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Golf Course Would Rather Keep Archaic Ban On Women Than Host British Open

Phil Mickelson of the United States holds up the Claret Jug trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland, Sunday July 21, 2013. CREDIT: SCOTT HEPPELL, AP
Phil Mickelson of the United States holds up the Claret Jug trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland, Sunday July 21, 2013. CREDIT: SCOTT HEPPELL, AP

On Thursday, the members of the privately owned Muirfield golf club in Scotland voted against allowing women to join their ranks.

The club needed two-thirds of the vote to overturn it’s ban on women, but fell just short — out of the 616 members that voted, 397 (64 percent) voted for a policy change, while 219 (36 percent) voted to maintain the status quo.

Unfortunately for Muirfield, the rest of the world lives in the year 2016. In light of the vote, the R&A;, the governing body of the Open Championship, announced on Thursday that it has taken away Muirfield’s rights to host the tournament. The Open Championship is one of the four major tournaments in men’s golf, and is more commonly known as the British Open in the United States.

This vote is the result of an active campaign by a sect of Muirfield members who are convinced that adding “lady members” to the club would cause changes to everything, from the pace of play to the difficulty of the course to the lunch options.

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In a letter to fellow members that was obtained by The Scotsman, the 33 men behind the “no” campaign argued that adding women to the membership at the club would “fundamentally change our way of doing things” and would start a process of change that would be “impossible to stop.”

We are not an ordinary club. Our special nature; ‘a gentleman’s club where golf is played’ is 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 mid winter). This is one of the miracles in modern day play and is much admired. Our foursomes and speedy play would be endangered.

Since it would take a “very special lady golfer” to be able to uphold the current standards at Muirfield, the men behind the campaign suggest building a separate-but-still-”outstanding” course and clubhouse catered just to the ladies.

“The clubhouse would be more modest with changing and food and beverage facilities to meet its individual requirements and its design would no doubt benefit from female input,” the letter reads.

While the vote has been endlessly mocked by media members and fans on social media, a few top golfers, such as LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam and English PGA player Ian Poulter, have praised the R&A; for a “swift” response.

“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,” R&A; chief executive Martin Slumbers said after the vote on Thursday.

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However, it is important to note that the R&A; did not make this announcement before the vote, and has always allowed clubs that didn’t allow female members to host Open Championships in the past.

Muirfield last hosted the Open in 2013. Royal St. George’s hosted the championship in 2011, and only began admitting women as members in 2014. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews — known as the “home of golf” — only began admitting female members last year, months before it hosted the 2015 Open.

Oh, and this year the Open will be held at the Royal Troon Golf Club, which also has a no-women-allowed membership policy. The club is currently “consulting its members” about whether or not to end that policy.

This hasn’t been merely a British problem, either. The Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters each year, only began admitting women in 2012, and still only has three female members.

When announcing the vote on Thursday, Muirfield captain Henry Fairweather stressed that women will continue to be “welcome” on the course and in the clubhouse as guests and visitors only.

The R&A; said that in the future, if the membership policy at the club changed, it would “reconsider Muirfield as a venue.”