A vote not to admit women golfers as members has cost the Scottish club Muirfield the right to host the British Open. Tournament organizers say if the club changes its policy it will be "reconsidered."
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described as "indefensible" the failure by Muirfield to muster a two-thirds majority required to drop its male-only policy.
In its postal ballot among 750 members, 36 percent voted against allowing women, with 64 percent of the male members in favor.
The acting minister for sports in the UK, David Evennett, said the decision by Muirfield's male membership to stay that way was "extremely disappointing" and sent out "completely the wrong message."
Two-time British Open champion Padriag Harrington backed the removal of Muirfield from the list of host clubs for golf's oldest major tournament.
"Gone are the days where you can discriminate in a club," he said.
Tournament rotated among clubs
Muirfield's removal was announced on Thursday by the Royal and Ancient (R&A), the body which organizes British opens and traditionally rotates them among 10 courses.
"The Open is one of the world's great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members," said the R&A.
"If the policy of the club should change, we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for The Open in future," said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.
Women welcome as 'guests'
Muirfield captain Henry Fairweather (pictured above) said he headed a "members club" that was entitled to decide on its own rules in its ballot of all-male members.
Women would, however, remain welcome as "guests and visitors," he added.
Newspaper The Scotsman reported on Wednesday that "no" campaigners within Muirfield had argued that a "traditional resistance to change is one of the foundations of our unique position in gold and our reputation."
Muirfield, which lies on the coastline east of Edinburgh, has staged British opens 16 times since 1892, most recently in 2013. Heavy external criticism when it hosted the last event prompted the club's internal ballot.
The only other club on the rotation list to still exclude women is Royal Troon, which has separate men's and women's clubs. Troon is to host this year's British Open in July. The club has assured R&A that it is considering changes to its gender policies.
The R&A's flagship course St. Andrews, the "spiritual" home of golf, opened its membership to women in 2014. Royal St. George's ended its male-only membership last year.
ipj/msh (AP, SID, AFP, dpa)