London - One of the last bastions of all-male sporting privilege is set to fall after the Royal & Ancient Golf Club had announced on Wednesday it has recommended its members should vote in favour of women being allowed to join the club in a ballot to be held on September 18.The 260-year-old ruling body of golf, based at the St Andrews course in eastern Scotland, has come under increasing commercial and political pressure to remove its 'men-only' rule.
Its decision to put the issue to a vote of its 2,500-strong membership represents a major change for an organisation which had previously defended its policy on the grounds that it was a private club.
However, a two-thirds majority will be required to change the club's rules at the September vote.
"Members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the founding club of The R&A, will vote on a motion to admit women as members," a spokesman said Wednesday.
"The club's committees are strongly in favour of the rule change and are asking members to support it. The vote is scheduled to take place in September of this year."
The vote will be strictly concerning membership of The R&A. The Old Course at St Andrews, where the club has its headquarters, is a public course over common land where women have always been welcome to play.
British government sports minister Helen Grant, responding to the R&A decision, said she hoped it would signal an end to the "anachronistic" single-sex stance common to many golf clubs.
"This is welcome news from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and I urge its members to follow their Committees' recommendations and vote 'yes' for women members," Grant said.
"It would mark a step in the right direction for the sport and I would hope encourage the remaining golf clubs that still have anachronistic single-sex member policies to follow suit."