Pressure on Troon and Muirfield to admit ladies

The Open Golf championship at Royal St George's in 2011. Sergio Garcia plays a shot. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Open Golf championship at Royal St George's in 2011. Sergio Garcia plays a shot. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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FRESH pressure has been heaped on the two men-only Scottish golf clubs on the Open Championship rota after Royal St George’s voted to allow women members.

The Kent club’s decision, which received 90 per cent backing from its membership, leaves the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield and Royal Troon as the only male-only clubs on the list used by the R&A for golf’s oldest major.

A leading bookmaker has made Royal Troon the more likely of the two to be next to admit women members, with the Ayrshire club being offered at 1/10 to no longer be a men-only bastion by the end of the year compared to 8/15 for Muirfield.

Those odds appear to have been based on Royal Troon announcing in January that it is to undertake a “comprehensive” review of its membership policy before it stages the Claret Jug joust next summer.

However, a race could now be on to avoid being the focus of unwanted extra attention as the remaining men-only club on The Open rota.

Responding to the announcement by Royal St George’s, a spokesperson for the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers confirmed that the consultation over allowing women members at Muirfield is ongoing, with the findings due to be reviewed this spring.

It was during the most recent of the Opens staged at Royal St George’s – the 2011 event won by Darren Clarke – that pressure really started to be heaped on the R&A over its policy of visiting men-only clubs.

Criticism of the game’s governing body then reached a crescendo at Muirfield in 2013, leading to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews voting to end its 260-year-old male-only membership policy last September.

Now Royal St George’s has followed suit after a proposal put to an extraordinary general meeting at the Deal club last month and a subsequent ballot of its full membership.

“A resolution to alter the club’s rules to make ladies eligible for membership has been duly passed,” it announced in a statement yesterday. “Under the club’s rules, the resolution would only be passed if it obtained the support of three-quarters of the votes cast on the ballot.

“More than 81 per cent of the full members took part in the ballot and a decisive 90 per cent voted in favour of ladies being eligible for membership. The alteration of the club’s rules has immediate effect and the club looks forward to welcoming ladies as junior and full members.”

Commenting on the result of the Royal St George’s ballot, a spokesman for the R&A said: “We welcome such a positive decision by the club’s members.”

Due to it hosting next year’s event, it would seem logical for Royal Troon to become a mixed club as well before the eyes of the sporting world focus on it. As a sensible back up, though, just in case it takes longer, it has already been announced that it will share the responsibility of hosting that tournament with the neighbouring Ladies Golf Club, Troon.

A joint Championship Committee has been formed – the first time such a set-up has been in place for the R&A’s showpiece event.

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