Golf Ireland let women down with gender policy
Full statement by The Countess Sports Working Group
The new gender policy from Golf Ireland (as of March 14 2023) fails to protect fairness for female golfers and is sorely lacking in detail.
The Countess Sports Working Group have criticised the Golf Ireland Gender Policy and highlight a number of issues with the content of the policy. The policy allows for males to participate in female competition under a number of vague criteria. It lacks any scientific resources and uses incorrect terminology.
Golf Ireland policy states that it is “committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity.” The Countess Sports Working Group lead Sorcha states that “It has been shown in other sports that male inclusion leads to female exclusion, as women and girls lose places or self-exclude when males with all their physical advantages are allowed to enter their sports.” Male puberty brings physical growth and skeletal changes meaning men have greater stature and upper body strength compared with women (even of similar height), so that they can drive the ball harder and further. There are also differences in centre of gravity and muscle type (fast-twitch vs slow-twitch), which have an impact on performance. None of these advantages can be undone by gender transition treatment. On average, the golf driving distance for males is 215 yards, in contrast to the female average which is significantly lower at 140 yards.* For pro golfers, the difference between male and female driving distance is 296 to 252 yards.**
The Golf Ireland policy has also been criticised for its terminology. “The terms male and female relate to sex at conception, not gender as used in this policy,” Sorcha says. “A human cannot change sex, only their outward appearance can be altered through medication and surgery. This treatment does not negate the numerous physical traits that define males and females.”
The Golf Ireland Policy allows for individuals who have undergone “gender reassignment” before puberty to be regarded as the opposite sex , but gender reassignment cannot happen before puberty. Prepuberty medical treatment for gender dysphoria has been halted in several countries because of concerns over long-term harmful effects and lack of evidence for benefits. It is worrying that a sporting body would include such a statement in their policy.
For other players, the policy states that for females (women who wish to be seen as men), they must submit documentation that “gender reassignment is ongoing”, and for males (men who wish to be seen as women) that “gender reassignment has been ongoing for at least one year”. No detail is given as to what form this treatment would take, or how it would be measured. Given that testosterone suppression does not negate the male advantage, it is difficult to see how this ongoing treatment would remove the unfair advantage of a male golfer over women and girls in the female category.
The policy does not give any information on the status of single-sex changing/toilet facilities. Women and girls have a right to privacy and dignity as well as fairness in their sport. US swimmer Riley Gaines has spoken about the impact on her of sharing changing facilities with a male, and the lack of consent by the female swimmers to this situation.
This is another policy that places the feelings and wishes of males over the rights of women and girls to fair competition. The statement “…while maintaining the relative balance of competitive equity,” reads like “meaningful competition” in disguise. There can be no balance here: male advantage is proven and cannot be removed. Golf Ireland have chosen to ignore fairness in their Sport.
A template letter for those wishing to contact Golf Ireland is available to download here.
The Countess Sports Working Group are part of a global campaign to protect female sport and will continue to oppose policies that place female athletes and sports teams at a disadvantage.
* These figures are calculated using driving distance data from the USGA, additional data services, and average handicaps from the USGA. (16 Dec 2022).