Muirfield Golf Club / Peter Alliss -Really?

In the light of the recent Muirfield Golf Club decision to not allow women to join, and Peter Alliss’ helpful suggestions, I have revived this article from almost exactly 4 years ago. How times have changed.

bushinjeans

You wouldn’t get in my club with those jeans Mr Bush

DRESS SENSE – A ONE WORD QUESTION

Look through the lists blow (not drawn from a remote, Southern United States Country Club, an English Home Counties club, nor a Colonial backwater from the Victorian era) and if anyone can give me a satisfactory, sensible, non-sexist, non-offensive, non-elitist, answer to one question I’ll eat my large, indiscrete Nike-logoed, backward-worn baseball cap.

Ready….… the one-word question is ‘Why?’

“ Dress Code:
Women (all ages)
Conservative, tailored slacks, golf skirts, shorts
Socks should be knee high or no more than two inches above the ankle

Men (all ages)
Tailored slacks or Bermuda shorts
Shirts with both a collar and sleeves and tucked in at all times
Socks should be knee high or no more than two inches above the ankle

Prohibited dress;
Denim apparel in all colours,
Racer backs, tank tops or halters,
Front of shirt must not descend below the collar bone,
Bare midriffs in standing position,
Large or indiscrete logos are not acceptable,
Cargo pants with buckles and ties,
Stirrup pants,
Warm-up suits,
Pull-on drawstring shorts/slacks,
Skirts / shorts that are more than five inches above the knee or less than 18 inches when measured from the bottom of the waistband,
Hats worn backwards.“

I love the sport of golf. However, I detest the nonsense that goes on around it. I don’t think I’m on my own.

Ask potential golfers that can’t afford the extortionate rates to join a club. This is assuming their face fits and they are allowed to part with their money.
We should be grateful, I suppose, that this isn’t as bad as it used to be. There used to be a time when you needed a 5 year wait, a thousand pound joining fee and a Masonic handshake to get into a golf club. We’ve moved on from that.

This is true. However, I’d like to believe the reason we’ve moved on is due to an enlightened attitude in the Committee room. I suspect though that it’s more to do with the recession and the current economic climate.

Ask women or juniors who frequently get shoved to an odd afternoon in the middle of the week or a few unsociable hours on the weekend when the men have finished their rounds and are in the bar.

However, all is not doom and gloom. There are exceptions. Not too many, but there are exceptions. The Celtic Manor 2010 Club, as I understand it has no different times for men, women or juniors on the 2010 course. Membership is the same for all and there is no discrimination of any sort. Fantastic and a role model to other clubs. Unfortunately, you need to pay £6,000 to buy fair treatment. Why wouldn’t all golf clubs do this? Answer on a postcard to the usual address.

I can hear some of you whingeing from here. Yes, I know many clubs don’t have specific times for anyone – men, women or juniors – but really. Ask any junior who tries to get on the course on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Ask any woman who tries to get on the course at any time. Even if they manage to get on the course they are subject to mild, ‘playful’ harassment about how long they take, etc. etc..

Let’s go back to the nonsense that is symbolic of the attitude of golf clubs – the dress code. Now I believe there are occasions where you need a dress code – deep sea diving for instance, working in a nuclear power plant or being a catalogue model. These professions will require a certain standard of clothing and rightly so. I get that.

What I can’t quite grasp is the fact that I pay thousands of pounds, well hundreds, to spend my sparse and valuable leisure time being told what to wear. I’m not sure I’m keen on that. I don’t have this down the pub, in my lounge or in my garden. So what is it all about?

The dress code is so, so nonsensical. It’s a trip to an older, happier time when men dressed properly, there was respect, good manners, child poverty, a life expectancy of twenty-eight and women knew their place. For instance – Why can’t you wear a comfortable tee-shirt? Why can’t you wear jeans to play golf?

Let’s look at the argument-
Denim / tee-shirts / etc.. look scruffy.

On at least 2 levels this argument is nonsense –

  1. to most people under the age of 80 they don’t look scruffy and
    2. so what?

Let’s not even get into the argument of jeans being more expensive that trousers and whilst a £300 pair of True Religion jeans are deemed unacceptable, a twenty years old pair of scruffy, worn-out trousers is somehow perfectly acceptable. Let’s go straight for the ‘so what?’

Why on earth does it matter is someone’s shirt isn’t tucked in, or the shorts aren’t tailored, or the jeans are scruffy. You aren’t going to have tea with the Queen (although I’ve a few thoughts on that one). You’re playing a game. A game involving grass, mud, water, rain, etc… It’s supposed to be fun. Which does not mean everyone must wear jeans. I don’t want to tell you what to wear. It’s supposed to be pleasure.

In my own, personal, golf club the dress code would say; ‘Be Comfortable. Keep Warm. Don’t wear anything that could upset anyone else.’  I would not be bothered if your shorts were 6 inches above the knee or your socks were three inches above your ankle (what is that one all about?). It’s a game – enjoy yourself.

I suspect the reason undlying the dress code is a wealth of old twaddle concerning class, Victorian values and often just plain prejudice and elitism around golf clubs (or tradition as some would deem it). Why do we take our hats off and shake hands on the eighteenth? It’s tradition. Why do golf courses have eighteen holes? It’s tradition. Why don’t we have any women or juniors on our committees to make decisions unless they’re in a ‘secretarial’ capacity or are there basically as observers with no real voting power? It’s tradition.

Now I’m not an anti-traditionalist myself. I quite like the ‘hats off and hand shaking’ thing but I can’t really say I’m a fan of any institution where a handful of like-minded, similarly educated, similarly dressed sixty – seventy year old middle-class, professional men make all the decisions on when I can play, who I can play with and what I’m allowed to wear based on an archaic set of values that are deemed ‘proper’.

Oh, and sometime soon the argument will crop us, “Well what would happen if everybody behaved like you and wore what they liked and didn’t take their hats off when they walked into the bar?” I have a well-thought out succinct argument for that too, “Nothing would happen. Let people keep their hats on in the club if they wanted to. Why on earth would it matter?”

It’s tradition. So on that basis let’s keep a gang of small children around the back of the clubhouse and wheel a few out to carry our golf clubs and tee up for us for a few pence each round. Also let’s keep women out of the bar or stop blacks and other minorities playing golf altogether. These have been some of the traditions of golf clubs in the (not too distant) past.

Most members are glad some of these traditions have disappeared but seem to have trouble fighting the subtler nuances of discrimination and personal freedom………
Or is it that somewhere deep down many men still want to cling to those Victorian values where they were obeyed?

So perhaps the recession has been a good thing in this one respect. Golf clubs are becoming more open about membership. It’s often a matter of survival these days – hopefully this will survive even if there’s a financial upturn. Perhaps not. For the sake of fairness and equality let’s hope this recession is here to stay

Note – The dress code list comes from ‘The Ladies Golf Club of Toronto’ which describes itself as ‘A Classic Club for Contemporary Women’.

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