Lady golfers unhappy at law to end sex discrimination...
Lady golfers unhappy about law to end sex discrimination
The Equality Act has given women more rights in golf clubs – but many lady golfers have been left out of pocket and out of sorts.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
By Adam Lusher9:00PM GMT 12 Feb 2011
It was meant to put women on a par with men.
Women golfers have long faced restrictions at their local courses on what times they could play and which bars they could drink in. Often they were blocked from becoming club captain.
So when Harriet Harman introduced the Equality Act to give women more rights in work places and social settings, golf clubs were seen as ripe for reform.
But the drive by Labour’s leading feminist seems to have landed in the bunker. Many women golfers say that, following the changes, which have brought an end to men-only tee-off times at many clubs, they now have to pay more for membership.
Although the legislation was passed by Parliament just before last year’s election and came into force in October, many of its effects are only now being felt, with golf clubs forced to rewrite their own rule books.
As well as allowing ladies to play on whatever day they want, clubs are also having to admit women to “men only” bars and restaurants in clubhouses, and some are abolishing the traditional post of club captain. Others are even planning to scrap “husband and wife” contests, replacing them with “mixed competitions” in which civil partners can also compete.
Kirstie Thirde, from the English Golf Partnership which incorporates governing and professional bodies, said many women were unhappy that they must now have the same unrestricted membership terms as men, meaning that they lost their ladies’ discount.
Mrs Thirde backed the Act but admitted: “Many golf club ladies don’t want equality.
“All they feel the Equality Act does is increase their fees and allow them access to the course at weekends, which they really don’t need.
“I visit an awful lot of clubs talking about the equality issue, and they will say to you 'women don’t want this.’ ”
Many women golfers are over 50 and retired. She said: “They play during the week. They don’t need access to the course at the weekend, so why would somebody pay for something they don’t want?”
Chris Jones, editor of Golf World magazine, said he too had heard women golfers complaining about the Act. “A lot of them are on fixed incomes and can’t justify an extra £40 a month for golf club membership.
“Most women don’t want to play with us men. They don’t want to endure the bravado, the trying to play like Tiger Woods, and the swearing, stamping and snapping of golf clubs that ensues. Ladies’ day is their day when they can get away from us.”
At some clubs, the post of club captain – once the preserve of men only – has been scrapped in favour of separate ladies’ and men’s captains. A 70-year-old honorary secretary at one club, who asked not to be named, regretted the change.
“To be club captain is one of the highest honours. These people that come up with the legislation don’t understand the traditions of this place.”
Some clubs have introduced changes with reluctance. Lenzie Golf Club, near Glasgow, announced that “veteran ladies” would now be expected to pay the same as “veteran gents”.
However, Robert Chalmers, the club captain, added: “I hope members will appreciate the changes are to be made as the result of legislation which we must comply with and not of our own initiation.”
A newsletter from Northwood Golf Club in Middlesex worried that “the new law bans the candidacy of a captain only being available to men. There’ll be a few harrumphs about this at the club bar, I am sure.”
The move was voted through with a big majority, but the club is now grappling with the thornier issue of whether it can still allow husband and wife discounts, or whether the average couple will have to pay an extra £200 in fees.
In Northwood’s newsletter, Steve Derbyshire, the club’s general manager, writes that “husband and wife competitions are discriminatory and need to be 'mixed competitions’ in future, taking into account civil partnerships as well as gender reassignment and sexual orientation issues”.
Alison Root, 43, the editor of Women & Golf magazine and a regular player, admitted: “To be honest, a lot of women don’t want change. They play during the week. They don’t care what happens on Saturdays. If you’re happy with your lot, why change?”
Objections to the Act among female golfers surprised Barry Johnston, compiler of the book The Wit of Golf. “I am sure they don’t want to go back to the bad old days,” he said.
“That’s when you heard stories about the ladies sitting on the veranda who were appalled by swearing from so-called gentlemen on the 18th hole. When the ladies complained, the committee took action – by banning ladies from the veranda.”