Muirfield's decision to not admit women members is 'bad for golf and out of touch'

Muirfield
Muirfield has hosted the Open 16 times, the last of which came in 2013

Muirfield's swift removal from the Open rota following its decision not to admit women members was the only choice available to the R&A, which runs the Championship.

If the R&A is serious about making golf more accessible and welcoming, it cannot stage the game's oldest event at clubs that exclude female members.

The Muirfield based Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, have, at best, been left to look out of touch with modern thinking. At worst, they look like a bunch of selfish bigots who have no place at the top of the game.

The perception is that women are not allowed on the privately-owned links course in East Lothian, which is one of the finest in the world. In fact, they have been playing there since 1904 and, in 2015, played in the region of 370 rounds as visitors or guests of members.

Still, there is considerable anger and disappointment at the result among members of the Muirfield board.

Sources close to the club suggest they will explore the opportunities of staging another ballot. One said they might ask for a simple majority vote next time, instead of a two-thirds requirement.

Another said overseas members might be allowed to take part in the decision-making process after being denied this time.

Whatever happens, Muirfield's decision reflects badly on a sport that is trying to shed its elitist image as it seeks to arrest a decline in participation numbers.

It has staged the Open 16 times since it was first played there in 1892 and its roll call of champions is a who's who of the game. In 2013, Phil Mickelson joined a list that includes Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Sir Henry Cotton.

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It is a great course, arguably the finest in the UK, and one that has always identified great champions. But that is not enough in the modern era.

The Open is golf's showcase and the clubs that host it should reflect its name.

The R&A and its new chief executive, Martin Slumbers, will be congratulated on taking such decisive action. It is a huge move, one that departs from the previous line that the quality of the venue is the paramount concern.

The R&A's decision also increases the pressure on Royal Troon, which stages this year's Open jointly with Troon Ladies, who also use the Ayrshire course.

Royal Troon is currently deciding whether to change its all-male membership policy - and it is clear it will need to if it is to remain an Open venue beyond this year.

With Royal Portrush joining the rota, the R&A can afford to lose the two remaining men-only clubs, although, in purely golfing terms, the Open will be the poorer for not using such magnificent courses.

That, though, is of secondary importance to a game that still suffers a big image problem.

Muirfield's decision did nothing to help in that regard, but the R&A's response turned what could have been a very damaging day for golf into a much more positive one.