After Muirfield members voted to remain an all-male club, The Royal & Ancient moved swiftly to remove it from the list of courses on the Open Championship rotation.
When the votes were tallied, 64 percent of Muirfield members voted in favor of allowing women, which was just shy of the two-thirds majority needed to change the rules.
Henry Fairweather, captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, issued this statement following the vote:
“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.”
In response, Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A, issued the following:
“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.”
When Fairweather was asked if he felt that Muirfield would have another vote in four or five years’ time, he replied, “It’s entirely possible,” leaving the door open for a re-vote as more attitudes change among members.
While the decision to deny female members may be viewed as harmful to the game of golf, this might have a more positive effect. In fact, 64 percent of Muirfield members voted to accept women, and the R&A was quick to eject Muirfield from the Open rota. Public derision has quickly followed from all quarters of the golf world. The vast majority of golfers reject this opinion held by only 36 percent of Muirfield members. Golf has changed.
The loss of the Open will sting, as the economic impact will be severe for the East Lothian region of Scotland and the club located just east of Edinburgh. The influx of tourist dollars will stop flowing during the years it holds the Open. Muirfield will be unable to add to a rich legacy of Open champions. Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, and so many more of the great ones have won the Open on the historic grounds of Muirfield.
It is a loss for golf, to be sure. Muirfield will be missed. But times are changing, and when that 36 percent number drops to 33 percent, it sounds like the R&A will welcome Muirfield back into the fold. That will be a good day for golf.