Royal and Ancient Golf Club votes to allow women for first time


The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. (Getty)

The “Home of Golf” will now welcome women.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which has a global membership of roughly 2,400, “voted overwhelmingly” Thursday to allow female members for the first time in its 260-year history.

A simple majority vote was required, but club secretary Peter Dawson announced that 85 percent voted in favor of admitting female members, effective immediately.

“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” Dawson said, before adding: “I think it’s a very positive message for the game of golf. The R&A, in its position as a governing body for the game, I think it’s quite right that the members have agreed to embrace this concept and welcome women members to the club.” 

On the same day that Scotland voted on whether to become independent, one of the two most powerful golf clubs in the world trumpeted its own historic decision – a move that seemed inevitable once news of the vote was made public months ago.

All-male clubs have come under increased scrutiny since Augusta National in 2012 extended memberships to former diplomat Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore.

Criticized for having outdated views on equality, the R&A has also agreed to fast-track a “significant” number of women to become members in the coming months.

There are three all-male clubs in the Open rota – Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St. George’s – but Dawson, who will retire next year, has said that he has no plans to pressure those clubs into changing their membership policies. 

The R&A – the business arm created a decade ago to oversee the Rules of Golf and the Open Championship – has female employees on its staff, but none in leadership roles. Those are occupied by Royal and Ancient Club members, which, until Thursday, were only males. This vote will allow women to play a role in the sport’s governance.

“The LPGA is happy to hear that the members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews have voted to include female members,” the LPGA said in a statement. “This decision is certainly a step in the right direction and one that better captures the current diversity and inclusiveness of our great game.”

Said PGA of America president Ted Bishop: “Women have played and will continue to play an integral role in the game of golf. In fact, women represent the biggest growth market in the sport, and every step to make golf more inclusive is good for the game. The PGA of America is thrilled that the R&A is welcoming women into its organization, and loudly applauds its decision.” 

For the first time, the R&A allowed its membership to vote by proxy. Previously, only those members attending the club’s annual Autumn Meeting were allowed to vote.