Is the Death of the Male Only Golf Club Around the Corner?

posted by Women in Sport International
Monday, February 13, 2012 at 8:45am EST

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The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Butler National Golf Club is considering opening up membership in the exclusive club to women. While the motivation for the move certainly makes sense in terms of equality, the move would likely take place due to financial pressures.

Firstly, the Tribune states that admitting women would allow it to host professional tournaments which can generate up to $5 million.

Secondly, the article also noted that in wealthy regions of the United States women are often avid golfers. Limiting membership to men is only closing the door on a potentially large, and growing, market of affluent women. Logically speaking, while clubs may be able to operate without women in boom times, in recessions (especially recessions that have not been kind to men) it may be necessary for some of these clubs to open their doors to women.

A 2010 article in Newsweek, for example, reported that women are becoming an increasing market power. The article states:

American women are responsible for 83 percent of all consumer purchases; they hold 89 percent of U.S. bank accounts, 51 percent of all personal wealth, and are worth more than $5 trillion in consumer spending power—larger than the entire Japanese economy.

Thirdly, the article quotes Psychologist Aaron Rochlen and notes that the younger generation has not grown up in a "culture of separation" and are accustomed to women being integrated into the work place, positions of power and in social functions that were traditionally identified as male (think sporting event box seats, high class clubs and, of course, charity golf tournaments). While some older males may feel uncomfortable letting loose and socializing at a golf club that contains women, most younger men would not feel the same tension, and, in fact, may enjoy having some estrogen in their company.

The Tribune article notes that of the 4,500 private golf clubs in the U.S., only about two dozen do not allow women to become members. Clearly these clubs are becoming an endangered species, but will they soon become extinct?

The Tribune quoted A.P. Carlton Jr., a North Carolina attorney who specializes in country club law, for support that clubs today seem to be less interested in exclusion.

The majority of clubs I represent, and my own club itself, have come to embrace diversity in recognition of today's business world... I think the old notion of the smoke-filled back room — male only, discriminatory — is fading in the country club world, generally.

And there you have it. While equality laws and activists have fought for years for equality at golf clubs, the real motivator in this time of change may in fact be money- isn't it always?

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