Why Can't Men Have Their Own Golf Club? If Some Men Want To Play Golf Together, How Does That Hurt Women?

Posted: October 08, 1989

In yet another triumph for human rights and social justice, a Maryland law declaring that the Burning Tree golf club, near Washington, must either admit women, or pay $315,000 in added annual property taxes, has been upheld.

Other Maryland clubs that assign separate tee times, party rooms and restaurants to women members face similar punitive sanctions.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court ruling will "put an end to (this) chapter of Maryland discrimination history," said Stuart Comstock-Gay of Maryland's ACLU; Jennifer Burdick of the state Commission on Human Relations concurred.

Amazing. The ACLU will go to court and fight till dusk for a tax exemption for men who band together for the purpose of sodomy, then return to court a day later to have the tax exemption taken away from men who have banded together to play golf.

What has become of freedom of association in America when all social clubs must be integrated sexually, ethnically and racially, or abolished? Where is the Land of the Free headed, when a state law is needed to re-allocate the tee times at the country club?

In the last decade, we have truly witnessed the trivialization of civil rights, and, with it, the emergence of a new intolerance. In the '50s, the movement stood for freedom; its songs were all about freedom. Blacks marched for the right of their children to gain equal access to public schools, for equal access to hotels on highways built with their tax dollars, for equal access to ballot boxes where their leaders, too, were chosen. The cause had nobility to it.

But the old faith that inspired became the new orthodoxy that persecutes. Instead of men standing up bravely in the face of billy clubs and police dogs, we have Pecksniffs like Comstock-Gay who make up for having missed out on the glory days at Selma Bridge by lobbying legislators and filing attack briefs to search out and ruin any heretical institution that refuses to conform its membership policies to the integrationist ideology of UNESCO.

Who was injured, whose rights violated, because, for 67 years, men could take an afternoon off at Burning Tree to hit a golf ball around 18 holes, and down a few martinis? What self-respecting woman would want to invade this men's club, when it was evident the men did not want her there?

Let me concede an interest. In an early victory for civil rights, my friend Pete Cook and I integrated the caddy bench, one summer in the mid-'50s. There, we carried the bag of the young Arnold Palmer of the Eisenhower administration, Richard M. Nixon; there, we covered half Montgomery County, Md., chasing down the drives of a bibulous Rep. Charlie Halleck; there, we watched from the caddie bench as Ike fired off the first tee and strode down the fairway, his secret service escort carrying fake bags, staring intently into the woods.

It was a delightful place to be, an all-male enclave of caddies, guests, members, bartenders, attendants. That we were all engaged in some malevolent conspiracy against mothers, wives, sisters and girlfriends never occurred to us, or to them.

There is something truly mean-spirited in this relentless pursuit of Burning Tree by feminist ideologues. And it has a name: bigotry. Not the innocuous male chauvinism of the Burning Tree members, but the anti-white-male malevolence of their pursuers.

We have seen the unattractive face of this new intolerance before.

Bob Jones University in South Carolina is a fundamentalist Christian

College whose history goes back decades. No one is required to attend; but, those who do must obey its rules. Its students are black, Asian and white. Bob Jones, however, does not permit interracial dating, because it believes Genesis prohibits miscegenation.

Inflamed on learning of this heresy, the nation's political establishment started a firestorm of protest until President Reagan promised that Bob Jones would be forever denied the tax exemption every other school in America enjoys. Jefferson once said that error should be tolerated where truth is free to combat it. Any doubt where he would have stood on Burning Tree or Bob Jones?

Like killer bees, social pests like Comstock-Gay are proliferating; and, one can understand the impulse to get away from it all, to form a private club where one can escape.

Freedom was once the most celebrated of values in America. Now, it takes a back seat to integration. One day, perhaps liberals will learn the truth of what Malcolm X discovered late in life:

"I tucked it into my mind that when I returned home I would tell Americans this observation; that where true brotherhood existed among all the colors, where no one felt segregated, where there was no 'superiority' complex, no 'inferiority' complex - then, voluntarily, naturally, people of the same kind felt drawn together by that which they had in common."

That is what Burning Tree was all about.

Faced with almost $1 million in back taxes, and $315,000 in new taxes, if it does not abandon a tradition it has maintained for seven decades, Burning Tree may be forced to sell its golf course, and shut down. Another triumph for the state.

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