It has been just over two years since Augusta National—the club that hosts The Masters—announced it had invited women to join for the first time. That ramped up the pressure on the R&A club, which, unlike Augusta, had a policy barring women from being members. Three all-male clubs are on the British Open rotation—Royal St. George's, Royal Troon and Muirfield.
Dawson has said the R&A vote will have no bearing on whether the Open is played on those courses. Royal Troon is the 2016 host.
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The push for change has come from outside golf, from a society that perceives the R&A to be out of touch and having outdated views on equality. The issue of allowing female members has been on the R&A's agenda for some time, Dawson says, but every year that goes by without the club having women members is damaging to its image.
The Royal & Ancient has been in charge of the Rules of Golf and the British Open for years. Ten years ago, the club devolved administrative duties to a corporate structure that is called "The R&A," of which Dawson is the chief executive. That group is in charge of the Rules of Golf and organizes The Open and other R&A championships. It has female employees but its committee and board roles are populated by members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, meaning there are currently no women in leadership roles.
—By The Associated Press