Gender Neutrality (Finally) on the rise

Last month, golfers across the country witnessed an interesting online “battle” of sorts, as Maleny Golf Club announced they were adopting gender-neutral tee blocks to help promote gender equality (see Club News, page 8).

Essentially, Maleny are eliminating the “Red, White and Blue” mentality, and instead opting for descriptive “names” for the various blocks. The goal of this is (in part) to reduce the stigma associated with, say, men playing from the reds, as well as allowing women to play from the tips/blacks, etc.

While Maleny is far from the first club to adopt this type of mentality (I’ve been reporting on clubs that have done this since I began as editor in 2009), for some unknown reason, the news of Maleny’s changes struck a nerve online, with conversations/comments flooding social media – both in favour of it, and against.

That’s right…there are still people out there who are so old-fashioned, and so stuck in the previous century that they are firmly against A) women playing golf on an equal/level field as the men, and B) men playing anything other than the blue/back tees.

I’ll address the second point first: For many golfers, playing from any tee other than the “Championship/Blues” may feel a bit embarrassing. Trust me, I get it. Just recently, during one of my weekly comps, as I introduced myself to one of my playing partners, he said, almost apologetically, “I’m being a coward today, and playing off the whites – the blues are simply too long for me.” I immediately smiled and assured him that I applaud his attitude, and that he is in no way ‘cowardly’. Our club allows players of any gender to play off any set of tees for that exact reason (to boost enjoyment of the game). I told him that he was actually showing bravery to shun the typical “herd mentality” of just playing whichever tee block everyone else is playing, and actually play the tee that is most suited to his ability/enjoyment.

As for the other point: Via this monthly column, I have been pushing for gender equality for over a decade. Luckily, there has been a resurgence in recent years, which I can likely attribute (in large part) to Golf Australia’s “Vision 2025: The future of women and girls in golf” plan, which is aimed to get more women playing golf by improving the culture at clubs across Australia. One of the key points in the plan is to encourage clubs nationally to provide equal access for both genders on all days, and for clubs to take on more female board members and senior executives.

Any sensible person can see (especially in this day and age) that women have earned the right to be treated equally in every possible way (not just on the course, but off the course as well). Women should have equal access, rights, membership privileges, board seats and the lot. As I’ve said before: A member is a member is a member.

So I heartily applaud Maleny GC–and the dozens, if not hundreds of clubs/boards that are all embracing change. It’s clubs like these that are the SOLUTION to the problem in which golf currently finds itself.

And for those of you who aren’t part of the solution – those members, clubs, boards and the like who choose, for whatever reason, to cling on to old-fashioned, outdated practices and narrow-minded mindsets–then remember this old quote: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

See you on the (any colour) teebox

Richard Fellner

(Story originally appeared in Inside Golf)

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