The Open Championship has taken another step towards what, for golf, should be considered the enlightened age with Royal Troon announcing it is launching a review into its membership policy which will very likely see women being invited to join before the club plays host again next year.
Troon is one of only three courses on the 10-strong Open roster with male-only memberships, but its position became untenable after the Royal And Ancient, the game's governing body, voted last September to welcome female members into its own exclusive sanctum.
On the heels of that decision, Muirfield and Royal St George’s both announced that they were looking into their membership policies, with the latter voting later this year whether to follow the R&A’s lead. If it, or indeed Muirfield, wish to stage another Open it is clear they have little option.
With neither due to host until the next decade, these clubs have time to deconstruct hundreds of years of discriminative history. Troon, however, has no such luxury and it is understood that it was under pressure from the R&A to act and to act quickly. The Open organisers have no wish for another championship to be overshadowed by the “women issue”, as it was at Muirfield in 2013.
This is something of a U-Turn by Royal Troon, which always considered itself different to the other male-other clubs. When the R&A’s dual-sex intent became known, the club informed the Telegraph that it had “no plans” to change policy, with the then secretary, David Brown, adding: “Although we are a single gender club, some 370 members of the Ladies Golf Club, Troon do, in fact, share our on-course facilities”.
But this justification in retaining the status quo was put under an embarrassing spotlight by the comments of Connie Jaffrey, a member of the Ladies Golf Club, Troon, who also happens to be one of Scotland’s most promising young females.
Asked by the Scotsman newspaper whether her career has benefited from playing on the famous links, Jaffrey said: “They’re quite tight on the rules so I only get to play it a couple of times a year. I don’t even get to use the practice putting green, which is unfortunate.”
Unfortunate and rather scandalous. But Royal Troon has also announced that the Ladies Golf Club will play an unprecedented part in next year’s Open. Members of both clubs have formed a joint Championship Committee. It will be the first time in the 155-year history of the Open that two clubs will share the responsibility of staging the championship.
Royal Troon captain, Bob Martin said: "Royal Troon Golf Club has hosted the Open on eight occasions since 1923 and in 2016 we will share this responsibility with The Ladies' Golf Club, Troon as joint hosts of the 145th Open Championship. The clubs enjoy a close working relationship and we look forward to hosting a successful Open here in 2016."
The Ladies' Golf Club, Troon captain, Sara-Ann Bottomley added: "Both clubs take immense pride in the Old Course at Troon and we are delighted to share the honour of hosting the Open and the joint responsibility for delivering the event.”