Golf’s a conservative kind of sport – both big C and little c.
When you’ve got an age demographic somewhere in the mid-50s – yes, I don’t think I can do a column these days without mentioning that – it’s almost inevitable.
Therefore when golf gets tied up in social issues – as it must do, because we all do – then it gets profoundly uncomfortable. It’s a fuss golfers would prefer to do without.
I’ve never met a really strident advocate for same-sex clubs, although I’m sure there’s a few out there. But the faces set against equality in golf seem to come from a standpoint not exactly of opposition but more being offended at a perception they’re being told what they can and can’t do.
I’d hope that’s where Royal Troon stands as, patently, it procrastinates and dodges calls to become a mixed club before it hosts the Open this July.
When you think of the intransigent reputation of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield, it’s almost astonishing to think that august organisation will become a mixed club before Royal Troon will.
The review of membership at Muirfield is almost complete and no-one expects them to do anything in the coming weeks but admit the first women members in their 272-year history.
Troon, meanwhile, has thrown up a series of pale excuses. The first, when the R&A finally admitted women members in 2014, claimed that they were “a special case” because of the existence and “equal rights” afforded to the Ladies Club of Troon.
This was patent nonsense, exposed when the talented Scottish international Connie Jaffrey, a Troon girl and member of the Ladies club, was found not only to have barely any rights to play the Open Championship course but wasn’t even allowed to use the Royal Troon putting green.
Squirming from this, Troon’s second procrastinatory move was to announce in January 2015 they would “jointly host” the Open with the Ladies’ Club, and to launch a thorough review of membership policy.
Nothing wrong with this at face value – both Muirfield and Royal St George’s had similar reviews. And a joint hosting seemed like a welcome move towards equality.
Yet of course the Ladies Club’s “co-hosting” of the Open is nothing of the sort, merely a convenient arrangement to try and circumvent any fuss over Royal Troon’s hosting the championship as an all-male club.
The reaction of the media, politicians and more last week would show no-one has been fooled in the slightest. The Ladies Club remains a junior partner in any arrangement.
Furthermore, 15 months on there’s still no end in sight to the membership review and it’s not going to be completed before the Open in July – in fact the consultants employed by Royal Troon won’t even report on their findings until August, after which a vote will still be required.
How can it possibly take two years to review membership? Is it necessary for every standing order of the club and facility to be absolutely complete before women are allowed into the Royal Troon clubhouse as equals?
Of course not. It’s easily done, in fact. Simply make the 10 most senior members of the Ladies Club honorary members of Royal Troon, and in return the 10 most senior men honorees of the Ladies club.
I can speak from experience that the men’s facilities in the splendid Ladies clubhouse across the road from the 17th green of the big course are more than adequate already.
They could do it this week. Then all the furore that’s coming in July, when golf will be humiliated as it was at Muirfield in 2013, would be circumvented.
I cannot believe that the R&A think that the chastening experience of three years ago is worth enduring again.
Still, there’s some for whom the entire argument against equality seems to be “why should we?”
They don’t see the damage this issue does to the sport’s reputation among the wider public and crucially, among the young who are already turning away from golf. Maybe they’re okay with that.
A different path to success
Last week at the PGA graduation event in Birmingham, Keir McNicoll was named PGA Assistant of the Year, just two years after winning the organisation’s Rookie of the Year title.
Now at Gullane, Keir was of course one of the best talents in recent years to come out of Carnoustie.
He was a fine amateur, a winner of the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy and the first Scot ever to have a plus-six handicap – even more impressive a feat considering what his home course was.
But he didn’t have an imediate impact as a tournament pro, and instead opted to take the PGA pro route. It’s not cheap and has required several years at the coal face, but with these two titles on his CV he has an assured future as one of the country’s top club pros.
A lot of elite amateurs turn their nose up at being a club pro. It doesn’t have the glamour of the Tour, but it’s a far more realistic aspiration for most.
Keir hasn’t given up hopes of being a tournament player. But he’s also been smart enough to back that up.