IT’S only five years since the home of world golf, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, consented to women becoming members after centuries of male-only exclusivity.

Now Scotland’s national poet is to celebrate women’s standing in the game with a stirring poem to be revealed at the opening ceremony of the Solheim Cup.

The verse has been written by Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay, and will be screened to an expected worldwide audience of 600 million across the world as part of tonight’s event at the Gleneagles resort in Perthshire.

Entitled The Sweet Spot, the Bard’s work is a celebration of women’s role in the sport, referred to as “your new home” where women are “welcome” … “on equal footing, no fears, no tears”.

Ms Kay said the poem was partly inspired by the progress being made from the sport’s “shameful” history of gender exclusion.

She said: “I was really trying to show that women’s golf is every bit as interesting and wonderful as men’s, but that the male golfing scene has been the one everyone has focused on for a long time. I think that is starting to change, and I think that this championship happening in Gleneagles will be part of that change and not only confirm the change that is already happening.

“It’s saying, ‘here we are’, ‘this is what we can do’ and listen to us, because what we have to say is important.”

Of the 165,000 registered golfers in Scotland, only 13.5 per cent are female. But Ms Kay points to the high-profile success of this summer’s Fifa Women’s World Cup as a sign that attitudes around women participating in sports previously considered as predominantly male have changed.

Yet she thinks more work needs to be done to address the sport’s wider perception as a middle class pursuit.

She said: “It’s shocking that if you look across the world of sport you can see the way women have been excluded, and are still being excluded in lots of ways, still not taken seriously. 

“The Women’s World Cup felt really brilliant, because it felt like the first time everyone got really involved. It felt like a niche thing before that. And it’s only recently that women commentators were on Match of the Day. 

“It still feels new, somehow, this idea that we should take women’s sport seriously. I think we still have a way to go to be rid of the idea that it is somehow lesser.

“We live in a world where women have been excluded from all sorts of clubs – golf clubs, university clubs, literary clubs, clubs across all areas of interest that any person might possibly have in society. Look in all the old universities in this country – the oil paintings are all guys hanging up there. Man after man after man hanging on
the walls.

“Golf was invented in Scotland, and is celebrated the world over, but I have thought of it as a game that working class people don’t have easy access to. 

“It’s an expensive game because the clubs and the clothes are expensive, and I was thinking about that in the poem, too. More people are getting involved and it is more accessible than it was.

“But it’s something the sport will have to do, to find ways of opening the door to kids who aren’t being bankrolled by the bank of mum and dad. Tennis had similar problems, and it’s now attracting all different kinds of kids to play it.”

She added: “I think things are changing and as a national poet you try to catch the change that’s going on and reflect it. I see my job as Makar as holding up a mirror to my times.”

The Solheim Cup was established in 1990, and the biennial has become one of the highest-profile events in the international golfing calendar.

It sees Europe take on America with 24 players competing over a three-day tournament which tees off tomorrow. 

Glasgow rock band Texas will headline today’s opening ceremony, which will also feature a film of Ms Kay’s poem being recited against a backdrop of Highland vistas accompanied by bagpipe player Ailise Milroy of Morrison’s Academy
Pipe Band. 

Ms Kay, who succeeded Edwin Morgan and Liz Lochhead as Scotland’s national poet in 2016, was commissioned by the Solheim’s organisers.

She spent time with leading professionals of the women’s game, and immersed herself in the sport’s unique lexicon of birdies and bogeys, pars and woods.

She said: “One of the fascinating things about being Makar is people ask you to write poems about things like the Queensferry Crossing, which means you learn lots about the structure, or, in this case, the game of golf. It was fascinating. I became very interested in all the language of golf. It’s very mysterious and kind
of poetic.

“The poem is interested in the mysteries, affinities and rivalries, all these themes that naturally spring from the game itself, but also about the mystery – watching the ball soar in the air before it lands.”

Among the subjects of Ms Kay’s other poems since assuming the role are Glasgow University’s recent £20m pledge to atone for its role in the slave trade, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament, and a poem for the charity Deafblind Scotland.

Despite previously limited knowledge of the game, the research and writing process has fostered an interest in more than just the game’s language.  A recent visit to Islay saw her pick up a set of clubs for the first time at The Machrie golf course on the Hebridean island.

She said: “That sense of just swinging back and hitting the ball,  there’s something very timeless about it.”