The men of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews have voted in favour of allowing women to become members of the institution for the first time in its 260-year history.
Over 85% of the 2,400 members who were eligible to vote (the uptake on this option has been reported at 75%) voted in favour of the motion, which will now come into force with immediate effect.
Peter Dawson, the outgoing chief executive of the R&A, reported the result in a short statement this evening.
“I am very pleased indeed to announce that the membership of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has voted overwhelmingly in favour of welcoming women members,” said Dawson.
“More than three quarters of the club’s global membership took part in the ballot, with a decisive 85% voting for women to become members.
“This vote has immediate effect and I can confirm that The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is now a mixed membership club.”
“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club." - Peter Dawson
Dawson also revealed that plans are afoot to expedite the admission of the club's first female members.
“The membership has also acted to fast-track a significant initial number of women to become members in the coming months,” he added.
“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The R&A has served the sport of golf well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in future with the support of all its members, both women and men.”
The PGA of America was quick to commend the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s membership for their decision. Its president Ted Bishop commented: “Women have played and will continue to play an integral role in the game of golf. In fact, women represent the biggest growth market in the sport and every step to make golf more inclusive is good for the game.
“The PGA of America is thrilled that the R&A is welcoming women into its organisation and loudly applauds its decision.”
The LPGA released a statement, too. "The LPGA is happy to hear the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews have voted to include female members," it read. "This decision is certainly a step in the right direction and one that better captures the current diversity and inclusiveness of our great game."
Nine-time major winner Gary Player also registered his delight at the outcome of the vote. In a tweet to us, @BunkeredOnline, the 78-year-old wrote: “It’s about time. Great decision.”
Speculation now shifts to which women will be the first to join the club. Scotland’s Catriona Matthew is heavily tipped as is Annika Sorenstam, one of the most successful female golfers of all time. The Swede, pictured above, took to Twitter to express her pleasure at tonight’s news. “I am thrilled the R&A has voted overwhelmingly to allow female members,” she wrote. “This is a great day for golf and a historic one for women in golf.”
The move to admit women has been a long time coming but has intensified in the last two years following the decision by Augusta National – home of the Masters Tournament and a previously male-only club – to invite women to join the ranks of the Green Jackets.
Tonight’s news has massive implications for golf. Not only does it do much to destroy the perception of the sport, held in some quarters, as misogynistic and archaic, it should also relieve the pressure on the R&A, which has attracted widespread criticism for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s membership policy.
Although a separate entity altogether, the R&A is, nonetheless, closely aligned to the golf club. As a result, its decision to persist in taking its most valuable tournament – the Open Championship – to male-only golf clubs has been accused of being at odds with what the organisation represents, chiefly ‘growing the game’.
There will also now be hope that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s decision will encourage other single-gender golf clubs to follow suit.
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, home to Muirfield, has already pledged to consider its male-only stance, as has Royal St George’s Golf Club.
Whether further change happens or not, however, there is no denying that, on an already historic day for Scotland, this is a welcome and momentous move.
Royal and Ancient Golf Club admits women – your thoughts?
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