A merger between the Ladies Golf Union and the R&A has been hailed as a “tremendous opportunity” to grow the game through family golf.
After talks over the past year, the two St Andrews-based bodies are to become one subject to legal agreements being signed.
The aim is for full integration to take effect from 1 January, 2017, with the championships run by the LGU and all its other responsibilities coming under the R&A umbrella.
The historic move was confirmed in St Andrews today by Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive, as he sat down with members of the golfing media for an annual roundtable discussion.
“This is a tremendous opportunity, both for the R&A and the LGU,” he said. “The LGU feel very positive that the R&A can help them and we feel they can help us achieve our objectives.
“Not long after the R&A becoming a mixed club, this is the next step in the process of the R&A supporting the game as a whole.
“It is a practical step and we are delighted because by having men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ golf under the same umbrella it means that we can talk about golf as whole.
“Growth of family golf is also the best opportunity for the game to grow than any other demographic group.”
Founded in 1893, the LGU is the governing body for women’s and girls’ amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland. Its flagship event is the Ricoh Women’s Open, the title rights for which are jointly-owned by IMG.
“The LGU has a long and proud tradition of supporting women’s and girls’ golf,” said LGU chairman Trish Wilson.
“Funded by the lady golfers of Great Britain and Ireland, the LGU has positioned golf as a game for all women and girls.
“Building on the strong relationship it already enjoys with the R&A, the LGU looks forward to realising the potential of this merger.”
Slumbers said it was too early to say if the branding for the Women’s Open would fall into line eventually with that used for the men’s equivalent.
Asked if the merger meant the letters LGU would disappear from the golfing alphabet, he replied: “Yes, over time. But the LGU will continue as planned this year, when the events include a Curtis Cup, before we get full integration on 1 January, 2017.”