Muirfield seeking fresh vote on women members

Muirfield captain Henry Fairweather announces the 'no' vote six weeks ago. Picture: Jon Savage

Muirfield captain Henry Fairweather announces the 'no' vote six weeks ago. Picture: Jon Savage

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Muirfield is seeking a second vote on women members in a bid to overturn the decision made six weeks ago that officials claim has “damaged” the reputation of the historic club.

The move to hold another ballot before the end of the year follows Muirfield, home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, being dropped by the R&A from its Open Championship rota immediately after the result of the first vote was announced.

A vote in favour of admitting women as members is required to enable us to begin the task of restoring the reputation of the club that has been damaged by the earlier outcome

Club Captain Henry Fairweather

The R&A’s reaction, coupled with the club being widely criticised by politicians and top golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Catriona Matthew, has resulted in officials refusing to let the membership issue lie.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called the East Lothian’s club’s stance “simply indefensible”.

The Muirfield captain, Henry Fairweather, and his committee have called for a special general meeting to seek “authority” from the club’s current members to hold a “fresh postal ballot” before the end of the year.

The first vote, which followed a two-year membership review, revealed that 64 per cent of the 616 members who took part in the ballot were in favour of the resolution and 36 per cent against.

But, as the required two-thirds majority was not reached, there was no change to policy.

“A substantial majority of our members voted for change and many have voiced their disappointment with the ballot result and with subsequent events,” said Mr Fairweather, who announced the outcome of the first vote in front of the famed clubhouse at Muirfield.

“The club committee believes that a clear and decisive vote in favour of admitting women as members is required to enable us to begin the task of restoring the reputation of the club that has been damaged by the earlier ballot outcome on May 19.”

A spokesman for the R&A last night said: “We welcome this development”.

The new move by Muirfield comes in the same week that Royal Troon – where the Open Championship takes place in a fortnight’s time – is expected to rubber-stamp the idea of women members.

A membership revenue has been ongoing at the Ayrshire club for nearly 18 months and, soon after the “no” vote at Muirfield, it was announced that Royal Troon had decided to hold a ballot on 1 July having received support from three-quarters of its membership during recent consultation.

“Recently we spoke about the need for our club to reflect the modern society in which we exist,” said Royal Troon captain Martin Cheyne. “I am pleased that a large majority of members who responded to our survey agree and support opening the club to women.”

The developments at both Muirfield and Royal Troon since the first vote at the former are timely boosts for the R&A, as well as golf in general, in the countdown to the Open Championship being held at the Ayrshire venue for the ninth time.

They will allow golf’s oldest major to be played out without the sport being criticised over male-only bastions, as was the case when Muirfield hosted the event in 2013 – when Phil Mickelson won the Claret Jug for the first time.

The first Muirfield vote was influenced by a “no” campaign, which cited slow-play worries, lunch concerns and fears about making ladies “feel uncomfortable”.

Muirfield last hosted the Open in 2013 but was told it would never stage the competition again by the R&A, which jointly governs world golf with the United States Golf Association.

The R&A said it could not stage the event “at a venue that does not admit women as members” but added that it might alter its view if the club changed its stance.

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