Muirfield Booted From British Open Rotation for Ban on Women

  • Scottish club last hosted golf’s oldest major in 2013
  • Members failed to reach two-thirds majorty to change policy

Muirfield has been removed from the rotation of courses for the annual British Open, after members of the Scottish club voted against allowing women to join.

The Royal & Ancient, which runs the British Open, golf’s oldest major championship, said Thursday on Twitter that it would no longer host the event at courses that don’t admit female members. The 2016 British Open, which begins July 14, is still scheduled to be held at Scotland’s Royal Troon, another male-only club.

Muirfield drew criticism for its men-only policy when it last hosted the British Open, in 2013. In the years since, two British Open sites -- St. Andrews and Royal St. George’s -- have voted to admit women. Royal Troon, which has a separate women’s club, wasn’t mentioned in the statement. The Scottish club has said it’s considering changing its practices.

The British Open can have a large financial impact on its hosts. The 2015 major at St. Andrews delivered 140 million pounds ($218 million) of economic benefit to Scotland in a mix of visitor spending and marketing, and the biggest windfall from a golf event in the U.K. or Ireland, according to a study commissioned by the Royal & Ancient.  

In a vote this week, Muirfield’s members failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to change the men-only policy, though they were close: 64 percent of the roughly 800 male members voted to admit women, according to Golf Digest.

"Scotland has women leaders in every walk of life. It is 2016. This is simply indefensible," Nicola Sturgeon, the first female first minister of Scotland, said Thursday on Twitter.

The Royal & Ancient’s announcement comes four years after Augusta National, which hosts the Masters, admitted its first women amid pressure from media, activists and fans. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Rainwater Inc. partner Darla Moore have since been joined at the Georgia club by Virginia Rometty, IBM Corp.’s chief executive officer.

Michael Whan, commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, thanked the Royal & Ancient on Twitter "for the quick and decisive decision, and for sending a clear message for/about our sport!"

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.