Muirfield Barred as British Open Host After Vote Against Female Members

MAY 19, 2016

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Muirfield, one of the golf clubs that hosts the British Open, voted against allowing women to become members, it was announced on Thursday. Credit Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Muirfield Golf Club, the site of 16 British Opens and the source of the written Rules of Golf, dating to 1744, has been stripped of the right to host the major after voting against allowing female members.

Of the 616 members who voted, 397, or 64 percent, were in favor of the resolution. It fell 35 votes short of the two-thirds (432) of its 648 eligible voters to pass. Muirfield, run by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, is one of two clubs in the British Open rotation to exclude women. Royal Troon, site of this year’s event, is the other.

The American Phil Mickelson won the British Open the last time it was held at Muirfield, in 2013.

Reacting to the decision, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient, which organizes the British Open, said: “We have consistently said that it is a matter for the Honourable Company to conduct a review of its membership policy and that we would await their decision. The Open is one of the world’s great sporting events, and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members.”

He added, “If the policy at the club should change, we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue in future.”

The Scotsman revealed that a group of 30 memberscampaigned vigorously against the inclusion of female members. A letter distributed by the group among the membership cited concerns about slow play and making women “feel uncomfortable” as the downsides of admitting female members.

The letter added that the club was “quite unique with its fraternity built, inter alia, on foursomes play with a round taking only the same time as lunch and leaving enough time for a further round after lunch (even in midwinter). This is one of the miracles in modern-day play and is much admired. Our foursomes and speedy play would be endangered.”

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