Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers reportedly on the brink of historic change in policy
By Martin Inglis
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is thought to be on the brink of a vote to accept women as full club members for the first time in its history.
A recent article in the Sunday Times reported that the issue is to be decided by a postal vote. “Insiders believe this makes a vote in favour of admitting women more likely as it will encourage more members to take part in the vote,” said the story. No timeframe was offered for the vote or its outcome but it is thought that the matter could be resolved one way or another this year.
The club, whose Muirfield course has hosted the Open 16 times, has come under increasing pressure in recent times to change its male-only policy. Former First Minister Alex Salmond boycotted the 2013 Open it staged on account of its stance, whilst Prime Minister David Cameron also weighed in, saying ‘exclusive memberships of this sort look more to the past than the future’.
The pressure on the club was further ramped up when the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and Royal St George’s became mixed gender clubs in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
If the Sunday Times article is accurate, it appears that pressure is finally beginning to tell.
Shona Malcolm, the secretary of the PGA in Scotland, welcomed the news of the prospective vote but insisted that the club’s members must be allowed to make the decision freely and democratically.
“If we were starting out the game of golf today, we wouldn’t have single gender clubs at all,” said Malcolm. “We have the benefit of all these years of tradition and history, in Scotland particularly, so I think change, if it happens, has to be for the right reasons and it has to happen with the will of the members from each individual club.
“If Muirfield is at that stage where it is willing to consider that, it must go over to the members to decide whether or not it works for them at this time and that the benefits of doing it outweigh the drawbacks. It’s great to see movement in a lot of these areas now but it is very much over to the members. It’s their decision.”
However, Malcolm, former the chief executive of the Ladies’ Golf Union, added that it would be a good PR move for the game’s image if the decision was made by the club to let ladies join.
“Public perception is really powerful, it’s everything, and anything that works to improve the perception and inclusiveness of golf has got to be a good thing,” she added.
Scottish Club Golfer attempted to contact a representative of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers for clarification of the Sunday Times report but did not get a reply.