A MILESTONE moment in a prestigious golf club’s history has been hailed as “very positive”.

Women were invited to join the world-famous Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield for the first time in 2019.

That came two years after more than 80 per cent of members voted in favour of allowing women to become members.

The Gullane course will host the AIG Women’s Open for the first time later this year.

Ahead of the prestigious competition, Stuart McEwen, club secretary, was delighted to say that the number of female members was closing in on 20.

He said: “It has been very encouraging, very positive.

“I think the whole atmosphere in the clubhouse is superb.

“Going from a single gender club to a mixed gender club, you do not really know what the response and reaction is going to be like and how it is going to feel until it actually happens.”

Muirfield is recognised as one of the premier golf courses in the world.

For more than a century, it has been a regular host of The Open, crowning champions including Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els.

Phil Mickelson was the winner in 2013 when it last hosted the Major.

A vote was taken in 2016 to allow women members but it fell narrowly short of reaching the 67 per cent share required for a change.

The move resulted in The R&A opting to remove Muirfield from the rotation of Open venues.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called Muirfield’s rejection of women members “indefensible”.

Several high-profile golfers, including Rory McIlroy, also criticised the stance.

A second vote was later taken and female members accepted, with changes being made to the club and the possibility of The Open returning to Muirfield restored.

Already, there are no men’s or women’s sections, with women members participating in competitions alongside men.

Currently, there are 18 female members, with that number expected to reach 20 by the time of The Women’s Open in August.

Members of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield propose new members.

When the vote took place in 2017, it was decided to create an additional 25 places for women.

Mr McEwen, who has previously worked at Kingsbarns Golf Club and Gleneagles, was pleased with the results since the changes were implemented.

He told the Courier it had created “an extra dimension” to the club.

Mr McEwen said: “It has been fantastic. If you look at other clubs that have changed their membership in recent years, the number of women members here has exceeded all those other clubs.”