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Women banned from all-male golf club because 'they would question lunch arrangements'

Members of an all-male Scottish golf club who backed a campaign to exclude women from joining their club cited female members questioning "our lunch arrangements" as a reason why they should remain banned.

In a letter signed by 33 current members of Muirfield, obtained by The Scotsman, "the risks" also include "our match system", as women will "question our foursome play".

"It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them" and women members "may not meet this standard", the letter adds.

However, the members said the club is planning a second course and clubhouse, and the design "would no doubt benefit from female input".

"The course would be designed to offer high-quality golf in a marvellous location and be outstanding in its own right", before adding: "The clubhouse would be more modest with changing and food and beverage facilities to meet its individual requirements and its design would no doubt benefit from female input."

A Muirfield golf club member walks the course Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

The vote by 750 of Muirfield members fell short of the two-thirds majority required for women to become members of the club the first time in its 272-year history.

As a result of the ballot, Royal and Ancient has stripped Muirfield as the right to host the Open championship.

The letter says:

We are criticised by some for being ‘elitist’, but if we are that is entirely due to a membership selection process which emphasises an overriding requirement that prospective members appreciate and accept our traditions.

It is understood that change is necessary in all associations and from time to time change may be ‘imposed’. Such imposition may result not from law but from convention and may not be well defined. Its wisdom may be uncertain or even absent.

We are not an ordinary club. Our special nature; ‘a gentleman’s club where golf is played’ is quite unique with its fraternity built inter alia on foursomes play with a round taking only the same time as lunch and leaving enough time for a further round after lunch (even in mid winter).

This is one of the miracles in modern day play and is much admired. Our foursomes and speedy play would be endangered.

The risks for the club are that a major change will fundamentally change our way of doing things and once that process develops it will be impossible to stop.

The introduction of lady members is bound to create difficulties. Regardless of the conventions when they first join they are likely over time to question our foursomes play, our match system, the uncompromising challenge our fine links present, our lunch arrangements.

– Letter signed by 33 Muirfield members
Visitors play golf at Muirfield Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged the "encouraging" majority of members who voted in favour of admitting women, but she labelled the result of the ballot "indefensible":