‘Don’t copy Burgess’ plea over women vote
Members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews are being urged not to follow in the footsteps of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh when they vote on allowing women later this year.
The golf club, which for 250 years was the world’s leading authority on the governance of golf until it devolved most of its powers to The R&A in 2004, has been men-only since it was established in 1754.
However, following widespread criticism of The R&A’s decision to host the Open at men-only golf clubs in recent years, and even a threat from a sponsor to withdraw funding, the club has announced that it will vote on ending the men-only policy this September – on the same day that Scotland votes in a national referendum over independence.
The golfing poll will require at least two-thirds of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club’s 2,400 members to vote for the change for the proposal to be carried.
However, last year the men-only Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh made a similar move, which required three-quarters of its members to support. In the end the vote failed to even make it to an annual general meeting – because a vote on having the vote failed to secure the 50 percent support required. In recent months there has been a growing movement of condemnation and ridicule for golf clubs that do not allow women to join.
“It remains to be seen if it will be passed by the 2,400-strong male membership and, remember, the same proposal didn’t even get to the official voting stage at Royal Burgess Golfing Society, another men-only club, at the end of last year,” said Martin Dempster, a journalist for The Scotsman newspaper, who was one of the people Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, broke the news to about the vote.
“As was the case at Royal Burgess, there will be some among the members at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club who will have choked on their gin and tonic at the very thought of a letter carrying such a proposal tumbling through the letterbox.
“It seems unthinkable, though, that the members of The R&A’s general committee, the one with the most powerful voice, have taken this step without feeling confident they can secure the required two-thirds majority.”
Peter Dawson has also made it clear which way he would like the members to vote.
“A vote against women members would be undesirable,” he said
“Sport has been changing, society has been changing and golf is part of that. We think it’s time this change is made.
“The early indication is that there is great support. We will have to see what happens.”
Dempster added that it is now highly unlikely that The R&A will ever award the Open to a men-only golf club again. However, one issue for the governing body is that the 2016 venue, which has already been decided, is Royal Troon, which also does not allow women to be members.
“It would be ludicrous for the game’s governing body to – finally – set the example so many people have been crying out for, only to then open themselves up for fresh criticism by taking the event to a club that is digging in its heels,” he said.
“Royal Troon, the 2016 hosts, are the next men-only club to host the Claret Jug joust and it will be interesting to see how they respond if The R&A vote goes through, though the situation there is slightly different to Muirfield (a men-only club that hosted the 2013 Open) and Royal St George’s (a men-only club that hosted the 2011 Open) due to the existence of the Troon Ladies club.”