The Royal and Ancient Golf Club has voted in favour of allowing women members for the first time in its 260-year history.
The St Andrews-based club has 2,400 global members who were entitled to vote and more than three-quarters took part in the ballot.
Of those that voted, 85% were in favour of change.
"This is an important and positive day in the history of the R&A Golf Club," said chief executive Peter Dawson.
"The R&A has served the sport of golf well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in future with the support of all its members, both women and men."
Dawson added that the vote would take immediate effect and a "significant" initial number of women would be fast-tracked to membership in the coming months to avoid the long waiting list.
Founded in 1754, the Royal and Ancient's members play on the St Andrews links course regarded as the "home of golf".
Before Thursday's vote, women could play on the course, on Scotland's east coast, but they were not allowed in the clubhouse and had no significant part in the sport's rulemaking arm, the R&A.
That body, separated from the club 10 years ago, controls golf around the world apart from in the United States and Mexico.
A statement from the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) backed the results of the ballot.
|BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter|
|"This is a historic and significant vote for the running of golf. With the sport returning to the next Olympics it would have been wholly inappropriate for the one of the game's leading bodies to be intrinsically linked with a club that has discriminatory membership policies. It is a big step for a 260-year-old institution but one that the game needed. It may influence Open venues like Sandwich, Muirfield and Troon to follow suit. In practical terms it makes little difference to the vast majority of female golfers, but helps the game portray itself in a more inclusive light."|
"The LPGA is happy to hear that the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews have voted to include female members," it said.
"This decision is certainly a step in the right direction and one that better captures the current diversity and inclusiveness of our great game."
Sports Minister Helen Grant has also supported the move.
"I am pleased that the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews have voted in favour of admitting women members," she said.
"This is positive news for the sport and I hope we will now see other golf clubs that still have outdated same sex policies follow suit. With golf in the next Olympics there is a huge opportunity for the sport to grow and this sends out the right inclusive message that golf is for everyone."
|Rory McIlroy: "It is a pity some golf clubs have been quite slow on the uptake. It doesn't matter if you are a man or woman, black or white, everyone should have equal opportunities to do anything you want, whether to join a golf club, or get a job."|
|Gary Player: "Delighted that R&A voted to include female members. Absolutely the right decision & good for the game of golf."|
|Charley Hull: "Fantastic news from the R&A - must have been our play at the Women's British Open last year."|
Three Open venues currently have male-only membership - Muirfield in East Lothian, Royal St George's in Sandwich, Kent, and Royal Troon in South Ayrshire, which has separate men's and women's clubs.
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is set to review its Muirfield membership rules in September, while Royal St George's said this year it was "considering its position".
In 2012, the Augusta National Club in the United States, which hosts the Masters, admitted two women members for the first time in its 80-year history.