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Women to break through golf's final frontier?

updated 9:59 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vote to allow women to join Royal and Ancient Golf Club for first time in 250 years
  • Club is based at St. Andrews, Scotland -- known as the home of golf
  • R&A is golf's governing body outside of the U.S. and Mexico
  • Critics had been outraged by its male-only policy

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(CNN) -- It may have taken 260 years but the home of golf is finally preparing to allow women to join its ranks.

The Royal & Ancient Club of St. Andrews, which was established in 1764 and serves as golf's governing body outside of the U.S. and Mexico, has faced growing criticism for its all-male policy.

A ballot will be held in September, with 2,500 members expected to ratify the proposal.

The R&A says it hopes the resolution will pass with the required two-thirds majority.

"The club's committees are strongly in favor of the rule change and are asking members to support it," a spokesperson told CNN.

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Speaking to CNN in July last year, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson insisted the single-sex policy of clubs such as 2013 British Open host venue Muirfield -- and others -- was a historic hangover.

He told reporters at Wednesday's announcement of the September vote: "It's something that has been expected; I'm not going to say overdue but I'm sure I'll be asked that question.

"Early indications from the members are very positive indeed. We have been talking about this for quite a while and it's our governance role which has been the driving factor.

"Society is changing, sport is changing, golf is changing and I think it's appropriate for a governing body to take this step."

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club has traditionally been the guardian of the rules of the game since 1754, although since 2004 it devolved responsibility for the administration of the game and the British Open to the newly-formed R&A.

Last year the R&A was criticized for choosing East Lothian's Muirfield, which has a male-only membership policy, to host Europe's only major -- and Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond refused to attend the tournament.

The move by the R&A brings it in line with Augusta National, which allowed female members to join the prestigious U.S. club for the first time in 80 years in 2012.

Augusta, which hosts the Masters, faced years of protests with President Obama also adding pressure on the organization.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore became the first women to be admitted as members.

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