Calls to scrap the men-only policy at three of the golf clubs used to stage the Open Championship continue to increase but the decision is down to the clubs themselves according to the Royal & Ancient (R&A).
Reports have suggested that The R&A has been coming under increasing pressure to persuade clubs on the Open Championship roster to allow women to become members, but so far three of the nine clubs used to stage the event have refused to change their stance; Royal St George’s, Muirfield and Royal Troon golf clubs.
But a spokesman for the R&A told insidethegames “there were no plans to make any announcement” in the near future.
The R&A is in charge of organising golf’s oldest major Championship but has no control over the membership policies of individual clubs.
Last year, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond did not attend the Open Championship at Muirfield, and although he denied he was boycotting the event, he said the men-only membership of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which runs Muirfield, sent out the message that “women were second class citizens”.
With golf making its return to the Olympic Games at Rio 2016, it appears the issue will continue to come under greater scrutiny while major sponsors are beginning to voice concerns also.
In January this year, global bank HSBC revealed it had raised concerns with the R&A over the men-only policy with the firm’s global head of sponsorship and events, Giles Morgan, saying “it would be much more palatable if the events were played where there was not the sense of segregation.”
The R&A has said that it is in an ongoing “period of reflection” following last year’s Championship at Muirfield, but as of yet the outcome of that has not been made clear.
In 2012, the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia – home of the US Masters – invited former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and business executive Darla Moore to become its first female members, ending its 80-year policy of men-only.
The move means all clubs that host majors in the US allow female membership.
While Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal St George’s have men-only membership policies, women can attend the clubs as visitors or guests of members.
Muirfield has twice hosted the Curtis Cup, which is a Ryder Cup-style competition for the leading female amateur golfers from Great Britain and Ireland and the United States.
Royal Liverpool Hoylake will host this year’s Open Championship, with St Andrews hosting next year, while Royal Troon in 2016 will be the next time the event is scheduled to be held at a club that does not allow female members.
This article first appeared in www.insidethegames.biz and is reproduced with permission.