It will be difficult to know which vote is the most important on September 18.

The date will be a red-letter one for campaigners who have been fighting for right of women to be admitted to the Royal & Ancient (R&A) Golf Club of St Andrews after 260 years - as well as being the day of Scotland's independence referendum.

The R&A, which also serves as the governing body of golf and organises the Open, was stung into holding a vote on the "anachronistic" single-sex policy following political and commercial pressure after it emerged that women members are barred from Muirfield, East Lothian, where the championship took place last year.

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However, it is unlikely the R&A will shift the day and date of its 2400 members' vote as it is enshrined in its club constitution.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said it is expected that its ballot boxes would get more than more than the required two-thirds needed to change the rule.

He admitted earlier that the issue of single-sex membership was divisive. But Mr Dawson said yesterday the rule-change plan had been well-received.

He said: "We very much hope once the vote is taken we will be welcoming women to the club.

"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.

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

Mr Dawson also said the September 18 vote clash is coincidence.

He said: "The reason for that is that it is enshrined in our constitution - that it has to be the day before the last day of medal week.

"If we can change that, what we are doing is unconstitutional. We have to make sure all R&A members have a postal votes for the other ballot."

UK Sport and Equalities Minister Helen Grant said: "This is welcome news from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and I urge its members to follow their committees' recommendations and vote 'yes' for women members.

"It would mark a step in the right direction for the sport and I would hope encourage the remaining golf clubs that still have anachronistic single-sex member policies to follow suit."

First Minister Alex Salmond called the policy "indefensible in the 21st century" and boycotted last year's Open, which also excluded women members.

Sponsors had also indicated that the issue needed to be addressed.

Sports Minister Shona Robison said: "This is great news for golf and sport in Scotland. As the founding club of the R&A, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is an important institution and can provide an example that other clubs will follow. I warmly welcome the announcement and the committee's recommendations."

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes, who had previously called for women to be admitted, said she was glad the R&A had finally 'found their voice" on the issue. She added: "The R&A say that the spirit of the game of golf is epitomised in three words - honesty, integrity and courtesy; it's long overdue that these sentiments were carried from the courses into the clubhouses."

A spokesman for the R&A said: "The Club's committees are strongly in favour of the rule change and are asking members to support it."