APPARENTLY, the earth is now spinning faster than ever. This clump of space rock that we exist on completed a full rotation in a time that was 1.59 milliseconds shorter than its standard 24-hour whirl. 

Amid the tumult of the cost of living crisis, we're now getting less planetary birl for our buck. What a bloomin’ state we’re in.

According to the boffins, this acceleration in the earth’s revolution is down to something called The Chandler Wobble, which sounds like the hair-raising affliction an auld golfing colleague of mine developed when he stood over short putts. 

You can’t do much in 1.59 milliseconds, of course, although it’s probably just enough time for a scunnered reader to glimpse the letter N in Nick Rodger at the top of this page and toss the sports supplement in the bin.

For those of you who are still here, let’s plough on. The five-week run of showpiece occasions on Scottish soil reaches an historic finale when the AIG Women’s Open gets underway on Thursday at Muirfield.

If you had suggested a few years ago that this particular women’s major would be held at the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers you probably would’ve been strapped to a gurney and rolled into the depths of the Firth of Forth.

Back in 2016, the Muirfield assemblage voted against allowing female members and came up against a riot of pitchfork wielding condemnation that just about spun the earth off its axis let alone increase its twirling rate by one thousandth of a second. The result of said vote had only been out for that length of time too when the R&A dunted Muirfield off the Open rota.

In the fist-shaking aftermath, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, branded the result “simply indefensible”, the then MP for East Lothian, George Kerevan, roared that it “imperils the sport” and newspaper columnists bawled that male-only clubs were “Scotland’s shame”. In the grand scheme of this country’s ills, some of the reaction was spectacularly hysterical.

Yet, there was no getting away from the reputational damage caused to Muirfield and the game. Those negative perceptions of golf being some prejudiced, stuffy, elitist pursuit that’s as fusty as a damp bible were simply strengthened and the club was almost condemned to exile.

This had all been brewing for a while, of course. In the build-up to the 2013 men’s Open at Muirfield, for instance, the relentless battering almost overwhelmed the R&A high command. Just to refresh our minds, here’s a little exchange that happened just a few minutes into the pre-championship press conference between Peter Dawson, the then chief executive of the R&A, and a salivating news reporter. 

From talk of hard fairways and how fast the greens were running on the stimp, the direction of chatter swiftly veered into contentious territory.

Question: “As you said, single sex clubs are legal but, morally, what’s the difference between men-only and whites-only?”

Peter Dawson: “Oh, goodness me, I think that's a ridiculous question if I may say so. There's a massive difference between racial discrimination or anti-semitism where sectors of society are downtrodden and treated very, very badly indeed. And to compare that with a men's golf club I think is frankly absurd. There's no comparison whatsoever.’

It was frenzied stuff and it highlighted the gathering momentum of the gender issue. Then again, given the tangled, controversial and emotive layers of moral debate the world of golf is currently embroiled in with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf palaver, a stooshie involving one or two male-only clubs would probably be viewed as a bit of light escapism these days.

But in these days, things have changed. A year after the initial vote to maintain a male-only membership was delivered – and to be fair, most who did vote the first time were in favour of the motion but the result fell short of the two-thirds majority required - the Honourable Company went back to the polls in 2017 and the proposal was passed with an 80 per cent romp.

Here in 2022, the club now has 20 female members and their involvement at the very heart of it  – as well as a multi-million pound investment into suitable facilities - shows this is just not a gesture of tokenism. In fact, we shouldn’t really say male and female members should we? They are all simply members of a mixed golf club and that has been a significant step for a place that had a men-only membership for 275 years.

Of course, some will say we shouldn’t leap to praise an institution that stuck with such a policy until 2017. As one of my golf writing brethren cynically scribbled at the time, “admission of women members is akin to adults learning how to use cutlery properly.”

But in a game rooted in history and tradition, change happens slowly. The staging of the AIG Women’s Open this week is a momentous moment on Muirfield’s journey and the opportunity to showcase the best female golfers on the planet will continue the process of rehabilitation for a club that had its reputation trashed and its membership ridiculed.

The roll of honour here includes mighty names like Vardon, Braid, Cotton, Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo, Els and Mickelson. The addition of a Women’s Open champion will be a major milestone for Muirfield.