Women look set to finally be able to join one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, 260 years after it was founded.

The Royal & Ancient (R&A) Golf Club of St Andrews has always had a male-only membership policy, but management are now recommending that women be allowed to join.

Letters have been sent to all 2,400 members of the Fife club urging them to support female membership in a vote later this year.

The club is ''strongly in favour'' of the rule change and the vote will take place in September, requiring a two-thirds majority.

A spokesman for The Royal and Ancient Golf Club said: ''Members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the founding club of The R&A, will vote on a motion to admit women as members.

''The Club's committees are strongly in favour of the rule change and are asking members to support it. The vote is scheduled to take place in September of this year.''

It follows political and commercial pressure on the R&A, which also serves as the governing body of golf and organises the Open Championship.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, called the male-only rule ''indefensible in the 21st century'' and boycotted last year's Open at Muirfield, which also excluded women members.

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

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said in July last year that the issue of single-sex was ''divisive''.

Today, he said he was delighted with the recommendation and that it was been well received by members.

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.

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

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.''

Scotland's Sport Minister, Shona Robison, agreed, saying: "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 for change that other clubs will endorse and follow.

"I warmly welcome today's announcement and the committee's recommendations."