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BBC commentator Peter Alliss claims equality for women has "buggered up" golf

By Adam Sherwin

Published 07/04/2015

Hazel Irvine and Peter Alliss during the third round of the Ricoh Women's British Open at the Old Course, St Andrews on August 3, 2013
Hazel Irvine and Peter Alliss during the third round of the Ricoh Women's British Open at the Old Course, St Andrews on August 3, 2013

Legislation granting women equality on the golf course has “buggered up” the game because female players cannot afford the fees, the commentator Peter Alliss has claimed.

The BBC’s voice of golf claimed that thousands of women have given up playing as a result of Harriet Harman’s Equality Act, which ended men-only tee times and restrictions on the club facilities which female players could use.

Alliss, 84, told Radio Times: “I’m told the Ladies’ Golf Union (LGU) has lost 150,000 members since equality for women came in. Hundreds of women have left golf clubs because they’ve gone from paying half fare to full fare. It’s caused mayhem.”

“All of the wives of members at these clubs could have used the facilities for free. When I was at Muirfield a couple of years ago talking to a few of the lady members, I said, ‘What about this equality? You must be happy about that?’ ‘God no,’ they said. ‘We can come here and do what we like, we can play golf and don’t pay anything.’”

The commentator added: “The equality thing is a great part of golf. Equality for women: a few people battled away to get it, they got it, and they have buggered up the game for a lot of people.”

Golf clubs were required to comply with the 2010 Act, which gave women more rights in work places and social settings. Clubs abandoned men-only bars and playing days but were required to offer women the same unrestricted membership terms as men, ending ladies’ discounts.

The LGU said Mr Alliss’ statistics were incorrect – membership has dropped 30,000 from 189,000 in 2010 to 159,000 in 2014. Sam Burton, LGU finance director, said: “I had a nice conversation with Peter last week but we couldn’t agree. Our membership has fallen but I think that’s more because golf is time-consuming and more women are out working not because of equality.”

Ms Burton added: “I wouldn’t dream of joining a club where I did not have the same rights as a man. Clubs are making golf more appealing to women and men alike with 5-day subscriptions. Some older women didn’t want to pay full subscriptions.”

Alison Root, editor of Women & Golf magazine, said some women were paying higher fees but equality was a necessary change. “Overall the changes have been for the benefit of the game, regardless of the fees,” Ms Root said. “The impact has been to encourage more women and girls to play the game every week. Whether women like it or not, they’ve got to accept it.”

St Andrews and Royal St George’s, the Open Championship courses, both recently voted to admit women members for the first time, after what Mr Alliss called “a hell of a row”, while Troon and Muirfield are also reviewing their membership policy.

Equality for women is now being felt at an institutional level, Ms Root added. “The R&A is in talks with the LGU over a merger and the Scottish Golf Union and the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association are also merging,” she said. “These changes are good for the game.” However change has not entirely filtered down - her own club still operated some reserved “ladies and mens” tee times, Ms Root said.

Augusta National, Georgia, which this week stages the Masters Tournament, the first of the year's four majors, admitted women members in 2012.

Mr Alliss, who said he had been told to “stay as long as you like” in the commentary box by the BBC, admitted he was sad to see live rights to the Open Championship snapped up by Sky from 2017 in a £15m deal. “I don’t think there were enough people at the BBC dealing with the negotiations who cared enough,” Alliss said. “I can think of a couple of heads of sport from years ago who would have battled harder. But, having said that, when people get used to it I think the highlights will be wonderfully supported.”


Peter Alliss quotes

As Phil Mickelson nailed a birdie putt to win his first Masters in 2004, Alliss said: “It’s not over yet.”

Apologised after camera closed in on disabled spectator watching the Open at St Andrews in 2010 prompting Alliss to say: “...unless you end up like that.”

Unaware he was broadcasting live at Wentworth: “This is a load of bollocks”.

Called row over Sergio Garcia’s jibe that he would serve fried chicken to Tiger Woods for dinner “exaggerated stories of racism.”

When a shot of his wife Jackie came on screen he described her as “a rottweiler with lip gloss.”

“The return of the Tiger, he was up and down, in and out, as usual."

“Wentworth Golf Course is in remarkable condition after the wettest drought in history.”

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