As the citizens of Scotland prepare to vote Thursday on whether or not to split off from the United Kingdom, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is preparing to reveal the results of a vote on whether to admit female members for the first time in the club’s 260-year history.
While the Scottish independence vote remains a tossup, it’s expected that the R&A will admit women. The club’s 2,400 male members voted by postal ballot for the first time in club history, and the result will be announced to the 300 members present for the club’s autumn business meeting on Thursday.
In a statement that hinted at the expected result, the R&A said a favorable vote would take effect immediately.
“We would hope to have a meaningful number of women become members in a reasonable time scale,” the statement said. “The first women members are likely to have made a significant contribution to the development of our sport.”
Among the women who have been mentioned as candidates for membership are former USGA President Judy Bell, noted amateur Carol Semple Thompson and Louise Richardson, the first female principal of St. Andrews University, who criticized the R&A for its exclusionary policy in a recent article in The New York Times.
Although the R&A has maintained that external pressure has not forced its hand on the issue of women members, at least one prominent female golfer begs to differ.
“I think if they’re honest they are bowing to pressure because they would probably like to keep it as it is, as it has been for the last 200 years,” Laura Davies, the four-time major winner from England, told The Guardian. “I’m sure a lot of people won’t like it. Everyone probably thinks it should happen but it’s their club, they’re the members and, if they want to keep it the way it is, that’s their decision. But I think, in a modern world, it’s about time they did have some lady members.”
As for whether she’d like to be one of them, Dame Laura wouldn’t hesitate to accept.
“If they offered me a membership of the R&A, I’d snap their hands off,” she said.