Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to allow women members
Overwhelming vote from R&A’s all-male membership to end 260-year-old ban
Stacy Lewis of the US following her victory in the final round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at the Old Course, St Andrews, last year. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
The independence referendum wasn’t the only historic decision made in Scotland yesterday: the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews finally voted to accept female members for the first time in its 260-year history.
The R&A, which is the historic home of golf and the game’s governing body outside the US and Mexico, conceded in March that the time had come to vote on whether to accept women as members after years of mounting pressure.
Its 2,400 all-male membership had been urged by club secretary Peter Dawson to “do what’s right for golf” in the postal vote, making the outcome far easier to predict than the other ballot that day.
Members voted “overwhelmingly” to back a change to their outdated rules, and the R&A will now approach 15 women already identified as having made a large contribution to the sport to be fast-tracked through the application process.
85% in favour
“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” said Dawson. “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 R&A spun off its commercial arm, which organises the annual British Open, 10 years ago. But women effectively remained excluded because committee members could only be drawn from the membership list.
Three other courses on the British Open rota maintain men-only membership policies: Royal Troon and Muirfield in Scotland and Royal St George’s in Kent. Pressure will now increase on them to change their policies.
The matter came to a head at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, when several politicians boycotted the event and the ban on women members overshadowed events on the course.
Dawson failed to quell the storm when he said the club’s “natural reaction is to resist these pressures, because we actually don’t think they have very much substance”.
However, before the R&A vote, which coincidentally fell on the same day as the referendum and the week before Scotland hosts the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Dawson urged members to do what was “right for golf”.
Policy change welcomed
Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation chief executive Ruth Holdaway said it was “brilliant news”, adding: “The admittance of female members is a symbolic step in the move towards full equality in sport and for golf in particular.”
Sports minister Helen Grant said: “This is positive news for the sport, and I hope we will now see other golf clubs that still have outdated same-sex policies follow suit.”