St. Andrews Golf Club to admit women? Maybe not

Royal & Ancient clubhouse, St. Andrews

Hold onto your green jackets, gentlemen. St. Andrews Golf Club, the venerable home of golf, may overturn well more than a century of discrimination (what the old boys in Scotland like to call “tradition”) and allow women to join its ranks. The U.K.‘s recently enacted Equality Act of 2010 may cause the renowned sanctuary to take the drastic step of letting women play the course as members, news outlets reported Thursday.

Except, maybe not.

The new legislation — designed to guarantee equality for all citizens — could help St. Andrews remain a same-sex enclave since the law forbids private clubs from discriminating on the basis of gender but does not outlaw single-sex clubs, according to the U.K.’s Courier newspaper.

Not sure how that works, but the club could use the law’s language to bolster its unofficial no-women-need-apply policy. A committee letter to members of the club — which apparently grants membership to gentlemen, boys, and juniors, but does not expressly forbid women from enlisting — reportedly suggested making club rules “clearer and more robust,” according to the Courier.

How about posting an image of a woman with the universal diagonal “no” line across her visage? Can’t get much “clearer” than that.

The letter also listed less “retrograde” options the club could choose in response to the Equality Act, including continuing to let only “members and their male guests” into the members’ lounge, according to the publication. “This would result in no lady guests being permitted at all in the clubhouse, as all guests must be given the same rights of access under the Act.”

And we all know where that could lead: Hell, damnation, and women on the Saturday morning tee sheet.

The club could also open the lounge to members only, but that would have the unhappy aftermath of depriving those who belong of “seeing guests in awe of the club’s trophies and memorabilia collection.” Seriously? Gag me with a vintage Mashie Niblick.

Such intolerable deprivation, however, could have a catastrophic financial impact. on the venerated establishment. The letter warned that members would leave in droves, causing “significant reductions in turnover,” if the boys could not show off their toys to their less privileged cronies.

Which, of course, leads to the crux of the matter. St. Andrews members may or may not care a whit about anti-discrimination laws, but perhaps the club — like most others worldwide — must modernize or lose money.

To that end, the letter recommended the third elective — let members and male and female guests into all “public areas”– as a way of “safeguarding the long-term wellbeing of St. Andrews Golf Club,” the publication said.

It’s unclear if the club considers the members’ lounge a “public area,” and the letter apparently said nothing about actually welcoming women to the inner sanctum. So, despite Thursday’s headlines warning that the 21st century might make an unwelcome appearance at the birthplace of golf, it would seem that the “tradition” of men-only may well remain intact at the 168-year-old bastion of male-dom that is St. Andrews Golf Club.

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