Scotland's Royal And Ancient Golf Club Opens Doors To Women

Although women have been able to play at the "Home of Golf," the all-male membership body voted this week to allow female membership.
Posted at 7:40 PM, Sep 18, 2014

We don't yet know how Scots voted in the much-discussed independence referendum, but a historic Scottish golfing community voted "yes" to another decision centuries in the making. 

PETER DAWSON ON BBC: "The membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has voted overwhelmingly in favor of welcoming women members." 

Winds of change swept through the "Home of Golf" Thursday as 85 percent of the historic club's 2,400 members from around the world decided to integrate the clubhouse. (Video via Sky News)

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club is known as the home of golf for two main of reasons: 1) Scotland is the birthplace of modern golf and 2) the 260-year-old golf club has been the governing body of the sport since the 19th century. 

Women could play on the course at St. Andrews the before Thursday, but couldn't be a part of the clubhouse and couldn't be a part of the club's governing body — the R&A. 

The New York Times reports the R&A was created in 2004 and "includes many of the same people as the club itself, and the male-only membership had become an anachronism that cast the club in an unfavorable light with fans and sponsors."

Following the admittance of women members at the Augusta National Golf Club — home of the Masters Tournament — in 2012, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said St. Andrews should be next, asking, "If the golf club in Augusta can admit women, then shouldn't St Andrews? If they can do it in South Carolina, can we not do it in Scotland?"

But as recently as last year, Dawson, the chief executive of the course who made Thursday's announcement, responded to those pressures with this statement

"We've got, as you mentioned, politicians posturing. ... Our natural reaction is to resist these pressures because we actually don't think they have very much substance." 

And maybe that's what made another part of the announcement from St. Andrews is so significant: the Guardian reports the club is also planning to fast-track at least 15 women for membership so they won't have a long wait. 

The LPGA released a statement praising the decision while Scottish pro golfer Catriona Matthew tweeted, "Great result from the [R&A]."

Dawson said the membership change goes into effect immediately.