The R&A’s Women Members

20th February 2017

The R&A today announced that Bridget Jackson MBE, Hon D.Sc. (Birmingham) and José María Olazábal had accepted invitations to become Honorary Members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Mrs. Jackson takes the number of current women honorary members to nine. The overall total is now eighteen.

Born in Birmingham, England in 1936, Jackson won the Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship in 1954 and two years later triumphed in the English Ladies Closed Championship and German Ladies Championship. She also won the Canadian Ladies Championship in 1967.

Bridget played in the Curtis Cup for Great Britain and Ireland on three occasions. Initially included as a reserve in the GB&I team for the 1958 Curtis Cup against the United States, the withdrawal of Philomena Garvey led to Jackson playing in the match for the first time, which was tied 4½ – 4½, at Brae Burn. Jackson would also play for GB&I in the Curtis Cup in 1964 and 1968, and the Vagliano Trophy match against the Continent of Europe on four occasions. In 1973 and 1975, she was the non-playing captain of winning GB&I teams in the Vagliano Trophy.

She was selected as an England international nine times. In 1964, Jackson was selected as playing captain by England to play in the first ever Espirito Santo Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships, winning a bronze medal. She also won the Home Internationals with England on six occasions.

Bridget Jackson (Photo: The R&A)

Following a successful playing career, Jackson became a talented golf administrator and was chair of the English Ladies Golf Association from 1971-72 and President from 1993-95. She became President of the Ladies’ Golf Union in 1998 and subsequently an Honorary Vice-President. She has also been President of Handsworth Golf Club and Royal St David’s Golf Club. She was made a MBE in 2003 for her services to women’s golf.

She said, “I am delighted to accept this invitation to become an Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club. I have been fortunate to be involved in golf throughout my life and have always enjoyed being able to give something back to the game. I look forward to representing the club and playing my part in continuing its great tradition of supporting golf.”

Keith Macintosh, Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, said, “I am very pleased to welcome Bridget Jackson and José María Olazábal as Honorary Members of the Club. Bridget has graced the game for many years as a fine amateur golfer and exceptional administrator, while José María is one of golf’s outstanding champions and has achieved notable success throughout his career as a player and as Ryder Cup captain. Both of them thoroughly deserve this recognition.”

A number of new Ordinary Members have also recently been omitted but details are currently scarce.



25th January 2016 

Ewan Murray of The Guardian today reported on the fact that The R&A’s female members have no changing room inside the famous St Andrews clubhouse which opened in 1854.

Women members use recently refurbished facilities in Forgan House, an R&A-owned building 100 yards away on The Links street. The R&A have explained that this is simply down to a lack of space and they have no immediate plans to rectify the situation.

Personally I find it hard to believe that any new women members will have complained about the situation given the short distance between the two buildings. It also appears that The R&A have done everything they can to make their new facilities as comfortable as possible.

Here is a link to the full story in The Guardian – ‘St Andrews Women Members Still Have No Changing Room In Main Clubhouse’


4th May 2016

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) today announced, at the start of its Spring Meeting, that Sir Bob Charles ONZ, KNZM, CBE has become an Honorary Member.

Now 80 years old the New Zealander is best known for winning The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes G.C. in 1963.

He is the Club’s 16th male Honorary Member. There are now 8 female Honorary Members. All of them are listed in my articles below.



7th December 2015

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) has today announced two new women Honorary Members.  As one would expect both ladies have made substantial contributions to golf as both players and administrators.

Marlene Stewart Streit (CAN), aged 81, won 11 Canadian Ladies Open Amateurs, 9 Canadian Ladies Close Amateurs, 4 Canadian Ladies’ Seniors and 3 U.S. Senior Women’s Championships. She also won the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship in 1953, the U.S Women’s Amateur in 1956 and the Australian Women’s Amateur in 1963.  In 2004 she became Canada’s first member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.


Marlene Stewart Streit (Photo:

Judy Bell (USA), aged 79, played in two Curtis Cup teams, 1960 and 1962, and also captained the team in 1986 and 1988. In 1996 she became the first woman to be named President of the USGA and in 2001 was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.


Judy Bell (Photo: USGA)

In the same announcement it was stated that, ‘A further eight women have also become (Ordinary) Members of the Club’.  The Club’s protocol is not to reveal the names of Ordinary Members.  However, Golf Digest have reported that they include Diana Murphy, the recently nominated new President of the USGA (the second women President after Judy Bell), Jay Mottle, the executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association, and Christie Austin, a former USGA Executive Committee member.  Steve Scott in Scotland’s The Courier reported that Hazel Irvine, a St. Andrews University graduate (and golfer) better known of course as a BBC sports presenter, and Diane Bailey, the former amateur golfer and Curtis Cup captain and current President of the Ladies Golf Union, were also amongst the latest intake.

Since the original announcements in February both Honorary Member Louise Suggs (7th August 2015) and Ordinary Member Patsy Hankins (22nd October 2015) have sadly both died.

Therefore by my calculation the R&A now has 22 women members.

