The all-male membership of Muirfield in Scotland has voted against admitting female members, a decision that now excludes it from host the Open Championship in the future.
A two-thirds majority of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was required to make the change in policy. Approximately 64 percent of the 648 voting members (the club has 750 total members) voted in favor of admitting female members, a choice supported and promoted by the club's board.
"In an open letter to members, the club board recommends that the membership vote in favor of the admission resolution to admit women as members," wrote club secretary Stuart McEwen. "We are aware that a small group of members have been canvassing support to vote against admitting women as members at this time. They want more time to consider further options for the future."
However, a group of 33 members wrote an open letter to the membership, imploring them to reject female members. The campaign appears to have worked.
This vote was the result of a two-year process Muirfield undertook after coming under heavy criticism for its membership practices while hosting the 2013 Open Championship, won by Phil Mickelson.
The R&A has made it clear that it intends to keep the Open away from male-only-membership venues, and it upheld that stance in comments in reaction to the vote.
“The R&A has considered today’s decision with respect to the Open Championship. 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," said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.
“Given the schedule for staging The Open, it would be some years before Muirfield would have been considered to host the Championship again. If the policy at the club should change we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for The Open in future.”
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, of which the governing body known as the R&A is an off-shoot, admitted women as members for the first time in 2014 in 260 years of existence. Another Open host, Royal St. George's, admitted female members for the first time in 2015.
Curiously, 2016 Open host Royal Troon remains the only club in the active rotation that does not have single membership. Rather, there are separate memberships for men and women. The club is consulting members on possibly ending that practice, which would include ending having separate clubhouses.