The Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, has finally admitted women – specifically Condoleezza Rice and banker Darla Moore. Will the UK’s Royal and Ancient Golf Club follow suit?
Well, Augusta – arguably the most famous golf club in the world – has for the first time invited two women to join the most exclusive golf club in the world, writes Ben Monro-Davies.
Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, now has a famous green jacket – many would say laying your hands on the most famous blazer in sport is a far harder task than becoming the first black person to run the State Department.
Deep in the deep south, Augusta is a place of fine traditions to its fans, a bastion of prejudice to its critics.
But before British golf fans become too smug, best to have a look at the situation on our own fairways.
The next British Open will be played at Muirfield, just outside Edinburgh. Among the players, it is probably the most admired course on the Open rota.
Joining the club as a man is famously difficult, requiring endless letters of recommendation. But not as hard as if you are a woman. Female golfers can’t join.
Last year the Open was at Royal St George’s, on the Kent coast, where Northern Ireland’s Darren Clark was a hugely popular winner. Again, women cannot join the club.
And then there is the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, based at St Andrews. This organisation essentially sets the rules for golf, and runs several tournaments including the Open championship. It has 2,400 members – and you can guess the percentage who are women.
It’s nothing new. The issue comes up every year, and will do again when the Open descends on Muirfield. And the R&A points out that less than 1 per cent of clubs in the UK are all-male.
The problem is, they happen to be the most famous. And by letting in Condie, Augusta have effectively said: “Over to you at the Royal and Ancient.”
A spokesman for The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews said –
“We read the announcement from Augusta National with great interest and we congratulate Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore on their membership.
“The rules of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews specify a male membership and this policy remains a matter for our members to determine”.