Inequality Against Women In Golf

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Women suffering never ending discrimination within golf clubs is no surprise. In the past golf has been renowned for being a predominantly male dominated sport. However, not just male dominated, but dominated by old and rich white men. For a significant period of history, the most thought that “the word GOLF is an acronym for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden” (Scottish Golf History 2019) [1]. Though this misconstruction has been proven false, women who play, currently face large prejudices almost daily from both their everyday and golfing communities. Many consider the reason to be the long-standing stereotype of what golfers should look and act like, therefore, this essay will examine the way in which female players are viewed within a golfing environment.

This essay argues that generally, participation rates of women are much lower in comparison to those rates of male participants, this being proven by research conducted by [2] Allen-Collinson et al. (2016) in which it was discovered that in amateur golf, not only are less than one out of five golfers within England female, but Sport England (2012, 2013 cited by Allen-Collinson et al. 2016) uncovered research showing that the fraction of women that partake in sport is currently just under 1/3 of the general population. However, the number of female players who participate weekly falls at half of that again at just under 1/6 of the population. Many see the reason for this to be the inequality they face. However, the issue of discrimination and exclusion is not necessarily evident in all research that considers amateur’s experiences of the game.

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A major issue that women golfers compete with on a day-to-day basis is the stereotype that all golfers are old, rich and male or that they must be the wife of an existing male member of the golf club. Not only do women face scrutiny from individuals in their every-day lives because of this, but now it has also been discovered that golf clubs are amongst the worst offenders when it comes to prejudices against women (Haig-Muir 2002 cited by Allen-Collinson et al. 2016) [4]. Discrimination against women has been longstanding as even in the late 19th century men such as lord Moncrieff believed that women did not believe that golf clubs were a suitable place for women, he claimed that the posture and gestures required to perform a successful full swing are “not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress” (Women’s Golf Journal, 2019). This stereotype has led to many women feeling as if they do not belong within golf clubs and they have resultantly left the sport, even if they were good at it.

Women who play golf have often had to brush off the small digs at their gender, with men laughing if their friends don’t even make it past the ‘ladies tees’, which are officially labelled ‘red’ tees and those who play off those tees, do because of their ability, not gender. Negative labels and stereotypes such as being masculine, are directed towards females who play in male-dominated sports, such as golf. However, some are strting to believe that the effect of physical differences between men and women are gradually waning as Chapple et al. (2005) suggest [4]. Though Chapple et al. (2005) does imply that there still remains various constraints for women within psychological and social aspects of golf.

Another major issue is considered by Nylund (2003) and this is the idea that male only memberships at prestigious and world-renowned golf clubs such as Augusta National and Muirfield encourage individuals to believe the ideas that women are starting an attack on golf club “masculinity, resulting in White male victimhood,” [3] and the need for rights and privacy. This depicts women as decreasing the value and stature of the golf club, resulting in women feeling as though they do not belong in sport and that it should be left for men. Treatment such as this can cause transform passive liberal and cultural feminists to active radical feminists.

Flintoff and Scranton (2013) [5] discuss radical feminism as being highly concerned with the notion of masculine fundamental supremacy that is a consequence of the longstanding and well-organised continuation of the males’ control through patriarchy and that men, as a group do not just rule but they dominate women. Radical feminists consider women’s oppression via their own past encounters and believe that sexuality is the central issue when it comes to both the male-dominated world and game of golf through the institutionalization of heterosexual behaviours and rituals. Other feminists such as Gilman (1898 cited by Burke 2001) [6] agree with these principles and firmly believe in the revolutionary restructuring of society and its functions, in order for women to become both politically and financially independent of men.

However, England Golf (2018) have been promoting ways in which to fight the discrimination of women within golf clubs. The National Governing Body has strongly considered the Equality Act (2010) and has devised a plan to encourage clubs to “examine their practices, rules, policies and conventions to ensure that they are non-discriminatory, either directly or indirectly” (England Golf 2018)

Nevertheless, it was also stated in the same document that It is not illegal discrimination for a golf club to limit their membership to individuals of a single sex. In contrast, St Andrews posted a statement explaining that female members will play a large “part of the future of golf and would help safeguard the long-term success” (Dunsmir 2012) [8].

Inequality against women has existed within golf for a substantial amount of time and will probably not be 100% eradicated from the game within this generations lifetime. The discrimination is too far ingrained into the fabrics of the golf clubs and the human subconscious, especially when some of the world’s largest clubs are still encouraging single sex membership today. Many women who play golf can considered as feminists due to their belief that the sport should be fair and that both sexes should have equal rights within their clubs. Perhaps the ways in which sexism can be fought within a golfing context should be researched more deeply in order to provide a fair and equal environment for all who wish to take part, this wold result in higher retainment and also a chance at a longer and brighter future for the game as a whole.

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Inequality Against Women In Golf. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
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