EAST LOTHIAN, SCOTLAND — Appropriately, a near gale was gusting across the old links as the captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Henry Fairweather, announced the result of the second ballot of members to finally admit women to the 273-year-old club. And, as it turned out, the wind of change was also blowing at Muirfield, where 80.2 percent of the 621 men who voted—a 92.7 percent turnout—came down in favor of mixed membership.
“This is a significant decision for the club,” said Fairweather, clearly a master of understatement. “We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy and benefit from the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club. The current waiting list for membership at Muirfield suggests that new candidates for membership, women and men, can expect to wait two or three years to become a member of the club.”
As was the case in May last year—when the vote for change failed fro reach the necessary two-thirds majority—the R&A was quick to react. Within minutes, in fact. So it is that, 10 months after Muirfield was formally removed from the rota of Open Championship courses, the East Lothian links is back. While nothing is official, it is likely that the HCEG will host its 17th Open in either 2022 or 2023. It was last played at Muirfield in 2013 (only the Old Course at St. Andrews has staged the game’s oldest major more often), when Phil Mickelson emerged as the “champion golfer of the year.”
“In light of today’s decision by the Honourable Company we can confirm that Muirfield will become a venue for the Open once again,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive. “Muirfield has a long and important history of hosting the Open, and with today’s announcement that will continue. It is extremely important for us in staging one of the world’s great sporting events that women can become members at all of our host clubs. Muirfield is a truly outstanding Open venue and we very much look forward to taking the Championship back there in future.”
In the wake of this latest development, every Open course how has membership practices open to both genders. Starting a flurry of recent activity, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club took the plunge in 2014. Royal Troon announced its intention to admit women members just before hosting the Open last year. And Royal St. Georges did the same in 2015.
Among many tweeting pleasure at the HCEG’s decision was Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, one who had been openly critical last time round.
And so say all of us.