And he’s got a theory….
Muirfield, like the R&A is a strange beast. Historically, they have both been involved in the development of the game and indeed the making of the rules.
They are a bit like the Oxford and Cambridge of the golfing world, being of similar antiquity and having substantially wealthy and well-connected members.
It is incredibly hard to get into both and impossible at the moment if you are of the female sex and desiring Muirfield membership.
For as we all know the chaps at The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers have just voted against women membership, whereas the R&A last year voted in their favour.
Now, I think we have to look the subtle differences in the two clubs to understand why. The R&A is of course a grand international club of 2,500 members, whilst Muirfield is smaller and more parochial, with about 800 I think and made up largely of the Edinburgh Old Boys.
Now this is interesting and significant. A lot of these guys went to single sex public schools, which were the norm in Edinburgh until the late 70’s. And I believe some of the vote lies in that fact. There is a subconscious pining for the halcyon days of their youth.
But more than that you need to look at what Muirfield is all about. It declares itself that the ethos of golf at the club is two ball match play and that the ‘basis of the club are formal dinners each year at which foursomes matches are arranged by members, wagers are placed and all participate in the betting’.
So here we have it in a nutshell. It’s all about two balls and dinner. Women haven’t a hope.
When a leaked letter indicates that the introduction of ladies would get in the way of their ‘lunch arrangements’ that is it. Muirfield is a great, great golf course but it is much more than that to its members. It’s a lads club in which drinking and gastronomie and gambling and wealthy alpha males mix.
Muirfield is the Oxford of the golfing world and has taints of the notorious Bullingdon Club there – the club for extremely wealthy and connected gentry aka David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
It’s where life is all a bit of a wheeze and Wodehouse personas proliferate. It is where retired doctors can get away with biffing fellow members in the changing rooms and get nicknamed ‘ding a ling’.
Like the Bullingdon, which is basically an exclusive and all male dining club and which has been ostracised by the University, Muirfield is becoming the bad boy of the golfing world and is now being excluded from hosting the Open.
However, Boris Johnson has since distanced himself from the Bullingdon describing it as a ‘truly shameful vignette of almost superhuman… arrogance, toffishness and twittishness.’
Our Honourable Gentlemen in their antics, down the coast in East Lothian, must be careful not to be seen as such.
First published on Golf Punk in May 25, 2016