Japan's Olympic golf venue admits first female members

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japan's golf venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has granted full membership to women for the first time, after lifting a ban under pressure from Games authorities.

The upscale Kasumigaseki Country Club told AFP it had upgraded three women to full membership after agreeing last year to admit female members, following criticism from the International Olympic Committee.

"After the change of the rules, we asked members including men if they want to have full membership, and three women wanted to change their status to full membership," club general manager Hiroshi Imaizumi said.

The board of the club -- where Japanese President Shinzo Abe played with US leader Donald Trump in November -- this week approved the requests after receiving no complaints or opposition from other members, he said.

Until last year, the private club in Japan's Saitama region had women on its roster but they were not allowed to become full members and could not play on certain Sundays -- restrictions that did not apply to male members.

The club has around 200 female associate members who are either relatives of male full-fledged members, or "weekday members" who are barred from playing on Sundays.

After being selected as a host venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the club came under pressure to change its rules, with IOC chief Thomas Bach threatening to take the golf competition elsewhere and asking the club to choose "non-discrimination".

Tokyo's female governor Yuriko Koike also complained about the ban, saying she felt "extreme discomfort" at the fact women were prevented from full membership.

Imaizumi said the club had two female full members about four decades ago, but that the ban on women was introduced several years later for reasons unknown.

The decision to lift the ban "is the trend of the time", he said.

It came after Scotland's prestigious Muirfield golf club last year voted to allow women members, ditching a ban that had been in place for 273 years.