British Culture Secretary Maria Miller. Picture: Paul Ellis

London – One of sport’s enduring all-male bastions, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, is set to finally open its doors to female members according to reports in the British media on Wednesday.

The 260-year-old ruling body of golf, based at the St Andrews course in Scotland, is on the brink of recommending to the existing 2,500-strong membership they vote to allow women to join.

The issue has become a running sore for the R&A, the organisers of the British Open – the only one of golf’s major championships played outside the United States.

Several clubs on the British Open rotation are male-only institutions, including Muirfield near Edinburgh which staged last year’s edition.

However, British government culture secretary Maria Miller refused to attend the 2013 British Open because of Muirfield’s men-only policy, with Scottish First Minister and golf enthusiast Alex Salmond labelling the policy “indefensible in the 21st century”.

There have also been reports the R&A has come under pressure from high-profile sponsors concerned they might be damaged by association when the British Open is staged at clubs where women have no chance to be members.

Pressure on the R&A to change its stance intensified three years ago when the Augusta National Club in Georgia, which hosts the US Masters, finally opened its doors to women members after years of resistance.

Speaking about the “divisive” issue in July on the eve of the 2013 British Open, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said: “Obviously the whole issue of gender and single-sex clubs has been pretty much beaten to death recently.

“And we do, I assure you, understand that this is a divisive issue,” he said.

“It’s a subject that we’re finding increasingly difficult, to be honest.” – Sapa-AFP