How the world reacted to the Muirfield 'no' vote

Golf News

Following Thursday's vote against women members at the East Lothian links course, the golfing world reacted..

The game of golf was thrust into the spotlight once again on Thursday following the news that Muirfield had voted against allowing women members into the club.

Following the ruling the East Lothian links course has now been banned from hosting The Open Championship by the R&A (Royal and Ancient) until such time as they allow female members.

A divisive subject that has not just the golfing world but the wider public in debate as to whether a club in 2016, albeit private, should be allowed to enforce such ‘archaic’ rules.


Women are allowed in certain parts of the clubhouse and can play the course but following the vote that fell 14 short of the two-third’s required, women will not be allowed to enroll with membership at the historic venue.

When the club last hosted The Open in 2013 the members came under real scrutiny, as did the R&A (who only opened their doors to both genders in 2014), for their stance on the subject.

BBC host Clare Balding refused to be part of the broadcast team that year due to the rules in place and at this year’s championship at Royal Troon the R&A is expected to come under pressure once again with a similar policy in place.

The Muirfield members said in a statement:

“A traditional resistance to change is one of the foundations of our unique position in golf and our reputation.”

Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG) captain Henry Fairweather added:

“The Honourable Company is a members club, and, as such, the members decide the Rules of the Club, including its membership policy.

“Women will continue to be welcome at Muirfield on the course and in the clubhouse as guests and visitors, as they have been for many years.”

The R&A’s response was swift, to the point and significant:

But of course we cannot forget that the R&A are a club themselves that only allowed women membership after a 260-year wait a mere two-years ago, so how did the golfing world and wider public respond to the Muirfield vote?

Let’s take a look..

Scotland’s first minister had a strong stance on the subject as did the British Prime Minister:

“My general rule is that sports clubs should be totally open to both sexes and it’s outdated not to do that – particularly if you think that you’re up to hosting important championships.” – David Cameron (Prime Minister)

Former players, current PGA/LET Tour professionals and hierarchy reacted too:

“It’s not right to host the world’s biggest tournament at a place that does not allow women to be members.

“Hopefully Muirfield can see some sense and we can get it back on The Open rota.” – Rory McIlroy

“I can’t say they’re wrong and we’re right. I’d love to play there as a competitor, I’d love to play the tournament at the golf course because it’s one of the best links courses in the world but we’re in a situation and it will be missed.” – Ernie Els (won The Open at Muirfield in 2002)

“The decision is appalling. We are in the 21st century and we are talking about criteria which discriminate based on gender.” – Ivan Khodabakhsh (LET chief executive)

“Muirfield have chosen to go their path – and fair play to them – but from a professional golfer’s point of view it’s disappointing that we will not be playing Muirfield in the foreseeable future.” – Darren Clarke (Ryder Cup captain)

“I completely understand the R&A’s decision. This is an equal opportunity world, we’re trying to grow the game. 

“Muirfield are well within their rights to make that decision – a private club is a private club – but we’re very disappointed to lose them.” – Graeme McDowell

“Embarrassing. I think that the decision the R&A have made to postpone the Open being there is a good one. I wouldn’t play there, because I’d be going against what I believe.

“We’re still a long way off the men’s game in terms of prize money, and this just sets it back even further.” – Melissa Reid (LET Pro)

Suggesting the vote had cost the Scottish economy £100m, Dr Lesley Sawers, of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

Veteran BBC golf commentator Peter Alliss said women who want to play at Muirfield should “marry a member” in order to play:

“I want to join the WVS [Women’s Voluntary Service] but unless I have a few bits and pieces nipped away on my body I’m not going to be able to get in.

“It’s a very emotive subject. I don’t think all the true facts have come out. I was at the Open Championship two or three years ago and I used to go in for a coffee every morning.Muirfield

“There’s a very nice drawing room in the clubhouse at Muirfield and it was full of ladies who were all chatting – ‘Hello, Peter how are you doing?’ – and me in my usual, jocular, quiet way suggested, ‘What great times are coming, you’ll be able to join the club’.

“And there was a look of horror on the faces of the ladies, ladies whose husbands were members, and I was met with ‘Good Lord, no we don’t want to be members.

“If we joined, our husbands would have to pay thousands of pounds for our entry fee and our subscriptions. We can come and play and do pretty much what we wish for nothing’.” – Peter Alliss.

Lara Baldesarra of CNN made a case for why male-only clubs shouldn’t be looked down upon ahead of the R&A’s ruling in 2014:


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