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Butler National Members Vote to Stay Male-Only


A recent vote by the members of Butler National determined that the private club in Oak Brook, Ill., will remain male-only. The vote found that less than 40 percent of the members wanted to open the facility to women; a 75 percent super-majority is needed to change the facility's longstanding policy.

The course was designed by George Fazio and opened in 1972 on what had been the site of York Country Club. It was developed by Paul Butler, a wealthy entrepreneur who also founded the village of Oak Brook. The club hosted the PGA Tour's Western Open from 1974 through 1990.

Because of its strict male-only policy, Butler National cannot be the site of such prestigious events as the U.S. Open, BMW Championship (the former Western Open), PGA Championship or a Ryder Cup as the associations running those tournaments preclude host clubs from having exclusionary practices in their membership policies.

According to various reports, the club has experienced financial problems due to an expensive Tom Fazio-designed remodel and decreases in membership sales. Some business members have resigned due to the club's all-male policy. Another problem is that Butler National's clubhouse was not designed to accommodate women. "We're in a death spiral," one member told the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein.

Following the 1990 fiasco at Shoal Creek near Birmingham, Ala., a club that didn't allow African-Americans and which was forced to do so or lose the PGA Championship that year, golf's major associations instituted ironclad rules that require private clubs that host their events to adopt non-discriminatory admissions practices for members.

That's why the Western Open moved on following its final time at Butler National - which refused to alter its membership requirements - after 1990.

Butler National has the length and level of difficulty to host one of golf's top-tier events. At 7,523 yards from the tips, the course earns a rating of 78.1 and a Slope of 152, making it plenty difficult for the world's elite golfers.

Several players have extolled the layout, claiming it could host a major championship. Luke Donald, a resident of Chicago, has said he's impressed with the course.

As is Phil Mickelson, who told the Chicago Tribune in April: "What I loved about Butler were the subtleties: where the balls break, the risk-reward, the ability to get to certain pins, the challenge of making pars on the hard holes, the challenge of making birdies on the easy holes."

But until Butler National changes its rigid policies about accepting women as members, the club will remain persona non grata to such important organizations as the USGA, PGA Tour, LPGA and PGA of America.