New WSFF research shows that 55% of golfers think that hosting major championships at single gender clubs damages the reputation of Golf

Findings come as Muirfield prepares to host the Open Championship

Ahead of next week’s Open Championship, which will be held at Muirfield, a club that bans women from membership, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) has released new information showing that golf’s governing body, the R&A, is deeply out of touch with both golfers and the wider general public.

This research shows that only 15% of British adults (1) agree that clubs with male-only policies should be selected to host the Open, demonstrating a lack of support for the R&A's policy. Furthermore, 55% of regular golfers (2) say that hosting major golf championships at golf clubs with single gender membership policies damages the reputation of the sport.

Worryingly for sponsors such as Mastercard, Ralph Lauren and HSBC, 60% of women (3) believe that companies shouldn’t sponsor the Open when it is held at a club that bans women members. WSFF is urging the public to contact the sponsors of the tournament to urge them to withdraw sponsorship unless the Open is held at clubs that allow women to join in future.

The research, carried out by Ipsos MORI for WSFF, also shows that:

49% of adults think that holding major championships at clubs that ban women members is damaging to the reputation of golf, rising to 55% amongst regular golfers

56% of adults (4) think that the existence of male-only clubs mean it is less likely for women to take up golf – rising to 62% amongst all golfers (5)

Only 7% of adults support the idea that golf clubs should be able to restrict their membership to a single sex

Commenting, WSFF Chief Executive, Sue Tibballs said:

“It is clear that the R&A is totally out of step with public opinion and with the vast majority of golfers in the country.

“Muirfield’s sexist membership policies are absurd in the 21st century, and holding the Open at a club that bans women members is damaging to the sport. A number of golfing bodies are working very hard to break down the traditional perceptions of the sport and encourage a new generation of female participants, and these clubs do nothing to help that cause.


“It is frankly embarrassing that out of all the major golf tournaments in the world, the Open is the only one hosted by a club that doesn’t allow women to be members.  This kind of policy is outdated, out of touch and it’s bad for golf.”


Notes to Editors

On behalf of WSFF, Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,009 adults across GB aged 16-75. Interviews were conducted online using the Ipsos MORI online omnibus between 5th - 10th July 2013.  

Survey data were weighted to the known population proportions of this group.

The patrons of the Open are: HSBC, MasterCard, Mercedes-Benz, Doosan, Nikon, Ralph Lauren, Rolex and NTT Data.

(1) 2009 adults in GB aged 16-75 surveyed online 5th-10th July 2013

(2) 233 regular golfers in GB aged 16-75 playing golf at least once a year. Surveyed online 5th-10th July 2013.

(3)1009 women in GB aged 16-75 surveyed online 5th-10th July 2013

(4)1000 adults in GB aged 16-75 surveyed online 5th-10th July 2013

(5) 201 golfers in GB aged 16-75 who have ever played golf, Surveyed online 5th-10th July 2013.