Sports Editor's Blog: Muirfield mutterings, McIlroy and the battle for golf's future

In these ramblings and rants, I always aim to be balanced, and as my cub reporter first rule of training reminds me, to at least try to see both sides, even if on some occasions it may irk to do so.

Monday, 20th March 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:59 am

But sometimes a perspective is so at odds, I just don’t get the flip side. Muirfield’s failure to get two-thirds of its membership to allow female membership was one of those examples.

Perhaps growing up with strong female figures around the house in my mum and sister – although hardly raging feminists – helped me avoid such complacent thinking that deems women unworthy of equal membership, fit only to serve drinks or cook meals.

This mindset is not only genuinely baffling, but also, in all likelihood comes from a frightened and insecure place.

I can only imagine the furious mutterings, concealed behind gritted teeth, as a portion of Muirfield’s membership decided to put their deeply-held gender stereotyping to one side and admit female members at the second attempt.

The fact it took a loaded gun held to its temple by the Royal and Ancient – hardly the world’s most progressive institution – for them to make this ideological u-turn suggests they’re still not really convinced that a woman’s place is in the clubhouse.

This time around 80 per cent voted in favour of ending the men-only cabal, after 36 per cent had refused the poppycock notion 10 months ago.

But if the Muirfield members who changed their minds were truly repentant - and not just giving into threats to remove their rights to stage The Open – they should prove it.

Agree to serve the newly emboldened female members their post-round supper for the next 12 months. Preferably in those frilly black and white lace maids’ outfits.

BBC’s voice of golf, Peter Alliss, vehement in his defence of the no vote and forthright in his defence of golf clubs as male fortresses against an increasingly wicked world, has gone strangely quiet on the subject.

I can’t imagine he’s terribly pleased at the climbdown nor seen the feminist light.

Maybe he’s been safely stowed away in a specially soundproofed BBC studio until the whole thing blows over.

Perversely I may have had a wee bit more respect if those particular members had actually stuck to their trenchant and embarrassingly outdated guns and voted no again, with no great prizes or threats enough to shift their iron resolution.

If they weren’t blessed with a belief in social equality and fairness, at least their strength of principle couldn’t be questioned.

Now they just appear a bit cowed as well, and their change of mind begrudging and resentful.

The world’s third-ranked golfer Rory McIlroy certainly isn’t convinced.

The four-time major winner is struggling to forget the initial ‘obscene’ decision and said returning to Muirfield in future Opens would still leave a sour taste.

For a sportsman of his pedigree, influence and commercial value to come out and say what many of us think about Muirfield’s about-turn, was deeply impressive.

After years of listening to golfing interviews it seems keeping corporate sponsors and ancient governing bodies on side is as much a part of their art as perfecting a swing and ironing out putting problems

It is their duty to toe the line, respect social betters, and, above all, avoid issues.

McIlroy’s willingness to ruffle aged feathers could be incredibly valuable in kicking the sport, no-votes and all, into the 21st century.

The modern game has never been more competitive or young in spirit.

From tee to green, the conveyor belt of exciting young talent is pushing the boundaries of the game forward at dizzying speed.

I’m sure they feel it’s time the administration and mentality of the sport moved at their pace.