Muirfield, golf and the myth of Scottish egalitarianism


Grant Jarvie

“ The decision delivered at Muirfield is bad for golf, bad for sport, bad for Scotland and bad for those who would like Scotland to be truly egalitarian and just. “

The secretive and mysterious nature of the inner workings of the Scottish establishment are hard to track and yet it is evidenced on the public face of a place such as Muirfield, which shows scant regard for the simple goals of equality, regard or equality of sporting opportunity, all values allegedly held dear by the Scottish electorate.

Despite the popular image that Scotland is somehow a more egalitarian society in golfing terms such assertions can always be challenged as long as the privileged continue to operate a closed door policy in terms of membership.

It has often been argued that golf clubs or other sports clubs that are in receipt of public money should not be allowed to operate exclusive policies. If only it were that easy since money is clearly not an issue and therefore has not been a potential lever to produce change in such cases.

The threat of the Open Championship being taken away has not be enough to produce a vote that allows women golfers to join Muirfield.

  • To admit women golfers as members, Muirfield – a privately owned links in East Lothian run by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers – needed two thirds (432) of its 648 eligible voters to back the move.
  • Of the 616 members who voted after a two year consultation 397 (64%) voted for change while 219 (36%) voted against. The Club voted in favour of change but fell short of the two thirds majority needed to produce change.
  • Muirfield has hosted the open on 16 occasions since 1892- the last time being 2013.

Historically golf is a cultural property that Scotland, rightly or wrongly, has claimed as its own. Other countries can also claim to have invented golf.

Scotland has also mythically or otherwise continued to claim it is an egalitarian country and yet in golfing terms the rich of the sporting world seem to be free to pursue their own interest and rules while paying little attention to sport for all.

Shakespeare on sport – 400 years on.

By Craig Sharp

400 years after the death of the bard many continue to reflect upon the use of the word sport in the works of William Shakespeare.

This small contribution continues such a tradition.

“He…hath drawn him and the rest of their company from their sport, to make another experiment of his suspicion.” (Mistress Page to Mistress Ford.Merry Wives of Windsor IV.ii.31).

“This sport well carried shall be chronicled” (Helena to Hermia Midsummer Night’s Dream III.ii.240).

“O Jesu this is excellent sport.” Hal to Falstaff. Henry 4 part 1. II.iv.383. Could be a comment on the whole marathon, with its 35,000 or whatever runners.

“Sport and repose lock from me day and night.” (from the visiting players Hamlet III.ii.227).

“I have some sport in hand, wherein your cunning can assist me much.” (Lord to players; Taming of the Shrew. Induction I.90).

“The body of our sport, of no small study.” (Two Noble Kinsman. Schoolmaster to all III.v.120).

“He is given to sports, to wildness and much company.” (Julius Caesar. Brutus to Cassius II.1.189).

“I wish ye sport” (Imogen to Guiderius;Cymbeline IV.ii.31).

“For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps,

Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up.” (Prospero to Caliban:

The Tempest I,ii.325).

“What will you do, good greybeard? Break a lance,

And run a-tilt at death within a chair?” (PUCELLE in Henry VI)

“This push will chair me ever, or dis-seat me now.” (Macbeth to a servant. Macbeth V, ii. 21).

“With thy brawls, thou hast disturbed our sport.” (Titania to Oberon. Midsummer Night’s Dream II.i.87).