Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, will retire next September after 16 years of service to golf's governing body.
Dawson, 63, has been the most senior figure of the R&A since he succeeded Sir Michael Bonallack in 1999. He will also step down from his position as secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
In a statement released by the regulatory body, they thanked the long-serving, former European Tour winner for his continued efforts to grow the game of golf worldwide.
It read: "The Open Championship has enjoyed continuing commercial success throughout Dawson's tenure, enabling the R&A to invest substantially in supporting the development of golf around the world through rules education, grassroots initiatives, coaching, the provision of green-keeping equipment and university golf.
"The R&A now works with 152 affiliated organisations from the amateur and professional game in 138 countries and jointly administers the Rules of Golf, the Rules of Amateur Status, Equipment Standards and the World Amateur Golf Ranking with the USGA."
Dawson also played an influential role in securing golf's passage into the Rio 2016 Olympics. As a result, he was appointed president of the International Golf Federation in 2010, of which the board has decided to extend his tenure until at least 2016.
His retirement could coincide with the first ever admittance of women member's at St. Andrews, a full 260 years after its creation.
On 18 September, members of the R&A will vote for or against the motion, but it is widely speculated to have strong support, hence their decision to place it in the public eye. If the vote fails, it would be a huge embarrassment for the sport.
Dawson said on that matter at the time that he felt they had "strong support" for the vote, but refused to talk about his role within it.
He said at the time: "We have been considering this, and it's been on our radar for quite some time. As society changes, as sport changes, as golf changes, it's something the R&A needs to do, and we're trying to be as forward-looking as we can today.
"We don't do personal stuff at the R&A. I think the general committee had a very full discussion about it on several occasions and obviously as secretary I am party to these discussions and prepare papers for it and so on. But I wouldn't say my role was pivotal. I am more than happy with the decision."
Women member's has been a hot topic of discussion ever since Augusta National admitted their first ever female members in 2012, as well as The Open being held at Muirfield last summer - a course that still does not allow women membership.
The search for Dawson's successor will begin this weekend in the hope of appointing someone in the foreseeable future to allow time for a smooth transition going into next year.
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