St. Andrews Golf Club Lifts 260-year Ban on Women Members, About 260 Years Too Late

In the year 2014 you wouldn't think we'd still be hearing stories about bans on women being lifted, but here we are. For the first time in its 260-year history, the prestigious Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews will be allowing female members to join its ranks. Better late than never?

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, aside from having a very pretentious name, is based out of the St. Andrews Links in Scotland, one of the oldest courses in the world, and regarded as the "home of golf." So maybe the name is somewhat justified. The gender discrimination that's persisted for the past two and a half centuries, on the other hand, really isn't.

Prior to this week's vote, when roughly 85 percent of the club's 2,400 members supported a measure to admit women to the club, women were allowed to play at the St. Andrews course, but the privileges of membership were off-limits. In fact, even the new principal of St. Andrews University, a title which normally comes with an honorary membership to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, was denied membership based on her gender. Now, however, women will not only be admitted, but the club's executive director, Peter Dawson, says that an initial number of female applicants will be fast-tracked to bypass the normally long waiting list.

"This is an important and positive day in the history of the R&A Golf Club," Dawson said. "The R&A has served the sport of golf well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in future with the support of all its members, both women and men."

Phil Inglis/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

However, some suspect that the reasons behind this move are not entirely about openness and inclusion. At the Telegraph, Alice Arnold writes that the primary motivation is probably financial. As golf organizations become more reluctant to endorse competitions at venues that don't welcome women, and as government funding of all kinds gets more difficult to obtain for organizations that discriminate against women, Arnold notes that clubs "admit female members if they wish to continue to reap in the financial rewards."

After all, she points out, golf is still mostly controlled by old, white men (she refers to the golfing elite as "middle-aged, middle-class, male elite who has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century"). These are the sorts of people that would not only deny a university president her traditional honorary membership, but taunt her about it. Such antics do not bode well.

In the year 2014, it's a little ridiculous that we're still fighting these sorts of battles — the fight just to get women admitted into certain spaces, let alone the fight to be treated equally and respectfully once we get there, or to be represented in something resembling equal numbers. And unfortunately the idea that the motive would be financial is all too plausible. Because clearly treating women like people is too hard unless there's money at stake, right?

But hey, we're making progress?

David Cannon/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Images: Getty (3)