In my opinion, almost everyone is missing the point.
As a congenital liberal who grew up in Sweden, a country where gender equality is as obvious a right as that to breathe air, I consider the Augusta debate bizarre. It's as if the green jackets have reached a level of silliness that can only be compared to that of obstinate children. Would it kill them to admit a woman member? Certainly not. Would it bust their bank to have to add a couple of ladies' rooms in the clubhouse? Heck no. But just like when my 3-year-old won't finish his dinner simply because I told him to, it's become a game of wills. My insightful colleague (and Golf Digest senior editor) Mike Stachura put it this way: "The Augusta National members don't want what the place has always been about to change, and they certainly don't want to be told to change. They are wrong and they know they're wrong, but like most men, they can't bear doing the right thing when it's somebody else's idea. It's no different than stopping and asking for directions."
The whole thing would be humorous if it wasn't so damaging to the game. That said, my main beef is not with Augusta National, but with the PGA Tour and the decision makers behind the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). Private clubs in America are free to do whatever they want, there's no argument there. Augusta isn't alone in choosing to exclude female members -- other famous male-only country clubs include Pine Valley and Butler National, and Canada has its own all-female club (The Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto). But Augusta hosts the most prestigious and visible major championship in golf while the other single-gender clubs remain painstakingly private. Butler National is rumored to be in the process of opening up their membership to women because they want to host a future U.S. Open, and they know the USGA would never entertain a bid from a club that excludes women in 2012. But since nobody's forcing Augusta National to change, why should it?
In August of 1990, after facing outrage over allowing the all-white Shoal Creek CC in Birmingham, Ala., to host the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour's policy board voted to deny tournament rights to "golf clubs that have all-white memberships or show any other signs of discrimination." The next year, Augusta National admitted its first black member, clearly as a result of this new policy. But 21 years later, still nothing has been done about admitting women, and the tour hasn't given the club so much as a slap on the wrist. Apparently, in the eyes of the PGA Tour, racism is considered a valid "sign of discrimination," but sexism is not.
The PGA Tour has no control over Augusta National, you say? That's been a very convenient excuse in this debate. It's true that The Masters is not officially a PGA Tour event; it's an invitational tournament at a private club. However, it is a sanctioned PGA Tour major, it doles out FedEx Cup points, its results count toward the Official World Golf Ranking and its purse counts toward the PGA Tour money list. The decision makers behind the PGA Tour and the OWGR could turn to Augusta National, just as they very likely did in 1990, and say, "Please go ahead with your membership practices the way you have, as you are entitled to as a private club. But until you stop showing signs of discrimination, the Masters will no longer be allocated FedEx Cup or OWGR points, its purse will be unofficial, and it will no longer be a major championship."
Make Augusta choose what's more important to them -- remaining one of the most powerful forces in golf, or keeping their members' grill estrogen-free. It's a simple choice, one that shouldn't be hard to make. And if the club decides to stick to its guns, then so be it. Let the Masters go on as an unofficial, rankings-points-free event.
It's the right thing to do for the future of this game.