Source: Royal & Ancient Club will allow mail vote

Royal & Ancient Golf Club members will be allowed a postal vote on whether women can join the male-only club, Golfweek has learned.

Previously only members who turned up at the club’s business meeting, scheduled for Sept. 18 in St. Andrews, Scotland, were to be given a vote on female membership. However, the club is set to change its rules to allow all members to decide the issue.

A source within the R&A told Golfweek that all club members, who total about 2,400 worldwide, will determine whether women should be allowed to join because the vote is a seminal moment in the club’s 260-year history.

“By and large the motion to allow women to join the club has been met positively across the membership,” the R&A source said. “However, the General Committee acknowledge that on such an historical occasion for the club, it’s only right that the entirety of the membership should be allowed to vote rather than the few hundred that attend the autumn business meeting.”

At a roundtable meeting with select journalists in late March, Peter Dawson, who as R&A chief executive also serves as the Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s secretary, said the club’s rules did not allow for postal votes.

“In the long history of the club, any change of the rules has always been decided at a business meeting,” said Dawson, who recently announced his retirement, in 2015. “There is no provision in the rules of postal or proxy voting.”

A club spokesman confirmed Golfweek's findings.

“Members from around the world have expressed the desire to be part of this September’s historic vote,” the spokesman said. “The General Committee is investigating a change to the club’s rules to allow postal votes to be taken on particularly important issues such as this one so that every member can have the opportunity to be involved.”

In private discussions with Royal & Ancient Golf Club members who requested anonymity, Golfweek had learned that many members were not happy that only those who attended the September meeting would be allowed to vote. “It’s too big an issue to be decided by a minority of the membership,” one member said. “All members should be given a say.”

Another member feared the possibility of a “no” vote at the September meeting. “It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility there could be a no vote if they restrict the vote to only those who turn up at the business meeting,” the member said. “You could have a scenario where those against could marshal enough people to defeat the motion.”

The Royal & Ancient Club is separate from the R&A, which was created 10 years ago to govern the game worldwide (excluding the U.S. and Mexico), oversee the Rules of Golf and run the Open Championship and other business ventures.

The R&A source said all members are to be given a vote because of the issue’s importance rather than any fear the motion wouldn’t be passed.

“The General Committee is considering this option because of requests from members who are keen to be part of a change to the club’s membership policy, but it seems pretty obvious the vote would have been positive even if it was restricted to those attending the business meeting.”

– The Associated Press contributed

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