After 273 years, Muirfield, the venerable Scottish golf club that has 16 times hosted the British Open, will allow women to become members.
The decision, approved by just more than 80 percent of the club's members, comes a little less than a year after they voted to continue to restrict membership to men. That vote carried a significant repercussion: it was taken out of rotation for hosting the Open. It was a decision that Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called "indefensible."
"Well done, Muirfield - decision to admit women members emphatic and the right one," Sturgeon tweeted Tuesday. "Look forward to seeing you host the Open again in future."
The club last hosted the Open in 2013. The earliest it can host is 2022.
"We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit, from the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club," said Henry Fairweather, captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers that owns and operates Muirfield.
The historic decision came by a 498-123 vote on the second ballot.
The R&A, which organizes the Open, quickly restored Muirfield's eligibility as a tournament host. "It is extremely important for us in staging one of the world's great sporting events that women can become members at all of our host clubs," Martin Slumbers, the group's chief executive, said in a statement. "Muirfield is a truly outstanding Open venue and we very much look forward to taking the Championship back there in the future."
Women will not immediately become members, though. "The current waiting list for membership at Muirfield suggests that new candidates for membership, women and men, can expect to wait two to three years, or longer, to become a member of the club," the HGEC said in a statement.
Last year, the Telegraph reported that 33 Muirfield traditionalists sent a letter to other members that said lifting the 272-year ban on female members would have an adverse effect on the club:
"Our special nature - 'a gentleman's club where golf is played' - is quite unique with its fraternity built inter alia on foursomes play with a round taking only the same time as lunch and leaving enough time for a further round after lunch (even in mid winter).
The letter also expressed concern about the club's lunch arrangements and said that any female member is "bound to feel uncomfortable."
Muirfield and Royal Troon were the only two clubs in the British Open rotation not to admit women and Troon, which hosted the 2016 Open, voted to admit women last July.