Why Augusta National Adding Female Members Is All Politics, Not Goodwill

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 11:  Condoleezza Rice watches the play on the 13th hole during the Final Round Singles Matches of The Presidents Cup at Harding Park Golf Course on October 11, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Augusta National Golf Club is one of the most beautiful pieces of real estate in the country.

It is beyond picturesque and as near perfect as any golf course ever built in North America.

I'm a traditionalist and have a tad more respect for the courses in Great Britain, where the game of golf was first played, but Augusta National is perhaps the most beautiful golf course in the world.

The fact that the club has always been run by elitists who want to keep the game as pure as possible doesn't seem to matter to some people, who look at the home of the Masters as some kind of deified ground.

Beautiful? Yes. Sacred grounds? No.

With the news that Augusta National has admitted its first two female members, some observers may look at this as a significant societal change.

But before we all join hands and start singing "The Times, They Are A-Changin'," it's time to take a deep breath and think for a moment.

Augusta National is still an elitist club looking for only the most well-to-do members and the most significant members of society. At least the most significant in their myopic view. There is no changing of the guard and no lessening of the standards.

The powers that be at Augusta National are just making a move that will alleviate the pressure the club has been under for years.

This time it's female members who have been admitted. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and businesswoman Darla Moore are the first female members of Augusta, according to a press release issued by the club.

Moore is the vice president of private investment company Rainwater, Inc. She is also founder and chair of nonprofit think tank the Palmetto Institute, according to ABC News.

But it's not likely that the club will suddenly open for women and minorities and that Augusta National will become a melting pot for all who want to join.

Billy Payne, the Augusta National chairman, seems quite a bit more media savvy than former chairman Hootie Johnson.

Johnson once engaged Martha Burk in a debate about women's membership in 2002. Johnson had said that Augusta National had a right to keep its membership "single-sex" and that other organizations in the United States also had that right—organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Junior League.

Johnson had resented the pressure put on Augusta National to change its policy. "Our membership alone decides our membership—not any outside group with its own agenda,'' Johnson said at the time.

Payne seems a bit more open, but it's difficult to believe that all of a sudden the flood gates will open and there will be a 75-to-25 percent male-to-female membership rate at any point in the foreseeable future.

The only hope for greater equality in the decision to allow Rice and Moore to join is that they will talk about minorities and women's issues at the club now that they are members. If they quietly enjoy playing golf and don't speak up, they won't help the cause of greater equality for those who have not had it in the past.

If they do, they may not be the most popular new members of the club.

Chances are, they were never going to win that award anyway.