Muirfield members have voted against proposals to allow women to join their golf club.

Members of the club had campaigned against women joining and sent out an extraordinary letter - claiming letting females in would "endanger our foursomes and speedy play".

The leaked letter revealed the depth of hostility among a significant proportion of male members towards any change in the status quo.

Under a headline entitled "the risks", the letter states: "We are not an ordinary club.

"Our special nature - 'a gentleman's club where golf is played' - is quite unique with its fraternity built inter alia on foursomes play with a round taking only the same time as lunch and leaving enough time for a further round after lunch (even in mid winter).

"This is one of the miracles in modern day play and is much admired. Our foursomes and speedy play would be endangered."

The letter goes onto make the claim that any woman member at Muirfield is "bound to feel uncomfortable" - and makes the bizarre suggestion that letting in women could disrupt the club's lunch arrangements.

Then, in remarks likely to cause outrage among anti-sexism campaigners, the letter claims it would take a "very special lady gofer" to be able to perform at the same level as the club's men.

The letter, circulated among a group of 33 club members, said: "The introduction of lady members is bound to create difficulties.

"Regardless of the conventions when they first join they are likely over time to question our foursomes play, our match system, the uncompromising challenge our fine links present, our lunch arrangements.

"It will take a very special lady golfer to be able to do all the things that are expected of them in the template which is suggested and the ladies' membership as a whole may not meet this standard."

The letter adds: "We are criticised by some for being 'elitist', but if we are that is entirely due to a membership selection process which emphasises an overriding requirement that prospective members appreciate and accept our traditions."

As a "compromise" the letter suggested the creation of a "lady-friendly" second course and clubhouse at the venue.

The club also faced a barrage of negative publicity when it hosted the 2013 Open, with the then First Minister Alex Salmond saying it was "indefensible" in the 21st century "not to have a golf club that's open to all".

Television presenter Clare Balding later revealed she had refused to host coverage of the championship because of the club's stance.

Muirfield and Troon are the only remaining clubs on the 10-strong Open rota to have a male-only membership policy after Royal St George's voted last year to admit women members. .