After some steady public pressure and strong words from the International Olympic Committee, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf course will admit women as full members.
Kasumigaseki Country Club, which excluded women from full membership and limited their playing privileges as guests, have reversed course weeks after John Coates, vice president of the IOC, had the following to say.
“We made quite clear [to the club] that there has to be gender equality [at the club]. If they can’t achieve the gender equality then we have to get another course, but the organizers are very confident that they will.”
Coates’ confidence was not misplaced: The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee told the AP today Kasumigaseki’s executive board has voted unanimously to admit women.
“On behalf of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, I’d like to extend my gratitude to the members of the club for their understanding and cooperation,” said committee president Yoshiro Mori. “I also would like to express my admiration for the club’s endeavour to come to an agreement in such a short period of time.”
Admiration! It’s not like they had much choice as the Olympic golf course, but their swift and unanimous decision has to be commended. Anyway, if you’ll recall, Justin Rose won the first gold medal in men’s golf since 1904 at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and South Korea’s Inbee Park took gold for the women.
Kasumigaseki’s decision comes on the heels of Muirfield and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’ vote to grant women full membership last week, and the reinstatement of that venue into the Open rota.
The cynical reading of both situations, of course, is the clubs aren’t riding a wave of progressivism having just seen the light, but rather, they don’t want to act against their own financial interests by losing a pair of premier events.
However, for those who felt that the staging of top-tier events at clubs resistant to gender equality, it likely doesn’t really matter. Whether for the “right” reasons or the “wrong” ones, it was never going to be socially acceptable in the year 2017 for an Olympic host course and an Open Championship host venue to deny full membership to women.
Fortunately, we can move on from this episode of 18th-century thinking and return to the actual professional golf being played in the 21st century.
By 2020, the rules of golf will have changed to accommodate the new adjustments proposed recently. Which will stay and which will go?