By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
On 14 March 2017, Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland announced the results of a second ballot of its all-male members to admit women as full members of its Club.
A previous ballot, held on 19 May 2016, failed, by a small margin, to reach the two-thirds’ majority for the necessary change in the Club’s rules, 64% voting in favour of admitting women members.
As a result of this earlier ballot, the world governing body of golf – the R&A, St Andrews, Scotland, and the home of golf – announced that the Muirfield Club would no longer be eligible to host Golf’s biggest tournament, the Open Championship, believed to be worth £80 million.
This ruling was in line with the prohibition in the Olympic Charter against any form of discrimination in sport, including gender, golf now being an Olympic sport since the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
In the second ballot, Muirfield members voted as follows: 498 votes in favour and 123 against admitting women members, thus surpassing the required two-thirds’ majority, with 80% of members in favour of the change. The turnout for the vote was 92.7%.
So, Muirfield, once again, would be entitled to host the Open Golf Championship, the earliest possible date for which it could do so being in 2022.
Club captain, Henry Fairweather, who announced the result, commented as follows:
“This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members.”