St George’s to vote to end men-only policy
Royal St George’s Golf Club, one of three Open venues that do not allow women to be members, is to introduce measures to become a mixed club by next year.
The historic move by the Sandwich-based club comes after the Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s members overwhelming voted to end its 260 years as a male-only club, and invite women members to join its ranks.
Over 85% of the R&A membership voted to overturn the club’s outdated policy, which left only St George’s, Muirfield and Royal Troon as clubs on the Open rota that continue to refuse to allow female golfers to become members.
However, Royal St George’s secretary Colonel Tim Checketts has confirmed that members will vote on the issue in early 2015. He said: “We have had a process in place before the St Andrews’ vote to consult how our membership should be going forward. We will consult with the members and come to a decision in due course.”
Royal St George’s has hosted the Open 14 times, with last being held in 2011, when it came under fire from former Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson. Current Minister for Sport and Kent MP Helen Grant has also spoken out on the issue. She said: “This is positive news for the sport, and I hope we will now see other golf clubs that still have outdated same sex policies follow suit. With golf in the next Olympics there is a huge opportunity for the sport to grow and this sends out the right inclusive message that golf is for everyone.”
A date for the Open’s next return to St George’s has not yet been announced, with 2021 being the earliest possible opportunity.
Muirfield, which hosted the Open in 2013, revealed before the R&A vote took place that it would commission a company to handle the consultation process to end its single sex policy, which will start this month. “The research will be undertaken over the winter and a report will be completed in March 2015,” a spokesman for the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns Muirfield, said. “The findings will be considered by the HCEG during the spring of next year.”
Following the R&A’s vote on September 18, a number of leading corporate sponsors and top players commented that it would be unfeasible for a golf club to remain male-only memberships if they wanted to retain the Open statuses.
Royal Troon, which is due to host the Open in 2016, has said it shares its facilities with a women-only golf club, and therefore has no plans to change its policy.
Ryder Cup star Justin Rose was one of the first tour professionals to speak openly on the subject. Asked whether the policy of taking the Open to men-only courses should be changed, he said: “I think private golf clubs have the right to do whatever they want to do, but being men only should limit the kind of tournaments that they should be allowed to host. Clubs that want to host high-profile events should conform with what’s acceptable in mainstream society.”