Muirfield to review all-male policy

A day after the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews announced it would vote later this year to admit its first women members, another prominent club in Scotland where the Open Championship was played last year said it also would study the matter.

Muirfield, which is run by the Honourable Company of Edinburg Golfers, said in a statement Thursday obtained by the Scotsman newspaper.:

"A working group has been empowered to consult with the membership and to make recommendations to the board about our future. As a club, we comply fully with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 (anti-discrimination legislation in the UK) and there are no current plans to change the membership criteria, but these will be reviewed.

"Most importantly, we intend to take the time to ensure that plans we adopt will stand us in good stand, not only for the immediate future but for the next 270 years of our great club."

Muirfield, where Phil Mickelson won the Open last summer, is one of three on the nine-course Open rotation that does not have women members. The others are Royal Troon in Scotland, where the Open is scheduled to be played in 2016, and Royal St. George's in England, where it was last played in 2011.

The Royal and Ancient -- which is based at the home of golf in St. Andrews and has a separate business arm known simply as the R&A, which now runs the Open and administers golf's rules -- on Wednesday said it would take a vote of its 2,400 members in September on admitting women for the first time.

Peter Dawson, who is the secretary of the Royal & Ancient as well as the CEO of the R&A, said a vote for women members would not preclude a return to all-male clubs for the Open nor would the organization pressure them to admit women.

"We've been talking about this for quite a while, and it has been our governance role that has been the driving factor," Dawson said. "We are a governing body for the game, the rules of the game and so on. Society's changing, sport is changing, the rules are changing, and I think it's appropriate for the governing body to take this step.

"I'm not going to say this is overdue, but it is something that perhaps has been expected. It's something we're pleased to be able to announce and now we have this period of consultation to go through before the vote."

The issue was at the forefront last year after Augusta National, home of the Masters, admitted its first women members and with the Open going to a venue that has yet to admit them.

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, refused to attend the championship at Muirfield, saying the male-only policy was "indefensible in the 21st century.''

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was responsible for drafting golf's original 13 rules before passing on the responsibility to the R&A, which administers the game's rules outside of the United States and Mexico.