One of the oldest and most prestigious country clubs in Japan that is scheduled to host golf competitions in the 2020 Olympic Games voted Monday to allow females to join the club as full-time members. The vote came amid threats from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that another venue would be chosen if they didn't change their policy on gender.
The board of directors of the Kasumigaseki County Club in the capital city of Tokyo reached a unanimous vote on the issue three days after IOC President Thomas Bach said gender equality must be respected. The club, which was founded in 1929, received international scrutiny for its previous policies under which women weren't allowed to be full-time members or play golf on Sundays. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged the private country club on Jan. 13 to let women play golf on any day of the week after women had only been allowed to golf Monday through Saturday if they were accompanied by a male member.
The president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Yoshirō Mori, praised the club's board of directors, which is solely made up of 15 male members, for voting to uphold the spirit of the Olympic charter of non-discrimination.
“I’d like to extend my gratitude to the members of the club for their understanding and cooperation,” Mori said in a statement issued to Reuters Monday.
The historic Muirfield Golf Club in Scotland, which has hosted the British Open 16 times since 1892, voted to allow its first female members in its 273-year history on Friday after the tournament’s governing committee announced that the club wouldn't be allowed to host anymore tournaments if they didn’t let women to join.
Golf is a tremendously popular sport in Japan, with the U.S. being the only country in the world that has golf courses than Japan’s 2,400. The famed Augusta National Country Club, which hosts the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, every April, admitted former Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice and prominent private investor Darla Moore as its first female members in 2012.