After 80 years as a bastion of male only dominance, the clubhouse doors have swung open to welcome the fairer sex. Making one woman a member might have reeked of tokenism. But two? Wonders will never cease. Admittedly, these two new recruits are hardly a run of the mill Agnes or Dyliss. In Condoleeza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, and South Carolina financier Darla Moore, the Green Jackets will be donned by two fairly big hitters.
The newly-formed Augusta National Ladies' Club Championship should be an interesting affair. The times they are a changing and Monday's announcement was a hugely significant moment that speaks to the golfing world on a larger level. And it was a change that had been coming. A decade ago, Hootie Johnson, the then chairman of Augusta, was under heavy fire from the rampaging Martha Burk and her women's advocacy group because the club had no women members. "There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet," Johnson said back in 2002.
A few months later, Johnson penned the following, telling words. "Our society is changing, and it is only natural our club should reflect these changes in contemporary society. We are finding more and more that our existing members' suggestions for new members have broadened to include a varied cross section of this society. We expect this trend to continue."
Whether this trend sweeps across the Atlantic and the wind of change swirls around the dusty golfing corridors over here remains to be seen. A brief statement on the matter from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club last night suggested that nothing would be happening overnight. The R&A don't do knee jerk reactions, after all. "We read the announcement from Augusta National with great interest and we congratulate Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore," it read. "The Rules of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews specify a male membership and this policy remains a matter for our members to determine".
The St Andrews-based R&A, the ruling body for the game outside of the US and Mexico, has been taken to task on countless occasions for its male-only policy. The Open, the organisation's showpiece event, still bounces around similarly all-male clubs such as Royal Troon, Royal St George's and Muirfield, the staunchly male East Lothian redoubt that will host next July's championship. For clubs to wield power and enjoy commercial success in golf despite discriminating against half the population is all rather incredulous.
Peter Dawson, the R&A's chief executive, has often batted away the sexist question with the answer "we don't use the Open for social engineering." Yet, when powerful PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem reacts to the Augusta development with the line "this sends a positive and inclusive message for our sport" you can already sense that Dawson will be bracing himself for a further, even more prolonged bombardment from the critics and campaigners in the months ahead.
Shona Malcolm, chair of the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association and chief executive of the Ladies Golf Union, added her voice: "It is part of an evolution rather than a revolution. People are waking up to the fact ladies are interested in golf. Equality is going full circle."
Augusta has started a sizeable ball rolling on that front. How far it will go remains to be seen.