On January 1st, the Ladies Golf Union (LGU) and the Royal and Ancient (R&A) officially merged.

We’ve known that these two governing bodies were going to join forces for a while, but how exactly this move will affect ladies’ golf remains unclear.

While it won’t make my non-golfing friends suddenly think, “Hang on, this changes everything. I can’t wait to try golf now, get me to the range!” It’s certainly a step towards making the game less segregated.

Former Solheim Cup captain Mickey Walker is pleased with the move. “There are several positive things about the merger,” she explained. “Firstly, we had far too many ruling bodies for golf, so this will definitely help us to get things done. The R&A is also one of the most well respected national bodies of golf in the world, so having a joint association with them has got to be a good thing.”

Ricoh Women's British OpenMeanwhile, Shona Malcolm, the former chief executive of the LGU, is surprised that the merger didn’t happen sooner. “I was aware of discussions about a merger back in the late 1990s when I first became involved in golf administration,” she said.

“In the 21st century we should really be talking about the game of golf, not men’s golf or women’s golf. The merger is a huge step towards achieving that.”

With the R&A finally allowing female members and taking the Open away from Muir eld until it does the same, it certainly seems the right time for such a merger.

“In a world that is so full of political correctness, golf seemed to lag behind,” said Walker. “But I think the R&A have now recognised that they need to be all-inclusive.”

It also seems that even though the LGU is no more, their legacy will be protected. “I would be very disappointed if the legacy of the ladies who had the vision to introduce a British Championship, a ladies’ association, the Curtis Cup and the first national handicapping system was lost,” said Malcolm.

hull-2017“However, I am confident that it will be protected. I know that the R&A is absolutely committed to the heritage of the game of golf.”

The R&A will now take over staging the LGU’s championships – including the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Given their experience in organising the Open Championship, it seems reasonable to expect that they will be able to improve the Ricoh.

Mickey explained: “At the moment the contract for the Ricoh is between the LGU and IMG, who have done a great job of organising it for many years. I don’t know if the R&A will ultimately take over altogether but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’re used to negotiating for one of the major men’s championships, so that in-depth knowledge is bound to come in useful.”

At grass-roots level, whether the merger will make much difference to the number of women playing golf remains to be

“I think that golf isn’t an especially female-friendly sport and a lot of men still think that women shouldn’t be playing,” said Walker. “This won’t be the defining moment where tens of thousands of women suddenly join golf clubs; there are lots of social reasons why women don’t play golf.

“What we really need are more role models like Charley Hull. Having players on the global stage who are successful and earn lots of money will have a much bigger impact than the news of this merger. “Golf needs to become more friendly and more easily available; we also need to get the message out that it’s fun. It’s still perceived as having all these stuffy rules, like you can’t make a noise and you can’t enjoy yourself.

Ricoh Women's British openThe #ThisGirlGolfs initiative was great at showing that golf could be fun.” Malcolm, though, is hopeful that the R&A will be able to create effective initiatives to encourage more females to try golf.

“To date, no single body has had sufficient gravitas and standing to really take the lead on increasing female participation in golf. But with its knowledge of the ladies’ game, I believe that the R&A might be the one to do this.”


As a 27-year-old woman who is relatively new to golf, I don’t think that the merger will do much to change the view that this a male-dominated sport. While a few clubs won’t allow women to join at all, and at others their very presence is likely to annoy some of the older, male members, women and girls will continue to favour more welcoming sports.

Younger women in particular aren’t used to this kind of inequality. It’s OK when we’re watching Mad Men, but not in real life. My friends are genuinely baffled by my golfing. They’ll ask things like, ‘But do you actually enjoy it?” or, “Isn’t it just old men who play golf?”

This merger won’t change that perception.

As long as this remains the general view of Britain’s 20- and 30-something females, then golf needs to seriously revamp its image. This merger is a step in the right direction, but it is not a panacea.

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