Muirfield Female Member Vote 'Pivotal' In Growth Of Women's Game

R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers says a 2016 vote to prevent women joining Muirfield was the catalyst for change

A view of the 18th green at Muirfield with the clubhouse in the background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Muirfield hosts its first AIG Women’s Open this week as the ladies game continues to make strides in its growth and recognition alongside the men's game.

However, it is only six years since the club voted against the admission of women as members. That decision was met with a substantial backlash, and it was finally overturned in March 2017 following another vote.

Ahead of this week’s tournament, R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers reflected on the period. He said: “I think 2016, it was an important time for this sport and for the R&A. I had only been in the organisation a few months. We had been working very hard on a strategy for the R&A that had inclusivity very much as a part of it.”

Since those tumultuous times, the women’s game has made significant inroads, but Slumbers admits that, while it still only represents a start, the last six years have been crucial in the progress that’s been made so far. He said: “We were in the beginning stages of merging with the Ladies Golf Union, and frankly, that merger transformed the R&A into where we are today. I think that when you think back over that six-year period since then, women's golf has really exploded, and it's got a long way to go yet. But I do think that that time will be viewed as pivotal in that change.”

As well as Muirfield finally hosting the AIG Women's Open, there are other areas where perceptions of the women's game are changing. The Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Team Series offers eye-catching prize money and innovations to help grow the game. Meanwhile, LPGA Tour commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan recently revealed she ‘would engage in a conversation’ with LIV Golf as the organisation seeks ways to build momentum. There has been progress made in other areas, too. For example, in January, a new UK women’s golf community was launched to help bring female golfers together. 

Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go, with the average LPGA Tour pro making far less money than their male counterparts. Six years on from that vote, though, the signs that the women's game is moving in the right direction continue to be encouraging - the 2022 AIG Women's Open has a record purse of $7.3m, an increase of 125% on the same tournament just four years ago.

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.