Muirfield tees up a fresh vote on women members

Captain of the Club, Henry Fairweather, makes  the announcement to refuse women entry to the club back in May. Picture: JON  SAVAGE

Captain of the Club, Henry Fairweather, makes the announcement to refuse women entry to the club back in May. Picture: JON SAVAGE

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Muirfield is seeking a second vote on women members in a bid to overturn a decision six weeks ago that officials claim has “damaged” the reputation of the historic East Lothian club.

The move to hold another ballot before the end of the year follows Muirfield, home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, being dropped by the R&A from its Open Championship rota straight after the result of the first vote was announced.

The R&A’s reaction, coupled with the club being widely criticised by politicians, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and top golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Catriona Matthew, has resulted in officials refusing to let the membership issue lie.

The Muirfield captain, Henry Fairweather, and his committee have called for a special general meeting to seek “authority” from the club’s current members to hold a “fresh postal ballot” before the end of the year.

The first vote, which followed a two-year membership review, revealed 64 per cent of the 616 members who took part in the ballot were in favour of the resolution and 36 per cent against. But, as the required two-thirds majority was not reached, there was no change to policy.

“A substantial majority of our members voted for change and many have voiced their disappointment with the ballot result and with subsequent events,” said Fairweather, who announced the outcome of the first vote in front of the iconic clubhouse at Muirfield.

“The club committee believes that a clear and decisive vote in favour of admitting women as members is required to enable us to begin the task of restoring the reputation of the club that has been damaged by the earlier ballot outcome.”

The new move by Muirfield comes in the same week that Royal Troon, where the Open Championship takes place in a fortnight’s time, is expected to rubber-stamp women members being admitted at the Ayrshire club.

A membership revenue has been ongoing there for nearly 18 months and, soon after the “no” vote at Muirfield, it was announced that Royal Troon had decided to hold a ballot on 1 July having received support from three-quarters of its membership during recent consultation.

“Recently we spoke about the need for our club to reflect the modern society in which we exist,” said Troon captain Martin Cheyne. “I am pleased that a large majority of members agree.”

The developments at both Muirfield and Royal Troon since the first vote at the former are timely boosts for the R&A, as well as golf in general, in the countdown to the Open Championship being held at the Ayrshire venue for the ninth time.