Martin Dempster: Royal Troon deserves its place in spotlight

Muirfield's pain has become Royal Troon's gain. There really is no other way of summing up the much-publicised events at the two clubs within the past fortnight in terms of votes on admitting women members.

A vote to admit women to Royal Troon now seems inevitable. Picture: PA.
A vote to admit women to Royal Troon now seems inevitable. Picture: PA.

Don’t be fooled by the impression that Royal Troon has orchestrated a membership review that started a year past January to such precision that the Ayrshire club was always planning to hold its all-important ballot on 1 July.

It was little over a month ago, after all, that Martin Cheyne, the captain of the club staging this year’s Open Championship, indicated that it was likely to be the “back end” of 2016 before that process was concluded.

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That it has been accelerated is clearly linked to the events at Muirfield, where the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers failed to deliver sufficient support to admitting women members at the East Lothian venue.

Almost on the eve of that “no” vote, it was evident that Royal Troon had been given a nudge by the R&A when, almost out of the blue, the club revealed it had written to its 800 members “seeking views on the issue of the admission of women members”.

In a statement issued on that development, Cheyne talked of how it was “important” that the Ayrshire club “reflects the modern society in which we exist”. That was undoubtedly a heavy hint about the direction he wanted to see Royal Troon take and one that raised a slight possibility that a decision could still be made before the ninth Open Championship at Royal Troon tees off on 14 July.

What has turned possibility into reality – the club confirmed on Wednesday evening that it will hold a special general meeting on the first day of next month to vote on a proposal that its constitution is “changed to allow women members to join on exactly the same basis as the men” – is down to 

When the R&A moved swiftly on the back of a “no” vote there a fortnight past yesterday by announcing it would not be considered as an Open Championship venue as long as it remained against mixed membership, Royal Troon suddenly found itself as the only male-only club among the nine left on the R&A’s rota.

To be left in that position with a Claret Jug joust looming is something that club officials clearly found unpalatable and hats off to them for moving things along to reach the welcome decision at which we have now arrived.

The members, of course, have still to deliver the rubber stamp but, with 75 per cent having supported the admission of women in a survey, that upcoming vote would appear to be a foregone conclusion.

That being the case, it is great news for golf and great news for Scotland, especially on the back of all the bad publicity that has been heaped on both the sport and this country due to the dreadful decision by the Muirfield members or 219 of them anyway.

“Looking ahead to the Open Championship,” said Cheyne in a statement on the special general meeting, “we want Scotland to be proud of Royal Troon Golf Club and the Ladies’ Golf Club, Troon as we jointly host this most prestigious competition in front of a worldwide audience.”

That will indeed be the case unless the captain and his committee have been delivered a red herring in that review because there is no doubt whatsoever that the game’s new generation of leading lights will love Royal Troon as many of them get to play it for the first time.

It would have been a real shame if that was happening against the same backdrop of stinging criticism that was flying around at Muirfield in 2013, but, thankfully, that no longer seems to be a matter for concern.

Well done to Cheyne and his committee. Well done the Royal Troon members for showing the support required to get this proposal to a stage where it already looks as though it is over the line.

Your course deserves its place in the sporting spotlight for the first time in 12 years and now, along with everyone else, you will be able to enjoy it instead of having the week spoiled by mud being thrown about, as would have been