| Blackballing and the Golfing Grapevine
Now officially a member of The St Andrews Golf Club on the basis of two written references from established members, ‘The Kilted Caddie’ has been lucky enough to have had his name put up on the club’s main notice board without being blackballed…
Now blackballing is a feature of many clubs and on one level an important check on membership.
This is not wholly unremarkable, as I must admit to having rubbed up some people the wrong way in my few years here and I suppose it’s just fortuitous that none is a prominent member of this club. Now blackballing is a feature of many clubs and I suppose on one level is an important check on membership. However, I am highly suspicious of this rather random, defining and unjustifiable exercise of power. I believe Ronnie Corbett was thus prevented from joining Muirfield and ‘Fred the Shred’ Goodwin the notorious banker, from the R&A. But on a more parochial level I am sure personal grudges and social cliques must play a huge part. It conjures up an image of a half lit Masonic lodge and something a bit mischievous and secretive going on.
I do know a lovely little doctor in the wee village of Gullane who was a stalwart of that excellent golf club and long harboured a desire to join the neighbouring Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield, alongside most of his friends. However, he had a propensity to fall off his bar stool and I believe this underpinned his subsequent blackballing, given that he manifestly qualified on a gender basis.
Now I’m of the opinion that one’s gender nor one’s propensity to topple off a bar stool should be the decisive factor in determining and defining membership of one of the greatest golfing establishments in the world. I mean the ultimate privilege of access to the legendary Muirfield lunch is not a matter to be treated lightly, flippantly or unreasonably. This is serious stuff.
Indeed, I know a member of the Honourable Company, also a doctor, who showed less than worthy social grace in biffing another member in the changing rooms of the said Honourable Edinburgh Club and has now gained the nickname ‘ding a ling’. Now, personally, I wouldn’t mind some wee chap occasionally fall off his bar stool against the chance of getting a right hook on the way back from the gents for some off the cuff remark to the other.
The underlying reality is that we live in an incredibly close-knit community in Scotland. I mean St Andrews in some ways is a village-satellite of Edinburgh, like Gullane and North Berwick. And golf is at its core. It’s the social foundation of Scottish society and transcends everything.
So indeed, one’s notoriety and especially of being blackballed at Muirfield, a fate said to be worse than having to buy a round, will certainly become locker room banter and feed into the grapevine across the Firth to Fife and vice versa. Two of my golf friends from Edinburgh now have kids here at University and I am sure regular reports of my antics are being relayed down the road.
An illustrative anecdote involves a rather prim QC of whom I have the acquaintance. Out in Edinburgh in the latish hours one night, my friends and I stumbled across the said QC with whom my best pal got talking about golf and particularly about the incumbent president of the prestigious Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society. The rather forthright QC declaimed the guy as an
“I mean St Andrews in some ways is a village-satellite of Edinburgh, like Gullane and North Berwick. And golf is at its core. It’s the social foundation of Scottish society and transcends everything.”
‘absolute plonker’ and asked my good friend if he knew the man to be told ’Yes, he’s my father’.
I mean that is Churchillian in put down and indeed the stuff that makes sound ammunition for blackballing and serious club dinner chat. Notwithstanding that this QC did a reverse blackball so to speak, in that he in fact rejected offers of membership from Muirfield and the R&A!
We alas have differing opinions as we have differing golf swings. And traditions are traditions and I dare say blackballing will carry on and be the stuff of nineteenth hole chatter and interest ad infinitum. It’s a very ‘old boy’ thing and boys indeed will be boys. The antics down at Muirfield are a salutary reminder of that.
The legendary Muirfield is the home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers hosted The Open Championship
most recently in 2013
Spectators attend the second round of the 2013 Open Championship at
Muirfield golf course at Gullane