By Robert Bicknell

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January 15, 2006

The European Union announced last week that Golf Clubs in the EU must stop discriminating against females.

If they left it at that I wouldnít have a column this week. Thankfully, they just HAD to take it one step further and make one of those stupid additions which stated "Öand must allow female members to use other tee boxes than the "Lady tees"Ö)

Thank G-d for imbeciles as they keep people like me supplied with endless amounts of column fodder.

I have had a running argument with the R&A over the years on the topic of "Amateur Status", frankly because I believe the rules on it are both hypocritical and detrimental to the future growth of the game, but now I see why they have such a narrow viewpoint.

Sitting around in overstuffed armchairs smoking cigars and drinking port can result in delusions of grandeur and inspire a disconnection with reality.

Hey guys, the days of the empire are overÖ Can you spell "Globalisation?"

A long time ago, private clubs were exactly thatÖ"private". People with a lot of money decided they wanted a place to get away from the "great unwashed" so they opened a private club that only people like them could join. A middle-class eventually emerged and said "if you wonít let us join your club, weíll form our own clubs."

And they did.

Before you knew it, clubs which were open to only WASPs (White Anglo Saxton Protestants) were joined by clubs restricted to Catholics, Jews or other ethnic groups. I remember an old joke, "If you get sick on Wednesday, donít go to a hospital, go to a Jewish Country Club because thatís where the doctors are".

Then society changed a bit more and with those changes came an abundance of lawyers with too much free time on their hands who discovered that one group was still consistently discriminated againstÖwomen.

I imagine that some 7-handicap wife came home from the club complaining some wanna-be Colonel Blimp pompously refused to let her play from the White Tees, the lawyers began to salivate and the sharks began to circle.

This, in my opinion, is a good thing because I detest hypocrisy, discrimination and racism. Iíve also found that if you find one, youíll usually find the others lurking around as well.

I grew up playing golf at a private club where there was segregation of the sexes to some degree or another, but in an acceptable form. Aside from separate Locker Rooms, the club had separate Menís and Ladies "card rooms" and separate Menís and Ladiesí Grills (19th Hole bars).

To me, this made perfect sense, because the Menís Grill and Card Room were filled with cigar smoke, sexist jokes and old men openly passing wind so loudly that the Marshals would sound the sirens thinking thunderstorms were in the area.

In short, gender segregation wasnít a problem because no self-respecting lady would want to be caught dead in there.

After cards and passing wind, both men and ladies would meet in the dining room for dinner. Yes, jackets were required for men.

All other areas of the club were non-segregated, including the tee boxes, and tee times were not restricted to gender.

The fact is that segregated clubs have no real place in society any longer.

Thankfully, here in Vietnam, segregation isnít an issue. Ladies can play from any tee they want as long, as they have the skill level to do it. Pity the men donít understand that concept as well.

In some parts of the world, clubs sometimes restrict tee times so that neither ladies nor high-handicappers can play on weekend mornings..

I donít agree that tee times should be reserved for men only, but I do agree that high-handicappers should be required to play later in the day as it would eliminate most of the slow play and, more importantly, give players a good reason to improve their skills.

The old saw that "Men work all week and only play on weekends, whereas a lot of ladies play all week-long" is somewhat questionable, but I have noticed that wives often beat the hell out of their husbands over 18-holes.

In the "Battle of the Sexes," golf is the great equaliser.

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