Historic golf club votes to exclude women19th December, 2013 by Emma Williams
One of the most prestigious golf clubs in the world has voted to exclude women.
The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh, which has a history that dates back to 1735 and is one of only ten royal golf clubs in Scotland, has refused to allow women to join since its inception.
The club decided to address the issue and held a referendum on admitting women this week. However, only 181 (less than 30 percent) of the club’s 606 members voted to change the membership rules, with 237 voting to keep them. The club needed at least 50 percent support from those balloted just for the issue to be on the agenda at its next annual general meeting – when the motion would have required at least 75 percent support.
A club spokesman said “no further action” is planned over the issue.
The Scotsman newspaper has reported that some members threatened to resign if women had been allowed, with one stating that “ladies caused no end of issues”.
Shona Malcolm, chief executive officer of the Ladies’ Golf Union, said that despite losing the vote, it was clear progress has been made.
“It’s encouraging that 43 percent [of those who voted] voted for change. If you went back ten years, I don’t think you would have anything like that voting for. We’re in a period of evolution. We don’t want to be forcing things, decisions have to come from within the clubs, and I’m sure there will be other single gender clubs that will ask their members the same question. Some may well change and some won’t.
“I think it’s encouraging that clubs are taking this issue sufficiently seriously and are going to their members to give them the option. I very much respect the decision from the membership of any golf club, because if we didn’t have the members, we wouldn’t have the clubs themselves.
“There seems to be very little appetite to bring in gentlemen members at quite a number of ladies’ clubs, so it works both ways.”
However, Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale disagreed. She said: “It is worrying to see when you put it to the vote there are still men out there that don’t want to let women into this golf club. I don’t think you can call it progress – progress would have been them changing their mind.”
The vote has come at the end of a year in which gender segregation seems to be less tolerated than ever before.
Men-only Muirfield, which hosted the Open Championship, was heavily criticised and even boycotted by first minister Alex Salmond, while a BBC satirical show mocked men-only golf clubs last month.
And this month the education secretary, Michael Gove, said that guidance that endorses gender segregation at universities was “pandering to extremism”.
In the USA, the former female manager of the men-only Wheatley Hills Golf Club in New York has begun legal action against the club over discrimination while two members of Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey have also filed a lawsuit against their club after they claim they failed to make it give more rights to women.