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Teed-off ‘females of Edinburgh’ set new benchmark in fight against golf sexism

Members of an exclusive golf club that has banned women from joining were “forbidden” from sitting on a park bench after a tongue-in-cheek plaque was installed on behalf of the “female population of Edinburgh”.

Muirfield Golf Club in Gullane, East Lothian, provoked huge controversy in May when members held a vote on female membership.

The attempt to allow women to become members failed, with a vote of 64 per cent in favour and 36 per cent against — just short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the club’s constitution.

The resulting worldwide condemnation from the vote led to the club, which is one of Scotland’s last male-only golf clubs, being stripped of its chance to host the Open by the St Andrews-based governing body, the R&A.

Last weekend a plaque appeared on a bench in West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh excluding members of Muirfield from sitting on it and attracting widespread social media coverage.

The mystery plaque, which was removed by the City of Edinburgh council yesterday afternoon, said: “The members of Muirfield Golf Club are hereby excluded from sitting on this bench. By order of the female population of Edinburgh.”

A post featuring a picture of the plaque on Facebook has gone viral, after being shared nearly 2,000 times and liked by 8,000 people.

Comments range from people wholeheartedly agreeing with the sentiments of the plaque to others branding it sexist.

Jason Davis commented: “Why can’t men have a men only club? Why do women feel the need to protest and force their way in? There are many many women only clubs (including golf clubs) and these don’t make headlines.

“Sometimes men want a space away from women, as women do away from men. Doesn’t mean it’s sexist or a bad thing!” Gil Thomson wrote: “A not unreasonable request as the ‘female population of Edinburgh’ have obviously paid for the bench.

“However, as the ‘gentlemen members of Muirfield Golf Club’ started the club and have been responsible for its upkeep throughout the years is it unreasonable for them to decide who should play on their course?”

David Rees commented: “They define their club as ‘the home of honourable golfers’? Guess they have had an irony bypass?”

Stuart G McEwen, secretary of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Muirfield, said that the club did not want to comment.

The council, however, decided that the plaque should not be allowed to stay. It said that it had been stuck on top of an existing plaque and has now been removed.

A spokeswoman said: “This is a presentation seat that was donated to the city and has an existing dedication.

“The plaque in question had been placed without permission and has been removed.”

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was founded in 1744 and is said to be the oldest recorded golf club in the world. It set down the original rules of golf in 1744 and has hosted the Open 16 times.

Following the outcry over female membership — Nicola Sturgeon called the East Lothian club’s stance “simply indefensible” — Muirfield said that it would hold a new vote before the end of the year, but that has now been postponed until next year.

Losing the Open — one of golf’s four major championships — would deal a significant economic blow to local businesses.

Royal Troon, in Ayrshire, voted to admit women for the first time in its 138-year history shortly before it hosted this year’s Open championship, so it will keep its place on the tournament rota. Just a handful of clubs, which are not on the Open rota, have a ban on female members.

In a further sign of breaking down barriers, the R&A, which voted to admit women in 2014, finalised its merger yesterday with the Ladies’ Golf Union in an agreement that comes into force on January 1.

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