Britain’s politically correct equality laws have driven hundreds of thousands of women away from golf rather than make it more accessible, the veteran BBC golf commentator Peter Alliss has claimed. The former golf pro suggested that, since the laws were introduced, the Ladies’ Golf Union has lost 150,000 members.
The golfing world has historically been slow to embrace gender equality. The Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts this year’s US Open Masters competition, has only accepted female members since 2012; in the UK, Open hosting clubs St Andrews and Royal St George’s voted favourably on allowing women to become members only within the last six months. Troon and Muirfield are reviewing their rules.
Speaking to the Radio Times, Mr Alliss said “There’s been a hell of a row because four golf courses that hold the Open Championship didn’t have women members.
“I’m told the Ladies’ Golf Union has lost 150,000 members since equality for women came in. Hundreds of women have left golf clubs because they’ve gone from paying half fare to full fare. It’s caused mayhem.”
He also insisted that women disliked the new equality laws because under the old rules they could play at clubs where their husbands were a member for no extra cost, saying: “When I was at Muirfield a couple of years ago talking to a few of the lady members, I said, ‘What about this equality? You must be happy about that?’ ‘God no,’ they said. ‘We can come here and do what we like, we can play golf and don’t pay anything.’
“Equality for women: a few people battled away to get it, they got it, and they have b*****ed up the game for a lot of people.”
The LGU has disputed his figures, but admitted that they had lost about 16 percent of their membership since 2010. However, speaking to the Telegraph, the LGU’s financial director Sam Burton defended the legislation, saying that serious golfers preferred the new rules.
“We had 189,000 members in 2010 and we’ve gone down to 159,000 in 2014. We’ve lost 30,000 members which isn’t good. I know where he’s coming from but personally I don’t think that’s the reason,” Ms Burton said.
“I think he’s speaking for a very small minority, probably the older lady golfer. The clubs he’s referring to where the wife just got to play because her husband was a member – I don’t know any such clubs. People who are serious about their golf wouldn’t really see that as acceptable.”
Mr Alliss became a professional golfer in 1947, playing in eight Ryder Cups and representing England ten times in the World Cup. He won 21 tournaments before turning his hand to commentary at the BBC in 1961.
During the interview, Mr Alliss also criticised the BBC for allowing Sky Sports to scoop up the rights to coverage of the Open tournament for a reported £15 million. “I very much regret that the BBC has lost the Open Championship, but I said it might do ten years ago,” he said. “I don’t think there were enough people at the BBC dealing with the negotiations who cared enough.
“I can think of a couple of heads of sport from years ago who would have battled harder. But, having said that, when people get used to it I think the highlights will be wonderfully supported.”