BIG changes are coming to the golf courses of Huddersfield. The Equality Act 2010, championed by Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, came into force on October 1.
It states that it is unlawful to discriminate against members and guests on the basis of a “protected characteristic”, including sex, race, disability and religion.
As far as golf clubs are concerned, this mainly refers to gender.
Although membership fees have been set and mostly paid for 2011, the final details of playing rights and full access to all levels of club management structures still have to be agreed at many clubs.
Individual clubs around the district are each interpreting the legislation in a different manner.
But they will have to adapt their playing and membership conditions to meet the new legislation.
In essence, the law enables lady golfers to have equal access to the four Cs of a golf club: course, clubhouse, committees and captaincy. But single sex golf competitions will continue.
The new law follows the 2007 Green Paper entitled ‘ Framework for Fairness’ in which golf clubs were singled out as institutions where discrimination on the basis of sex was taking place.
Although intended to give equal rights to female golfers, some local women feel that they are worse off as they are paying higher subscriptions for playing rights they already enjoyed.
On the other hand, lady golfers have traditionally enjoyed reduced fees, harking back to the days when many were ladies of leisure and able to play midweek golf, which has always been less expensive than weekend golf.
Here is a round-up of what is happening locally:
UNIQUE in that everybody will be seven-day golfers. No five or six-day memberships have been offered. The increase of over £200 to women’s membership fees is being phased in over three years.
Men’s Saturday competition days have historically been so busy that some golfers have had to compete on Friday evenings. The logistics of how women will also be allowed on to the course on a Saturday is still being worked out by the committees.
Men’s Captain Paul Johnson (inset below) said: “We begin from the premise that we would like to have a golf club where there is equal opportunity for everybody, regardless of gender.
“We are trying to ensure we can accommodate ladies on Saturdays and men on Tuesdays without compromising our ability to have single sex competitions. A number of Saturdays will be released from men’s competitions across the Summer. ”
NOW has five, six and seven-day members. There has been an upsurge in ladies wanting to play on a Saturday with 17 of them signing on as seven-day members, while a number of men, particularly older ones, have dropped to five or six-day members.
Encouraged by the new Equality Law, two ladies have applied to join the Rabbits. Whether they will be accepted or not remains to be seen.
Lady Captain Anne Robinson said: “In the end the outcome has been pretty favourable. People have generally accepted it, however the technicalities of the board and so on still have to be sorted out.
“It is a step forward for women and although clubs started looking at the legislation early, some seem to be having last minute problems. At the Heath it is working acceptably well.”
HAS also offered five, six and seven-day membership, but the changes have not been welcomed by female players.
Lady Captain Gillian Goodlass said: “The reaction has been bad from the ladies as it affects us more. The new legislation has not been welcomed at all, we can’t see any benefit to us; it is probably fairer to the men.”
In order for women to be allowed full and fair access to all levels of the board, Outlane’s articles will have to be changed and this will not happen until their AGM at the beginning of April.
MEN will no longer enjoy the male-only atmosphere of the unofficially-named “Gentlemen’s Bar” after a hard round of golf – women golfers are now enjoying a glass of wine in there too. Otherwise the transition has been smooth with almost all the ladies joining as six-day players and maintaining the status quo.
It is believed that only two ladies are intending playing on a Saturday, although it is not yet clear how they will be able to tee off before 4pm on men’s competition Saturdays.
HAS six and seven-day players, but some ladies still have to decide what to do. Meltham has been a leader in promoting women to the board, being one of the very few golf clubs in Britain which has had a female president, Nan Hirst.
Lady Captain Janet Stangroom said: “Some women, particularly the older ones, are asking why we need to change at all while others feel there is a real need to change.
“People were generally happy until the law came and we do have some concerns.”