Kasumigaseki Country Club, slated to host golf at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, failed to make a decision about offering regular memberships to women at a meeting on Tuesday.
The private club, located in neighboring Saitama Prefecture, does not allow women to become full members or play on Sundays, policies that have drawn fire from both Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and the International Olympic Committee.
The club’s board of directors convened for the first time in Tokyo to discuss a request from games organizers the Japanese Olympic Committee, the International Golf Federation and the Japan Golf Association to allow women equal rights.
All 15 board members have to agree to a change according to the club’s by-laws. Kiichi Kimura, the chairman of the board, expressed bewilderment at the predicament.
“We discussed how we ought to respond as we ask our members how they feel,” Kimura said. “It’s extremely annoying the situation has evolved into what it is so quickly. Right now, we’re confused.”
According to one source with knowledge of the talks, some board members opposed changing the club’s policies, with one saying, “I do take issue with changing it just because we’ve been told to do so.”
Yukihiko Nunomura, the organizing committee’s chief operating officer, said he was briefed about the board meeting.
“I heard there was no resolution, and that they would explain things to the membership.”
Among the roughly 2,300 golf courses in Japan, those considered “prestigious,” such as Kasumigaseki Country Club, are more likely to exclude females from becoming members, said Hajime Yanagi, a spokesman at Ai Golf Research Institute, which manages golf course memberships. He said he wasn’t sure of the exact number.
While some golf courses have been opening their doors to female members to boost profits, traditional clubs have tended to remain exclusive because they are funded through fees mostly paid by wealthy members, he said.
“These clubs have a history of being social outlets where male executives can congregate,” he said, adding that even today, memberships tend to be closed for not only women but also other men.
Yanagi also said traditional clubs simply do not have sufficient facilities, such as shower rooms and locker rooms, for females to use comfortably, given that golf started as a male-dominated sport.
“I think changing the tradition of distinguished clubs would not be easy,” because there is a long history behind the current situation, he said.