Burning Tree Golf Club: Sexism isn’t up to par


Emily London

In front of Burning Tree Golf Club, one of the most exclusive golf courses in area, a sign keeps out trespassers. Burning Tree is especially exclusive because they don’t allow women to become members. One day a year, they let women in during a three hour window to shop for their husbands at the pro shop.

By Emily London

On a spacious, tree-lined golf course hidden away on Burdette Road, some of the most elite men in the D.C. area unwind through rounds of golf. Burning Tree Golf Club is one of the most exclusive clubs in the area, with an initiation fee of $75,000 and invitation-only membership. It’s exclusive for another reason as well: no women are allowed on the property.

At the club, women aren’t allowed membership or employment. Just recently, the club began allowing women on the property during a specific three hour window one day a year by appointment only to shop for their husbands at the pro shop. There also isn’t a women’s bathroom anywhere on the property.

Burning Tree club owners have fought hard to keep women out of the club since it opened in 1923. They were even willing to forego their low-tax status, where country clubs pay little to no tax because they preserve “open space”; in 1989, a female judge from the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that Burning Tree club did not qualify for a tax break because they discriminate against women. They now have to pay approximately $150,000 more in taxes each year than other country clubs in the area.

Excluding women is a sexist and outdated policy, and it undermines progress for gender equality. Burning Tree Golf Club needs to change their policy and allow women to join.

Banning women from the club is about much more than just golf. In the past century, the club has hosted many influential political figures—including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Membership of this elite club can give face-to-face access to some of the most important people in the country, yet it’s denied to half the country’s population.

Excluding women doesn’t help the club’s image either. Over the years, the media has scolded many prominent members, including journalist Bryant Gumbel, former Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles and former Speaker of the House John Boehner, for joining a club that bans women.

Supporters of the club’s policy say that the male-only rule is a tradition and makes the culture at the club unique, citing that the club has had this policy since its founding 96 years ago and that the customs of the club are built around a male-only environment. However, just because something is a “tradition” doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable. The world has changed a lot since this club was founded; it’s only logical that club rules should change as well. Other famous all-male golf clubs have already opened up to women. The most famous one—Augusta National, near Atlanta, Georgia—admitted its first female member in 2012. This year, Augusta is hosting its first ever women’s tournament. If other clubs can change without losing their culture, so can Burning Tree.

Burning Tree Golf Club needs to admit women as members. They are doing women, and their business, a disservice by remaining all-male while other clubs break from that tradition. Their all-male policy isn’t only sexist, it’s a setback for building a more accepting, equal community.