THE two St Andrews-based golfing organisations – the R&A and the Ladies’ Golf Union – could soon be about to merge.
Both issued a joint statement yesterday to confirm they have started “exploratory discussions” with a view towards establishing “a more co-ordinated working relationship” and the possibility of a future “merger”.
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This is less than five months after the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews voted to admit women members for the first time in its 260-year history.
The R&A and the LGU are both responsible for staging majors – the Open Championship and Women’s British Open – as well as prestigious tournaments and international matches. Both have also just secured five-year deals with Sky Sports for their flagship events starting in 2017.
The joint statement was released on the eve of the LGU annual general meeting in the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews today.
It read: “Exploratory discussions are underway between the Ladies’ Golf Union and the R&A towards establishing a more closely coordinated working relationship and the possibility of a merger between the two organisations.
“There is a great deal of synergy between the LGU and the R&A, with both based in St Andrews and responsible for staging Major Championships, prestigious amateur events and international matches.”
It ended by saying a further announcement will be made in due course, which could be on the reaction to the news by LGU delegates this weekend.
Since a storm of protest over men-only Muirfield staging the 2013 Open Championship, changes are starting to come thick and fast on the gender front in golf.
The R&A’s vote to admit women members has been by far the most significant, with the first batch of 14 women to be granted membership having been announced last week.
They included Princess Anne, former world No 1s Annika Sorenstam and Laura Davies and Scottish amateur legend Belle Robertson.
Membership reviews are also taking place at the three men-only clubs on the R&A’s rota for The Open – Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St George’s.
For next year’s event, Royal Troon and Troon Ladies will form a joint-championship committee – the first time such a set-up has been in place for the game’s oldest major.
News of the possible merger between the R&A and the LGU comes at a time when the Scottish Golf Union and the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association are edging towards amalgamating.
The SLGA membership has already voted unanimously for the proposition, with the SGU expected to say “yes” as well at an egm next month.
In England, the golfers of Northamptonshire have just become the first in the country to vote to merge their ladies’ and men’s county organisations.
Founded in 1893, the LGU Board includes representatives of ladies’ golf national governing bodies in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Operational activities are undertaken by a wholly-owned subsidiary, LGU Championships Limited (“LGUCL”), which in particular owns and runs the Ricoh Women’s British Open, founded by the LGU in 1976 and one of the five women’s majors.
LGUCL also runs British Amateur Championships and Home International events, and prepares British teams for representative matches, such as the Curtis Cup.