Dublin - The former Open Championship-winning duo of Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie expressed disbelief on Thursday at a vote by Muirfield Golf Club not to allow women members.
The R&A, as organisers of golf's oldest major, reacted strongly to the vote by stripping Muirfield from again hosting The Open until such time women are allowed to become members of the club located east of Edinburgh.
Muirfield announced earlier on Thursday a postal vote of members resulted in a 64% to 36% majority in remaining to be an "all-male" club.
Muirfield first held The Open in 1892 and has now staged 16 Open Championship including the last in 2013 when Phil Mickelson was handed the Claret Jug for a first time in his career.
Harrington won back-to-back Open Championships in 2007 at Carnoustie and then a year later at Royal Birkdale while the Irishman also is an ambassador for the R&A.
"The R&A have a big responsibility, not just to golf but to society because of the position they hold and they have to do these things," he said after posting a four-over-par 76 on day one of the Irish Open at the K. Club.
"It's only right that the R&A do remove Muirfield... if you want to hold yourself out there you have to give an equal chance to everybody.
"Muirfield may go ahead and say we want just be a small golf club and mind their own business and that's fine, but minding their own business isn't holding the Open is it?" said Harrington, who has twice competed in Muirfield Opens (2002, 2013).
"There is a great history and heritage to Muirfield and the players love playing it, it's a great golf course and I can see why people would want to keep it there, but the reality is the R&A have a bigger responsibility outside of golf," he said.
News the R&A had dropped Muirfield from the 10-strong Open rota sends a strong message to Royal Troon, the club that will host this year's 145th Open Championship, but who have assured the R&A they will be conducting a vote among its all-male members to allow women to join.
If Royal Troon eventually agrees, it will leave Muirfield as the only all-male club in the modern era to host The Open.
Lawrie, who won the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, fully supported the R&A decision to ban Muirfield from the Open rota.
"In this day and age I just can't understand why any golf clubs don't allow female members," said Lawrie.
"There is no argument on that. It's their golf club and they can do what they want. I'm not telling them what to do but I am I'm surprised to hear they've (Muirfield) done that.
"How can you not let ladies be a member of a golf club. It just doesn't make any sense. Imagine not being able to take your wife into the golf club? It's just not right."
And Dane Thomas Bjorn, as chairperson of the European Tour Tournament Players Committee, expressed his outrage at the decision.
"It's a shame that one of the best golf courses in the world is off the Open rota and I'm gobsmacked," said Bjorn.
"I'm very surprised. I really am in this day and age.
"The R&A has made the right decision. I thought we were getting there with these sort of decisions so I'm really surprised.
"From a golfing perspective it's a shame, especially for the bigger picture. People can have their little clubs but if you want to be in the public eye then I'm sorry I think we're past that.
"I enjoy all of the courses on the Open rota, but I think that's the best. So it's a shame."