US golfer Stacy Lewis kisses the trophy on the Swilcan Bridge after winning the women's British Open Golf Championship at the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, on August 4, 2013. US golfer Stacy Lewis won the women's British Open on Sunday by two shots. Lewis, the winner of the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, collected her second major with a final round 72 for an eight-under-par total of 280. AFP PHOTO/ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)
St Andrews to allow female members
04:52 - Source: CNN

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Story highlights

Royal & Ancient Golf Club votes in favor of admitting female members

The Scottish club abandons its 260-year men-only membership policy

Augusta National welcomed female members for the first time in 2012

Some famous courses including Muirfield, host of the 2013 British Open, remain single-gender clubs

CNN  — 

Another landmark decision has been made on the day Scotland decides on independence from the United Kingdom and this vote is in favor of union.

The Royal & Ancient Club of St Andrews abandoned its 260-year men-only membership policy Thursday and voted to allow women to join its ranks.

More than three quarters of the club’s membership returned ballot papers, with 85% voting in favor of the change. A two thirds majority was required under the R&A’s constitution.

“This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club,” said its secretary Peter Dawson.

“This vote has immediate effect and I can confirm that The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is now a mixed membership club.

“The membership has also acted to fast-track a significant initial number of women to become members in the coming months,” added Dawson.

Female golfers are already able to play on the famous links course on the east coast of Scotland but until now they were not allowed to enter the clubhouse as members or take any part in club decisions.

In March this year, the Royal & Ancient Club decided to ask its 2,500 male members across the globe to change his historic policy.

Read: Scotland’s other historic vote

It also asked its members to agree to allow 15 new female members to join immediately.

The decision to ratify both the proposals was announced at the club’s annual meeting Thursday September 18, coincidentally the same day as the Scottish referendum.

“Society is changing, sport is changing, golf is changing,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson commented before the decision was announced.

Organizers of the global game have come under increasing pressure to abandon what is seen as an archaic single-gender policy.

In 2012, Augusta National allowed female members to join the prestigious U.S. club for the first time in 80 years.

Augusta, which hosts the Masters, faced years of protests with President Obama also adding pressure on the organization.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore became the first women to be admitted as members.

The R&A, which serves as golf’s governing body outside of the U.S. and Mexico, was criticized ahead of the 2013 British Open for choosing East Lothian’s Muirfield, which has a male-only membership policy, to host Europe’s only major.

Muirfield remains as one of three courses on rotation to host the Open, along with Royal Troon and Royal St George’s, which do not accept female members.

The historic decision by the Royal & Ancient Club – which will host the 2015 Open – is another important step towards phasing out one of golf’s most controversial traditions.

The St Andrews club was established in 1764 and is regarded as the historic home of golf.

Welcoming female members ensures the Royal & Ancient remains relevant in an egalitarian, new future.