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FORE! MAKE WAY FOR US; Golf girls are coming out to play.

Byline: HELEN MORGAN

TUMBLING membership may force Scotland's snootiest golf club to think the unthinkable - and invite women to join.

Glasgow Golf Club has remained a strictly men-only preserve throughout its 225-year history.

But like most of Scotland's 580 private golf clubs, it is in the grip of a drastic slump in applications.

For the first time, the pounds 1000-a-year club is opening its fairways to junior members in a bid to halt the decline.

But some members say only sweeping away the bar on women will stop the club ending up in the financial rough.

A Glasgow Golf Club patron of more than 30 years said: "There are people here who'd rather die than allow women to be members, but whether they like it or not, it's going to happen. This is about survival.

"We need to new members - men, women and juniors - or we will be left simply with a rump of old men who are slowly dying off. Then the club itself will die."

Demand for golf club membership in Scotland is in serious decline for the first time this century. Experts fear that if the slump is unstemmed, some clubs will fail.

Scotland's increasingly wet weather, an upsurge in pay-as-you-play courses and competition from health and fitness clubs have set an uncertain course for many clubs.

Figures released by the Scottish Golf Union show that half of all golf clubs now have no waiting lists.

At Glasgow Golf Club, where would- be members need backing from at least six patrons before being considered, the waiting list has fallen from eight to less than five years since 2000 and continues to dip.

Honorary secretary David Deas admitted the slip in demand for membership was worrying.

"But admission of women as members is not something we would discuss at the moment," he said. "Could it happen? Who can say what the future holds?"

Some serious golfers are ready to challenge the no-women rule.

Leading teaching professional David Pirie says: "Some of the diehards won't like it, but in this day and age the very notion of men-only clubs makes no sense, morally or financially."

Golfer Deborah Fowler, 23, is apalled that Glasgow Golf Club still operates a no-women policy.

"The bosses are dinosaurs who should be more open-minded," she said. "I suspect it is a case of the men being too worried we will give them too tough a game."

CAPTION(S):

NO WOMEN: Glasgow Golf Club. Hoping for change: Deborah Fowler
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Dec 22, 2002
Words:414
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