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Golf's gender conundrum





So, Muirfield have finally seen the error of their ways. The ridiculous 2016 vote, which obstinately blocked the path for the admission of women as members of the "Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers", was thankfully overturned by a resounding 498 to 123 last week.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is a two-year waiting list for membership, and that, as a private club, they are entitled to do as they please, it's hard to really make the case that Tuesday's outcome was the wrong one.

The R&A wasted little time in lavishing praise on the East Lothian club too, and it now looks likely that a 17th Open Championship will be staged there within the next decade, having been rightly stripped of the privilege in the wake of last year's vote.

So, all is well in the gender equality stakes within the game of golf then?

Mmmm...

In terms of Muirfield, Rory McIlroy said it best: it was ludicrous for it to have even gotten to this point, and he won't be the only one to return to the famous old links for the next Open there with "a bad taste in his mouth." Times have changed, and with women now leading the way in so many walks of life, segregation in such a manner is an outdated and unjustifiable policy.

Yet, for me personally, my outrage on the matter is not simply a blank cheque, and there are some areas of hypocrisy which I'd call into question.

At an LPGA Tour event in Phoenix over the weekend, a group of protestors took centre stage, with their cause being an objection to the US Women's Open being staged at a golf course owned by Donald Trump later this year. A plane flyover, carrying a banner donning the words "LPGA: Take a Mulligan. Dump Sexist Trump", was also planned for Saturday. Thankfully, these folks were escorted off the premises before they could make too much of a splash, but one feels like the virtue signalling regarding Trump and his ties to the game of golf have not yet reached a cul-de-sac.

What I find more bothersome though is that all this, along with the much-hailed Muirfield ballot, was going on in the very same week that a couple - one of whom was a South African - were eventually released from an Emirates prison after being detained three weeks ago. Their crime? Premarital sex. She turned up in a hospital ward with stomach pains, which turned out to be pregnancy. The horrified doctors confirmed her "diagnosis", and promptly called in the police.

As Global Golf Post observes, it comes just four years after a Norwegian girl was sentenced to 16 months in prison there for unwed sex and drinking alcohol - after being raped. Although she was later pardoned, no charges were ever laid against her offender, nor was any investigation launched. And so it goes on.

Now golf's ties to the Emirates are far more binding and intertwined than those with Trump. That this particular Gulf State bankrolls the likes of the European Tour is not a debate. The only question is how many multi-millions the figure actually is each year.

McIlroy himself, so incensed and outspoken on the issue of Muirfield's membership policy, has never uttered a word (in public, anyway) about the treatment of women in the Emirates, and a series of incidents which, in the Western world, would probably amount to human rights violations, never mind women's rights. Why the radio silence on these Emiratis then, Rory?

Me thinks a cushy sponsorship package from the likes of Jumeirah may have something to do with it. I fancy there is another factor involved though - a fear of stepping on cultural toes.

Look, that's not to say that one shouldn't shake their heads in anger when Trump makes obscene comments about the fairer sex, nor feel within their rights to condemn a bunch of dinosaurs at a golf club for being idiotic enough to deny ladies from signing up as members.

But the outrage - and faux outrage, in some cases - does lose credibility when a blind eye is turned to laws and customs which are far more abhorrent and repressive towards women, especially within a country whose grip on the sport continues to tighten.

It is right to hold our fellow human beings to account, especially when we are all connected by a mutual passion such as the game of golf. But these standards of social code and moral principle should extend to everyone, not just a fashionable few and/or soft targets.


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