May 11, 2018 / 12:08 PM / 7 months ago

Olympics: Tokyo Games golf venue admits first female members after criticism

TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) - The club scheduled to stage the golf tournament during the 2020 Tokyo Games has granted three women full memberships after being warned that it could be stripped as an Olympic host if it does not change its discriminatory policy.

People play golf at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, Japan, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Oh Hyun

The exclusive Kasumigaseki Country Club scrapped its male-only membership in March 2017 after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated it would find another venue if the policy remained in place.

The club said on Friday that it had granted three women equal membership rights as their male counterparts for the first time in four decades.

“This May is the first time we have accepted full membership after changing our rules,” club general manager Hiroshi Imaizumi said.

Until the rule change, Kasumigaseki allowed women to play at the course but they were not allowed to become full members or play on certain Sundays, unlike male members.

The Saitama venue is scheduled to host both men’s and women’s tournaments in July and August 2020.

Tokyo 2020 organizers said they were delighted with the change in policy.

“We appreciate the significant efforts the club’s leadership and members made last year to amend the club’s membership policy in keeping with the spirit of the Olympic charter,” said Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya.

“The club is an outstanding venue with excellent courses and we are pleased it will be hosting the world’s top-tier golfers for the Olympic Games.”

Golf was re-introduced to the Olympic program for the 2016 Rio Games after a 112-year absence.

Several notable golf clubs have changed their policies to allow female members in recent years.

In 2014, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews decided to allow women to join following 260 years of exclusion, after Augusta National, home of the U.S. Masters, had ended its men-only membership two years earlier.

Earlier this year, Muirfield voted to admit women members, scrapping a policy that led to the historic Scottish links course being stripped of its eligibility to host the British Open.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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