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Muirfield Golf Course banned from hosting The Open after voting against female members, confirms the R&A

Muirfield is one of only two Open Championship golf courses that refuses female members

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 19 May 2016 11:22 BST
Muirfield votes to remain a men-only golf club

Muirfield Golf Club has been dropped from The Open Championship roster after members failed to reach a two-thirds majority vote to allow women to join, risking a public backlash in the process.

The vote went against allowing female members to join the prestigious Scottish golf club which is controlled by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, and it comes less than two years after the R&A voted in favour of allowing female members to play at St Andrews.

The vote needed 432 of the 648 members to vote in favour in order to pass, but only 64% voted in favour of allowing women to join the club with 36% against.

Phil Mickelson won the last Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013 (Getty)

Subsequently, the R&A announced that Muirfield has been stripped of its Open Championship status with immediate effect.

The Open is one of the world's great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members

&#13; <p>Martin Slumbers, R&amp;A chief executive</p>&#13;

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said in a statement: "We have consistently said that it is a matter for the Honourable Company to conduct a review of its membership policy and that we would await their decision.

"The R&A has considered today's decision with respect to The Open Championship. The Open is one of the world's great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members.

"Given the schedule for staging The Open, it would be some years before Muirfield would have been considered to host the Championship again. If the policy at the club should change we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for The Open in future."

HCEG captain Henry Fairweather defended the outcome of the vote, and said: "The Honourable Company is a members club, and, as such, the members decide the rules of the club, including its membership policy. Women will continue to be welcome at Muirfield on the course and in the clubhouse as guests and visitors, as they have been for many years."

However, the decision was labelled as “simply indefensible” by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote on Twitter: "Scotland has women leaders in every walk of life. It is 2016. This is simply indefensible."

The decision to host The Open at Muirfield in 2013 was criticised at the time due to its male-only membership, and campaigners to have women accepted to the club have launched a scathing attack on the reasons offered before the vote as to why females should not be allowed to take up membership.

The Scotsman revealed that a group of 30 male members had fronted a “no” campaign, stating in a letter: “It is recognised that it is a very sensitive matter and the club is in a difficult position, but associations like ours with a very long and venerable history have strengths which are derived from that history.

It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them

&#13; <p> </p>&#13;

“Change must come slowly and for choice should be evolutionary. A traditional resistance to change is one of the foundations of our unique position in golf and our reputation.”

It also claimed that accepting female members would “create difficulties” because they would not grasp the concept of playing a foursomes round before and after lunch, with fears over slow play also raised.

“Regardless of the conventions when they first join they are likely over time to question our foursomes play, our match system, the uncompromising challenge our fine links present, our lunch arrangements,” the letter continued.

“It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them in the template which is suggested and the ladies’ membership as a whole may not meet this standard.”

Royal Troon, which hosts this year's Open, also refuses female members (Getty)

Muirfield remains one of just two golf courses on The Open Championship roster to reject female members, along with Royal Troon – which has written to its 800 members to raise the possibility of a similar vote after hosting this year’s Open in July.

The letter adds: “We are not an ordinary club. Our special nature; ‘a gentleman’s club where golf is played’ is quite unique with its fraternity built inter alia on foursomes play with a round taking only the same time as lunch and leaving enough time for a further round after lunch (even in mid-winter). This is one of the miracles in modern day play and is much admired. Our foursomes and speedy play would be endangered.”

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