Gentleman’s game?

Inequality on golf’s biggest stage

The sport of golf is often considered a “gentleman’s game,” but at Augusta National Golf Club, the home course of The Masters Tournament, the term may be taken a little too seriously.

Augusta National is widely considered the greatest golf course in the United States, and it received the top spot in Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. What isn’t so great about Augusta is their membership policy.

One doesn’t simply apply for a membership at Augusta, you must be nominated by a current member. Since Augusta likes to keep their membership number around 300, new members typically aren’t admitted unless someone quits their membership or they die, and you don’t quit a membership at Augusta.

But if you’re a woman, don’t plan on hitting the links at Augusta anytime soon. Of their roughly 300 members, only three of them are women. That’s one percent.

There were no female members at Augusta until 2012, when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a financier from South Carolina, were invited to become members.

In 2014, a third female, IBM CEO Virginia Rometty accepted a membership to Augusta, bringing the female member number to a grand total of three.

Discrimination is nothing new at Augusta, though. The course didn’t have a single black member until 1990 when Ron Townsend, a Gannett television division president, was extended an invitation to become a member at the course.

The course also used to boast all-white members, while all of their caddies were black. It wasn’t until 1983, when pros were finally allowed to bring their own caddies to The Masters, that the bag jockeys were any color but black.

Since Augusta is a private course, they have complete control over who can become a member.

The Masters is the first of four major championships on the PGA Tour and it is the only major to be played at the same course every year. It is the biggest golf tournament of the year. Ask anyone.

Though there is no denying the sheer beauty and landscape of Augusta, it is tough to overlook the overwhelming discrimination at golf’s greatest course.

So, if you plan to tune in to watch The Masters, which airs next Thursday through Sunday, April 7-10, think about what you just finished reading. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even change the channel.