Muirfield club admits women members after 273 years

Robin MILLARD, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 15 2017 09:10 AM

Tiger Woods of the U.S. (L) waits with his caddie Joe Lacava on the 18th fairway during the second round of the British Open golf Championship at Muirfield in Scotland July 19, 2013. Photo by Toby Melville, Reuters

LONDON -- The prestigious Muirfield golf course in Scotland voted Tuesday to admit women members to the club after 273 years, immediately making the historic venue eligible to host the British Open again

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers overwhelmingly voted in favour of admitting women members for the first time by 498 to 123, club captain Henry Fairweather said.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A), the sport's joint-governing body with the United States Golf Association, said Muirfield could now become a venue for the British Open once again.

Fairweather said: "This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members.

"The rules of the club will be changed accordingly with immediate effect.

"We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit from, the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club."

The Honourable Company is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world and its Muirfield course, east of Edinburgh, is world famous.

Women have played golf at Muirfield since 1904, though only as guests, not as members.

The club said the current waiting list suggested that new candidates for membership could expect to wait two to three years, or longer, to join the club.

- Back on Open roster -

Muirfield has staged the Open on 16 occasions since 1892 and most recently in 2013.

It was due to host the Open again in 2023 but the R&A dropped it from its 10-course venue roster after a vote last year failed to permit women members, falling short of the two-thirds majority required to change the rules.

The British Open is the oldest of golf's four annual majors, dating back to 1860.

"Muirfield has a long and important history of hosting The Open and with today's announcement that will continue," said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.

"It is extremely important for us in staging one of the world's great sporting events that women can become members at all of our host clubs.

"Muirfield is a truly outstanding Open venue and we very much look forward to taking the Championship back there in future."

Women's and men's single-sex golf clubs, although reducing in number, have been a feature of golf provision in Great Britain and Ireland and comply with equality legislation.

Ivan Khodabakhsh, the Ladies European Tour's chief executive, said Tuesday's vote would "begin to restore the reputation" of Muirfield following last year's ballot.

"Sports reflect the values of the society in which we live and today men and women have equal rights. We believe this should be reflected not only in top-level international tournaments but also at club level," he said.

- Muirfield following suit -

Muirfield is the last of the clubs on the Open roster -- five in Scotland, four in England and one in Northern Ireland -- to permit women members.

In 2014, St Andrews chose to admit female members for the first time after 260 years, with Royal St George's in Kent following suit in 2015.

Royal Troon, which hosted the 2016 Open, voted in July last year to admit women members, in the wake of the R&A's decision over Muirfield.

Troon had previously considered itself a special case because it shares facilities with The Ladies Golf Club, Troon.

Britain's sports minister Tracey Crouch said Muirfield's decision had been a long time coming.

"Golf has the potential to attract a more diverse audience to the game and this decision sends out an important message. It is vital clubs and sports organisations play their part in promoting equality," she said.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Well done, Muirfield -- decision to admit women members emphatic and the right one."

Scotland's top female player Catriona Matthew called it a "positive step" for Muirfield and golf as a whole.

Golf was first played at the prestigious course in 1891. A round costs visitors £235 ($285, 270 euros).

© Agence France-Presse

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