Portmarnock Golf Club votes to admit women as members

83% of members vote to end 127-year-old men-only membership policy

  The clubhouse at Portmarnock Golf Club. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The clubhouse at Portmarnock Golf Club. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

It only took 127 years for change to come about but, finally, the men-only membership policy at Portmarnock Golf Club in north county Dublin – which stubbornly stuck to its exclusion of women members since its founding in 1894 – has overwhelmingly voted for change.

In the end, it wasn’t even close. In a special vote on Rule 3 of the club’s constitution, a majority of 83.4 per cent voted in favour of removing the words “who shall be Gentlemen” to 16.6 per cent who voted to retain the bar on women.

Portmarnock Golf Club, with a membership that includes many leading members of the judiciary and medical professionals, issued a brief 103-word statement to signal a seismic change in its membership policy to “now become gender-neutral” in marking “a positive development in the Club’s long and distinguished history”.

The club has played host to numerous big championships since it was founding, including a record 19 Irish Open championships – one of the PGA European Tour’s main events – but, due to its male-only membership policy, hasn’t staged it since 2003, when New Zealand’s Michael Campbell won. The Government at that time altered its policy so that no public funding would be provided for supporting an event at a male-only club.

The vote to admit women members – one welcomed in the statement by the club’s officers and committee – will likely see the famed links re-emerge as a likely venue for the Irish Open in future years and, possibly, also as a potential venue for The Open Championship.

The R&A, one of two world-governing bodies for golf, runs The Open and, in recent years, had put a ban on any men-only membership clubs hosting golf’s oldest championship, which led to Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland ditching its membership criteria to ensure it would remain on the rota.

The issue of refusing women membership of the club has been a live one for a number of decades. In 2009, legal action by the Equality Authority led the Supreme Court to rule that Portmarnock Golf Club was “not a discriminating” club under the Equal Status Act, upholding by a majority of three to two a 2005 High Court decision.

With Portmarnock Golf Club finally taking the decision of its own accord to welcome women members, the question arises: Who will be the first? And when?

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