Men-only policy to be 'reviewed'
7:22am Thursday 27th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Muirfield members will be consulted about their club's male-only membership policy in the wake of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews announcing a vote on admitting women members for the first time.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews believes it has "strong support" for a vote on September 18 to finally allow women members, 260 years after it was founded.
And although R&A chief executive Peter Dawson insisted the move was not intended to place pressure on male-only clubs on the Open Championship rota, such an interpretation was unavoidable.
Muirfield, which is owned and run by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, said in a statement: "A working group has been empowered to consult with the membership and to make recommendations to the board about our future.
"As a club, we comply fully with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and there are no current plans to change the membership criteria, but these will be reviewed.
"HCEG confirms that we are already well into the process of preparing to consult with our members to gauge the best way forward. Most importantly, we intend to take the time to ensure that the plans we adopt will stand us in good stead, not only for the immediate future but for the next 270 years of our great club."
Royal St George's and Royal Troon, which also do not allow female members, have yet to comment on the news, which was confirmed on Wednesday after being leaked to a national newspaper.
Dawson said: "We very much hope once the vote is taken we will be welcoming women to the club. It's something that has been expected; I'm not going to say overdue but I'm sure I'll be asked that question.
"Early indications from the members are very positive indeed. We obviously wouldn't be entering this if we didn't feel there was strong member support for this and I hope that turns out to be the case. We have seen other organisations have more than one bite at this and (if there was a no vote) we would have to decide whether to come again or not. One has to pick one's time for this. Let's hope we have picked the right one.
"We have been talking about this for quite a while and it's our governance role which has been the driving factor. Society is changing, sport is changing, golf is changing and I think it's appropriate for a governing body to take this step. This is not about the Open Championship. This is about our governance role."
Asked if the vote should be interpreted as heralding the Open no longer being staged at male-only courses, Dawson added: "No, I don't think it should. It may, but I am not here to say it will.
"I think it is a step along the direction of travel. We are not intending to place other golf clubs under any particular pressure by doing this. We have been entirely focused on this internal change and I have absolutely nothing to announce about Open Championship policy. We have given the (single-sex) clubs advance notice out of courtesy.
"As long as clubs are behaving legally and are the best courses for the Open Championship then we have to put the needs of the Open Championship high up our list of priorities. To lose a number of key venues would not seem to be doing that to me."