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In defence of golf

I’m on record as saying that I believe Kenneth Roy to be Scotland’s finest campaigning journalist, but even my idols have feet of clay. I am not entirely sure why he chose to found his lead article in yesterday’s Scottish Review on his vision of the evils of the game of golf, but having done so, his sense of balance seems to have deserted him. When he wrote, ‘in golf, the racist jibe goes unpunished. In golf sexism is positively rewarded’, he let himself down, and he insulted millions of people around the globe who play the game, at all levels, without a racist or sexist bone in their body.

I accept that Sergio Garcia’s ‘fried chicken’ remark was atrocious, even though it was made in response to a light-hearted question by a comedian at European pro golf’s annual hair-down dinner, and was made in his second language, English, not his first, Spanish. Sergio seems to have accepted  that himself, going by the speed and apparent sincerity of his public apology. If he has been unable to do so privately, that may not be his fault. Sure, the cynics will say that he was protecting his endorsement earnings, but the warmth of his welcome at the subsequent Wentworth tournament indicated that the golfing galleries have more generosity of spirit than any of the people who write about or comment on the sport.

Far from being racist, golf has become a multiracial sport, as a glance at the world rankings will demonstrate. I cannot recollect any racist slur being directed openly at Vijay Singh, Jeev Milkha Singh, Y. E. Yang, Guan Tianlang, Ryo Ishikawa, Simon Khan, K J Choi, Jason Day, or any other male golfer. As for the female game it is so dominated by the Koreans that the thought would never occur. Apart from Garcia’s unfortunate jibe, the only other high-profile accusation of racism that I can recall in recent years was levelled against Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ former caddy, and that also involved the Tiger. Could it be that neither remark was in anyway racially motivated but instead flowed from the simple fact that neither Williams nor Garcia like the man? Whether that is the case or not, to condemn golf and by implication its devotees as ‘racist’ on the basis of two isolated incidents is quite ridiculous.

As for the tired old saw of the men only Honourable Company . . . I have lived less than half a mile from Muirfield for over forty years and I have never been aware of a queue of potential lady members stretching along Duncur Road. When the first rejected lady decides to picket the place, I may well join her in support, but I am not polishing my shooting stick in anticipation. Kenneth, its policy may be indefensible to you, but surely you can do better than vaguely raking through the bones of the George Pottinger affair, forty years in the past. And if you must, you should do the late Gianni Manca the courtesy of spelling his name correctly.

For the record, I am a member of Gullane Golf Club, Muirfield’s nearest neighbour, which is also men only. Gullane Ladies Golf Club is a separate associate body, with shared clubhouse facilities, and everyone is quite happy with that arrangement. Like it or loathe it, golf is a game most played by men against men and by women against women, therefore it is quite natural that its club structure should have evolved to mirror that.

The HCEG is an easy target at which to aim, but pretty much impossible to hit, for one very simple reason. Its members own the course. If a majority of their wives demanded that an associate club for ladies be set up, and their husbands knew what was good for them, that might be a possible way forward, but I have heard no whisper of support for that concept.

I am not a Muirfield member, and have never wished to join, but if my wife or my daughter did, I would probably lobby on their behalf. But why should they, when they can join Gullane Ladies instead, and be part of a well-structured, open institution where ladies and gentlemen have their own distinct entities, and which is far more typical of the sport than the place along the road?

Categories: General, Sport
  1. June 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I started subscribing to Scottish Review on your recommendation, but cancelled it last August after Kenneth Roy’s rant about male-only golf clubs.

  2. Joy
    June 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I’m told there’s a lot of fun to be had in mixed foursomes!! But what would I know I’m a non golfer!

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