UK golf legend Peter Aliss believes equality laws are hurting the women's golf game. With dropping participation, Aliss says the old way may be the best.
Equality can be a touchy word, especially when it comes to women and golf.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Augusta National started to allow female members.
In the UK, it wasn’t until 2010 when the Equality Act challenged golf clubs around the country to re-examine their membership rules, including male-only tee-time booking.
Despite the progress, Peter Aliss believes equality may actually be hurting golf for women.
When speaking to the Radio Times, Aliss explained his position. “I’m told the Ladies Golf Union has lost 150,000 members since equality for women came in. Hundreds of women have left golf clubs because they’ve gone from paying half fare to full fare. It’s caused mayhem.”
Before challenges to the law and changing attitudes around gender, women members to golf clubs were only members through their husbands, paying a reduced fare for a membership.
Now, equality means equal pay for a husband and wife, often a crippling expense at some of the more prestigious clubs around the UK.
“When I was at Muirfield a couple of years ago talking to a few of the lady members, I said, ‘What about this equality? You must be happy about that?’ ‘God no,’ they said. ‘We can come here and do what we like, we can play golf and don’t pay anything,’ Aliss recalled.
The comments haven’t gone unchallenged. Ladies Golf Union Director Sam Burton told The Telegraph: “We had 189,000 members in 2010 and we’ve gone down to 159,000 in 2014. We’ve lost 30,000 members which isn’t good. I know where he’s coming from but personally I don’t think that’s the reason.
“I think he’s speaking for a very small minority, probably the older lady golfer. The clubs he’s referring to where the wife just got to play because her husband was a member – I don’t know any such clubs. People who are serious about their golf wouldn’t really see that as acceptable.”
Of the Open hosting courses in the UK, both St. Andews and Royal St. Georges’s have recently voted to admit women for the first time, while Troon and Muirfield are reviewing their rules.