Scotland’s Muirfield golf course will allow women to join for the first time, after members had a change of heart following the loss of the right to hold the prestigious Open championship.
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG), which runs the course, announced that 80% of members voted to allow women to become members, after a 93% turnout.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, known as the R&A, which organises the British Open, said Muirfield was back in the rotation to stage the world’s oldest major.
But women will have to join the back of the queue. Because of the membership waiting list it will be two to three years until the first woman joins the club, said the HCEG.
The vote surpassed the requirement that two-thirds of members supported the change – and it will now pave the way for Muirfield to get back into the Open championship fold.
Henry Fairweather, the HCEG captain, said: “This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members.
“We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit from, the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club.”
The R&A confirmed the vote had enabled Muirfield to be put back on the list of 10 courses that can host the British Open. “Muirfield has a long and important history of hosting the Open and with today’s announcement that will continue,” said the R&A.
“It is extremely important for us in staging one of the world’s great sporting events that women can become members at all of our host clubs. Muirfield is a truly outstanding Open venue and we very much look forward to taking the championship back there in future.”
In a statement the HCEG said: “The current waiting list for membership at Muirfield suggests that new candidates for membership – women and men – can expect to wait two to three years, or longer, to become a member of the club.”
In the first vote on the issue last May, 64% of members voted for and 36% against widening the membership to women last May, falling just short of the two-thirds majority required for the club to change its constitution.
One of Scotland’s last men-only clubs, Muirfield had drawn worldwide condemnation following that original vote – with Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first female first minister, calling it indefensible and saying it sent “the wrong signal”.
But it was the decision of the eminent Open championship to exclude Muirfield that led the club to change its rules. A decision to hold a second vote on female membership came only weeks after the exclusion.
The club’s committee supported allowing female members and proposed another postal ballot at a special general meeting of members.
The HCEG was founded in 1744 and is said to be the oldest recorded golf club in the world. It set down the original rules of golf in 1744 and has hosted the Open 16 times.
Female golfers have waited a long time to be given permission to become members of Britain’s most prestigious clubs. The R&A only opened its membership to women in 2014 – the first time in 260 years – while Royal St George’s and Royal Troon, two other British Open hosts, ended their male-only membership policies last year. Augusta National, home of the Masters in the US, invited women to join in 2012.