Today, on the same day Scotland votes for or against independence, The Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews will be voting on whether to admit women members for the first time in it’s long history.
The “Home of Golf”, has been all male since it was founded 260 years ago. Today also marks the first time the R&A is allowing its 2,500 worldwide members to vote by proxy.
“I think it’s the right thing,” R&A club secretary Peter Dawson said, “I hope that R&A members do what’s right for golf.”
“We wouldn’t be entering this if we didn’t feel there was strong member support for it,” Dawson has said. The club said a favourable vote would take effect immediately.
“We would hope to have a meaningful number of women become members in a reasonable time scale,” the club has said. “The first women members are likely to have made a significant contribution to the development of our sport.”
It has been about two years since Augusta National (the club that hosts The Masters) announced it invited women to join for the first time. That increased pressure on the R&A, which, unlike Augusta, had a policy barring women from being members.
The Royal & Ancient has been in charge of the Rules of Golf and The Open for years. Ten years ago, the club devolved administrative duties to a corporate structure that is called “The R&A,” of which Dawson is chief executive.
That group is in charge of the Rules of Golf and organises The Open and other R&A championships. It has female employees but its committee and board roles are populated by members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, meaning there are currently no women in leadership roles.
It seems highly likely that today’s vote will change this – as for Scotland’s other big vote, we’ll know soon!
UPDATE , 7.00pm – They voted YES!
R&A secretary Peter Dawson said : “I am very pleased indeed to announce that the membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has voted overwhelmingly in favour of welcoming women members. More than three quarters of the club’s global membership took part in the ballot, with a decisive 85% voting for women to become members. This vote has immediate effect and I can confirm that the Royal and Ancient 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. This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. 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.”