One story that best encapsulates country club point-missing has circulated for years. The setting is an old, eastern golf club, with one of the best courses in the state. The club is notorious for its men-only policy. Forget about women joining as members or playing the golf course. Only a few days a year are they even allowed on the property.

One day a member having lunch at the club abruptly falls ill at the table. He grabs his chest, falls to his knees. A concerned scrum gathers around his table. Word reaches his wife, who arrives at the club gates within minutes.

“He is inside,” she is told as she tries to pass through. “Unfortunately,” the attendant continues, “no women are allowed on property. Please wait here.”

No way this is true.

“I’m afraid it is true,” one longtime member of the club says. “I’ve heard it, too,” a frequent guest of the club confirmed.

“It’s true.”

A similar story comes from another elite club. You would know it if you heard it. Another lunch, another golfer topples over. (Is there something in the food at these clubs?) In this case the man regains consciousness. “Please contact my wife,” he says from the floor, and hands his friend his phone.

The friend starts dialing, then stops. He is also a member and is now saddled with an inconvenient thought. “I can’t,” he says. “No cellphones in the grillroom.”

You will not find a set definition of country club stuffiness. As with pornography and a vanity handicap, you know it when you see it: rules for the sake of rules, a rigid adherence to tradition, an outsized emphasis on the superficial. This attitude is also, hopefully, in decline. This collection of stories, most from within the past 15 years, represents a side of golf the game has made efforts to shake, with at least some degree of success. Golf today is more modern, more inviting. Golf might still have its share of snobs, killjoys, and Judge Smails disciples, embracing priorities that range from archaic to laughably misguided, but at least the narrative has shifted. Once a statement, This is just a part of golf, it is now a question: This is still a part of golf?

Short answer: not as much.

Longer answer: maybe still a little.

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