The legacy of the Ladies’ Golf Union “should be celebrated”, said former chief executive Shona Malcolm as it was announced they are to merge with the R&A.

The two St Andrews-based bodies will be integrated fully by the start of next year following an “extensive” consultation exercise.

Hailed as a “historic move” by the R&A’s chief executive Martin Slumbers, it was also welcomed by Malcolm, who was in charge of the LGU for seven years before stepping down at the end of 2014.

“When I was there I was certainly keen that this should happen and it is good to see it is going to happen,” she said.

“I think it’s the right thing for the women’s game. The R&A is the governing body for the game and the LGU will sit under their umbrella.”

The LGU organise a number of high profile championships, including the Women’s British Open as well as the Curtis Cup.

They will run as normal this year with the organisation becoming part of The R&A group of companies on January 1 next year.

The merger has been in the offing for 12 months with talks taking place between a number of organisations, including England Golf and Scottish Golf.

There is a great legacy and amazing work done for women’s golf” Malcolm, who is now secretary of the PGA in Scotland, added she hoped the merger would help further enhance the profile of women’s golf and said: “The LGU has been around for such a long time – since 1893 – and it was the first organisation to introduce handicapping in 1896.

“There’s an extensive legacy there and, hopefully, with this merger supposed to be going ahead, that will be protected.

“There is a great legacy and amazing work done for women’s golf. That legacy should be celebrated and continued.”

Trish Wilson, LGU chairman, said: “The LGU has a long and proud tradition of supporting women’s and girls’ golf.

“Funded by the lady golfers of Great Britain and Ireland, the LGU has positioned golf as a game for all women and girls.  My gratitude is due to our shareholders for their foresight and support in this move.”

Slumbers added: “The LGU and The R&A have a wealth of experience in running successful championships and we have a shared focus on supporting the development of golf.

“The merger will enable us to capitalise on the strengths of the two organisations for the wider benefit of the sport, including the development of golf for women and girls.

“This is a historic move and an important step forward for golf on these islands. I would like to thank the LGU Board for their commitment and enthusiasm throughout this process and their stakeholders, including Ricoh and IMG, for their tremendous support.”