After 108 Years, an Exclusive New Jersey Golf Club Will Finally Allow Women

Pine Valley Golf Club recently voted to allow female members for the first time

A shot of the course at Pine Valley Golf Club
New Jersey's Pine Valley Golf Club is ranked No. 1 in the nation.
David Cannon/Getty

For the last 108 years, ultra-private Pine Valley Golf Club in Camden County, New Jersey, has been a men’s-only property and has not allowed female members.

While it is great news that Pine Valley — which is home to the No. 1-ranked golf course in the United States — voted late last month to allow female members and unrestricted women’s play for the first time, as reported by Golf Digest and, it’s too bad that vote is actually newsworthy and that men’s-only golf clubs still exist in the land of freedom and justice for all.

But they do — and it is completely legal.

Per a piece in Sports Illustrated explaining the legality of these private membership golf clubs being able to discriminate, Burning Tree Club in Maryland, Butler National Golf Club in Illinois and New York’s Garden City Golf Club all denied memberships to women on the basis of their sex as recently as of 2019. As the story makes clear, that practice is certainly legal, but that doesn’t make it right.

While some would argue, and they certainly do, that a private club discriminating against women is not the same as discriminating against Black or Jewish people, why bother arguing at all? It is 2021 and if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we are all better off when people are trained fairly and, more importantly, equally. It’s a time for opening doors, not closing ’em.

“On a personal note, I have been thinking about this for a long time and, frankly, it’s overdue,” Pine Valley President Jim Davis wrote in an emailed letter to members about the club opening up to women. “Several years ago, I was playing golf in our Spring Members’ weekend with our late fellow member and friend Jack Vardaman. During the round we discussed this very topic and as we were walking through the woods to our tee shots on the 15th hole, Jack said something to me that I have never forgotten. He said, ‘Remember, we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.’ We are not changing the things we love most about Pine Valley. We are simply continuing down the path of making our Club more inclusive. We want to be proud of Pine Valley in all respects, and I’m convinced this change puts us on the right side of history.”

Again, it is really excellent that Pine Valley has decided to be on the right side of history after more than 100 years. It’s just sad that’s actually something worth applauding in the 21st year of the 2000s.

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