Leader comment: Two cheers for Muirfield switch

Captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Henry Fairweather, announces the result of the vote to allow women to join the club. Picture Jon Savage

Captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Henry Fairweather, announces the result of the vote to allow women to join the club. Picture Jon Savage

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There can be no surprise that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to welcome the decision by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to admit women – after all, she is a fan of a second ballot if the right result is not achieved by the first.

But it is to be generally welcomed that members at the privately-owned club voted 80.2 per cent in favour of updating their membership policy to allow women. A convincing victory. What does not cover the decision in glory, however, are the factors that lay behind the reason the vote was different this time around. In 2016 the vote to allow women members was defeated.

The single biggest influencing factor was the decision by golf’s ruling body, the R&A, to remove Muirfield as a host venue for the Open Championship because of its stance on women members. Suddenly the view has changed and yesterday R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the club would now be reinstated as an Open venue.

It might seem bizarre in the 21st century to be welcoming the fact that a club has decided not to discriminate on grounds of gender – such anachronisms should surely have been done away with before now – but here we are, and it would be wrong to be churlish. It is, after all, a historic moment and one to be applauded.

Although perhaps the loudest and most sustained applause should be for the R&A for taking a principled stance and putting pressure on the Company, which owns and runs Muirfield, and which asked its members to agree to the change.

No doubt the First Minister will be looking for pointers in how to secure a desired result.

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