On 11th May 2015 Lady Angela Bonallack became the first women member to represent the R&A in a match – she played in the annual friendly against the Links Trust. She also went on to win one of the R&A Spring Medals on 14th May 2015.

Claire Dowling gave the 2015 new members address at the Annual Dinner held in September at the St. Andrews Fairmont Hotel. She now also sits on The Rules and Equipment Committee.



18th February 2015

On 10th February 2015 The R&A announced that Her Royal Highness (HRH) The Princess Royal (UK), Dame Laura Davies (UK), Renée Powell (USA), Belle Robertson MBE (UK), Lally Segard (FRA), Annika Sörenstam (SWE) and Louise Suggs (USA) had accepted invitations to become Honorary Members of the Club.

There was some irony in the inclusion of HRH The Princess Royal given her previous comments on the sport: “Golf seems to me to be an arduous way to go for a walk.  I prefer to take the dogs out”.

As an aside I can see Karrie Webb (AUS) being added to this list relatively quickly after she retires from competitive play as her achievements and nationality clearly make her a worthy candidate too.

These seven ladies join the 15 male Honorary Members that the St. Andrews-based R&A already has. These include HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Duke of York, HRH The Duke of Kent, President George WH Bush, Peter Thompson CBE, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Roberto De Vicenzo, Tony Jacklin CBE, John Jacobs OBE, Peter Alliss and Sir Michael Bonallack.

This announcement followed The R&A’s historic vote in favour of admitting women as members in September 2014, overturning an all-male tradition that had been in existence for 260 years. The Club had been under pressure to reform itself from politicians and women campaign groups for a number of years prior to this.

On the same day a member communication from The R&A was leaked revealing that a further seven women had accepted invitations to become Ordinary Members. These were Lady Angela Bonallack (UK), Claire Dowling (IRE), Diane Dunlop-Hébert (CAN), Patsy Hankins (NZ), Martha Lang (US), Carol Semple Thompson (USA) and Marion Thannhäuser (GER).

R&A Women Members

R&A Communication

In this communication Peter Dawson of The R&A stated that all of “These new (Ordinary) Members have made considerable contributions to the game of golf as players and / or administrators”. It also intimated that the Ordinary Members had been finalised before the Honorary ones thus suggesting that the second list contains the names of the first women members not the first as was understandably widely reported in the media.

At a press briefing last week The R&A’s Peter Dawson stated that no women had turned down invitations to join the existing 2,400 male members.

Traditionally the Club has bestowed Honorary membership on the Principal of St. Andrews University.  However, the current incumbent, Professor Louise Richardson was not included in the announcement.

Congratulations to the five R&A women members from Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I), HRH The Princess Royal, Dame Laura Davies, Lady Angela Bonallack, Belle Robertson and Claire Dowling.


Copyright © 2015-2017 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Golf Club Membership

13th October 2014

Two articles in the news caught my eye last week.

The first was England Golf’s announcement that they had appointed Lauren Spray as their new ‘Women and Girls’ Participation Manager’.  This is clearly a positive step which should help to attract more females to play the game.  A targeted programme and advisory group to support Clubs and Lauren will also be launched in 2015.  Golf is a male dominated sport in the UK with over 85% of players being men.  This is very different to all other establish golfing countries where woman and girls are much more strongly represented.

The second related to FA chairman Greg Dyke’s call for English football to adopt the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule’ to help address the lack of black coaches and managers.  Of the 92 professional teams in England just two employ black managers – Chris Powell (Huddersfield) and Keith Curle (Carlisle).  The ‘Rooney Rule’, used in the NFL since 2003, says that teams must interview at least one black or ethnic minority candidate when hiring a new head coach.  Of the 32 teams in the NFL, four currently have black head coaches in charge.  This made me think about the lack of black and ethnic minority men (and women) paying golf and whether enough was being done to encourage their participation in golf too.

The positives that support golf participation are well known – health and fitness, the countryside and being outdoors, the handicap system and numerous course and competition options, to name just the main ones.  Therefore, in theory it shouldn’t be too difficult to persuade either women, girls or ethnic minorities to give golf a go.

Given the well publicised financial difficulties at many British golf clubs in recent years it is hard to understand why clubs haven’t been more proactive in driving both of the above membership areas to date.  The reason they haven’t and sadly why I don’t anticipate too much progress in the short-term is fairly obvious.  It is that they simply don’t want to.  Most private golf clubs in Britain are very traditional and dominated by male members whose average age is normally close to 60.  Sadly that demographic are anti-change – they know what they like and like what they know.  Whilst a generalisation, and few would openly admit to it, I believe a great many of these individuals are both racist and sexist. Until they become too infirm to play or have died and the next generation of members come through, more open-minded people who have been brought up and worked in a society where diversity and equality are taken for granted, I personally foresee little progress in these areas.

I hope I am proved wrong but without a change in the people who run private golf clubs and make membership policies and decisions I fear real progress in both areas is still a long way off.


Copyright © 2014, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.