The Royal and Ancient Golf Club has voted in favor of allowing female members for the first time in its 260-year history. The St Andrews-based club consists of approximately 2,400 members worldwide, all of whom were entitled to vote — 75% of the membership took part in the ballot, with 85% opting to change its outdated policy.
“This is an important and positive day in the history of the R&A Golf Club,” said chief executive Peter Dawson.
“The R&A has served the sport of golf well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in future with the support of all its members, both women and men.”
Dawson also said the the vote has “immediate effect.”
He added, “I can confirm the R&A Golf Club of St. Andrews is now a mixed membership club.
“The membership has also acted to fast-track a significant initial number of women to become members in the coming months.”
Found in 1754, the Royal and Ancient’s clubhouse is located behind the 1st tee of the St Andrews Old Course, and members call it their home track, which is considered the “Home of Golf.” Although women have always been allowed to play the course, they were not allowed in the clubhouse — with the exception of the week of the Open Championship (I had the pleasure of spending a day in there in 2010).
As of ten years ago, the Royal & Ancient is technically separate from the R&A, the international governing body of golf, which controls the game around the world, with the exception of the United States and Mexico. However, understandably so, the two were often confused as the same organization.
As expected, the news of the vote has been welcomed and received only positive reactions so far. I think it’s a general consensus that this was long overdue. After all, it’s 2015 (I get embarrassed when I have to explain to non-golf friends why things like this are such a big deal).
“The LPGA is happy to hear that the members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews have voted to include female members,” said the LPGA in a statement. “This decision is certainly a step in the right direction and one that better captures the current diversity and inclusiveness of our great game.”
The PGA of America also was quick to chime in.
“Women have played & will continue to play an integral role in the game of golf,” said the PGA’s President Ted Bishop in a statement. “In fact, women represent the biggest growth market in the sport, and every step to make golf more inclusive is good for the game.
“The PGA of America is thrilled that the R&A is welcoming women into its organization, and loudly applauds its decision.”
Helen Grant, Great Britain’s Minister of Sport, was pleased with the news, as well.
“I am pleased that the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews have voted in favour of admitting women members,” she said.
“This is positive news for the sport and I hope we will now see other golf clubs that still have outdated same sex policies follow suit. With golf in the next Olympics there is a huge opportunity for the sport to grow and this sends out the right inclusive message that golf is for everyone.”