider today’s news a major step forward by The R&A and, indeed, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Pressure has been building for some time on this move, and that’s one thing this golf club does not bow to: pressure.

Peter Dawson has sat in countless press briefings and been unwavering in his refusal to, at times, discuss the matter, or enter into any serious debate about the wrongs of not allowing women to become members of a club that was established in 1754.

It was announced recently that this year’s Open media day at Royal Liverpool will not feature a press briefing with Dawson. Now we know why.

However you want to view the link between The R&A and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, it doesn’t actually matter. As the statement says, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was the “founding club” of The R&A. They are inextricably linked, regardless of one being a ‘normal private golf club’ and the other being an administrative, ruling golf body. To outsiders, it’s the same thing.

Not only is this a major step forward for The R&A – and there is absolutely no assurance that it will go through – it is a major ‘step forward’ that will no doubt rattle the cages of the committees at the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Royal Troon and Royal St George’s. Do as we do, The R&A is effectively saying, and you will continue to be given the honour of hosting the Open. These committees, though, may well turn their noses up at such modern thinking and carry on as normal. After all, they are breaking no laws.
From The R&A’s point of view, you can’t seem to promote one thing yet do another.

The R&A cannot possibly continue to say they are growing the game when, at heart, they are divisive. It’s a PR disaster and they know it. Peter Dawson is anything but stupid and knows this is something he needs to finally get a grip of.

Augusta National got round to welcoming female members, leaving The R&A as the last bastion of, well, everything that’s wrong about golf. Stiff upper lip, and the like.

Whilst I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with male-only clubs, I also don’t see anything wrong with female-only clubs – yet that’s also potentially the most predictable and well-trodden argument in this whole debate. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re for or against. From The R&A’s point of view, you can’t seem to promote one thing yet do another.

Will the vote go through? If the mess that happened at Royal Burgess in December is anything to go by, probably not - but at least the committee tried to make a change. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.

The R&A and the vote: your reactions?

Do you agree with Bryce Ritchie on today's announcement issued by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the impact it could have on The R&A? Leave your thoughts in our 'Comments' section below.

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