THE ROYAL AND ANCIENT of St Andrews has voted yes to allowing women members for the first time in its 260-year history.
The R&A's 2,400 members voted via a postal ballot and the vote was passed by a margin of 85%-15%.
"This is a very important and positive day in the history of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club," said chief executive Peter Dawson.
"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."
Dawson added the vote would take immediate effect and a "significant" initial number of women would be fast-tracked to membership in the coming months to avoid the long waiting list.
Sports Minister Helen Grant has also backed the decision, saying: "I am pleased that the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews have voted in favour of admitting women members.
"This is positive news for the sport and I hope we will now see other golf clubs that still have outdated same sex policies follow suit. With golf in the next Olympics there is a huge opportunity for the sport to grow and this sends out the right inclusive message that golf is for everyone."
The PGA's Ted Bishop said: "Women have played and will continue to play an integral role in the game of golf.
"In fact, women represent the biggest growth market in the sport, and every step to make golf more inclusive is good for the game.
"The PGA of America is thrilled that the R&A is welcoming women into its organisation, and loudly applauds its decision."