Muirfield is hosting the Women’s Open for the first time, five years after women were first admitted

It was a long wait that seemed to be lengthened in May 2016 when members of the privately owned club – The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers – voted against repealing its men-only membership policy. Founded in 1744 in Leith, Edinburgh, the club moved to the East Lothian site in 1891.
The result of that vote was called “obscene” by four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy and “unsustainable” by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Royal and Ancient (R&A) – organizers of the Open – promptly banned the course from hosting the Major.
However, Muirfield was reinstated as an Open venue in March of the following year after the club voted 80.2% to admit female members in a new vote, achieving the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the 2016 vote .

Five years later, to the great delight of the participants, the course opens its doors for the fifth and final major of the women’s season.

It will be a special kind of excitement for Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew, who will not only have the opportunity to experience a Major just a short drive from home, but will also go down in history as the first woman to play at Muirfield at teeing off at a Women’s Open.

“It’s a great honor when you’re asked to do something like this,” Matthew, Open Champion at Royal Lytham in 2009, told reporters on Tuesday.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience… all the players will see the men play here over the years and I think they’re excited about this opportunity to come here and play their own Opens.

“It just makes this Championship stand out and we are now going to courses where people are used to seeing The Open and the Majors. I think that’s good for us.”

Matthew holds the trophy aloft after her Open win at Royal Lytham St Annes Golf Club, England in 2009.

The 52-year-old admitted she was “disappointed” with the initial vote to keep male-only membership but believes the reversal shows progress is being made.

“You just have to look forward instead of looking back,” added Matthews. “Golf, starting in Scotland, maybe we had a lot more traditions that we’re just gradually moving with the times.

“Hopefully any girls or boys who play golf can see both the men and women playing on the same golf courses, which is good.”

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Anna Nordqvist arrives in East Lothian as the defending Open champion after claiming a one-shot win at Carnoustie last year. Making her first major appearance as an amateur at the event in 2007, the triumph cemented a “special” bond between the three-time Major winner and the Open.

“I’ve heard a lot about Muirfield,” said Nordqvist. “I know the lads have played here over the years so I think it’s a great opportunity for us to add Muirfield to our Open rotation.

“As I walked in through the gate, (I) saw my picture – it’s the first picture you see – obviously it still feels pretty surreal to have my name on the trophy,” she added.

Nordqvist poses with the Open trophy after winning Carnoustie in Scotland 2021.
A historic Open at Muirfield marks the continuation of a landmark week for women’s sport following England’s first-ever international championship win Sunday, followed by a record crowd at Wembley Stadium.

Despite the pain of seeing Sweden beat eventual champions 4-0 in the semi-finals, Nordqvist sees parallels in the increased coverage of women’s football and golf.

“It’s just exciting to see that I love women’s sport (all) around the world is getting more attention,” she said.

“It was quite a big event, the way they ran it and the TV times, I think that’s very important. Our tee times are also getting better. A lot of times we tee off earlier because (off)… the boys’ schedule.”


While Nordqvist tees off as reigning champion, Brooke Henderson arguably starts as a form player.

With her second major win at the Evian Championship in July, the Canadian racked up two Tour wins in just over a month. The 24-year-old has not finished 16th in any of her last five events.

After retiring from the Scottish Open, which was won by Japan’s Ayaka Furue on Sunday, Henderson is “recharged” and full of energy.

Brooke Henderson, center, celebrates after winning the Evian Championship.

“Playing this year means a lot to all of us,” she said. “It’s just proof that women’s football continues to grow – the purses are getting bigger, we’re on network television more and we’re playing in these better places.

“It’s just a really fun time to be a part of women’s golf because it’s growing so strongly and we feel like we’re making an impact for future generations.”

After a three-month hiatus that began in March due to a blood clot, world No. 3 Nelly Korda is enjoying every second back on the tour, especially ahead of a landmark major.
Fan picks up Nelly Korda's ball while still in play at the women's golf major

“I was really looking forward to attending this event this year,” she said.

“I knew the history and the fact that we were also going to be the first women’s tournament out here was pretty amazing.

“So I was just more excited to actually be out here playing this golf course and absorbing everything and the history of this place.”

Catriona Matthew will tee off first her group alongside Sophia Schubert and Louise Duncan on Thursday at 6:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. ET).