A Prestigious Scottish Golf Club Has Voted Against Allowing Women To Join

    Muirfield will be prohibited from holding an Open Championship until the rule is changed.

    Peter Byrne / PA WIRE

    USA's Phil Mickelson celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield.

    One of Scotland's most prestigious golf clubs has voted against allowing women to join, and has immediately been prohibited from holding another Open Championship.

    Muirfield, which is situated to the east of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, will remain one of two men-only golf clubs in the country after members failed to rescind the historical ruling in a postal ballot that was announced on Thursday.

    Despite 64% of members voting to allow women members, club rules state that two-thirds of the membership must vote in favour before a rule is changed. A small group of members had lobbied others to vote against female members over fears they would "slow down" play.

    Muirfield has hosted the Open 16 times over the past 150 years, most recently in 2013 when US golfer Phil Mickelson won the championship.

    Immediately after the result was announced, golf's ruling authority, the Royal and Ancient, said Muirfield would not hold another Open as long as the rule remains in place.

    R&A statement on the announcement at Muirfield: Going forward we will not stage @TheOpen at a venue that does not admit women as members.

    The chief executive of the R&A, Martin Slumbers, added: "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."

    In a letter to members, those campaigning against female members said women would "endanger" the way they play golf and would "question our foursomes play, our match system, the uncompromising challenge our fine links present, our lunch arrangements".

    The club secretary, Stewart McEwan, told BuzzFeed News he was “disappointed” by the decision but that the club’s committee had no choice but to accept it.

    Jamie Ross / BuzzFeed

    "I'm not a member, I'm staff, but the committee is disappointed it didn't reach the 67% required," said McEwan. "They felt strongly that the support from the club would be forthcoming to achieve the result, so there's a feeling of disappointment among the committee and 64% of the membership."

    McEwan conceded that being an Open venue was a "useful benefit" in terms of attracting players to the course, but added that he didn't think the club would take a substantial financial hit from not being able to host the championship in future.

    Asked if the ruling could change, he said: "I'd be very surprised if it just remained and that's it. A lot has changed in the past five or 10 years, can something happen in the next five or 10 years? I'd think so – there was a decent majority, and I'd expect in the near future for there to be another review of the membership policy."

    Members of the club had been advised not to speak to the media and did not respond to questions from BuzzFeed News.

    Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has condemned the decision as "indefensible".

    Scotland has women leaders in every walk of life. It is 2016. This is simply indefensible. https://t.co/qrULGuFG8v

    The first minister later added: "I understand and accept that, as a private club, it is for Muirfield to decide on its membership – but at a time when Scotland is a country where women can get to the top in politics, law, business and other fields, this sends the wrong signal.

    "The R&A has already said it won't take the Open back to Muirfield while this policy remains in place. That is a damaging decision for the club, which has been such a fantastic venue for one of golf's major tournaments.

    "The majority of members actually voted in favour of admitting women, which is encouraging, but I sincerely hope those who didn't now reconsider and that the club as a whole revisits the issue."

    Keen golfer and former first minister Alex Salmond added his criticism, saying the club needs to "quickly" look at the question again.

    Muirfield almost joined the rest of us in the 21st Century today. They need to look at this issue again and quickly. So near, yet so far.

    Scotland's other female political leaders, Labour's Kezia Dugdale and the Conservatives' Ruth Davidson, went further and pledged to boycott the club until the rule is changed.

    "There is so much still to do to break the glass ceiling in our country, and clubs like these are a powerful symbol of that," said Dugdale. "If I watch the Open at all, it will be from the sofa."

    A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said: "Ruth likes golf and attending events like the Open, but she certainly won't be going to the Open as long as this rule remains in place."

    Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

    Contact Jamie Ross at jamie.ross@buzzfeed.com.

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