President Obama thinks women should be allowed membership in the Georgia golf club that is hosting the Masters tournament this week, according to the White House.  

"His personal opinion is women should be admitted," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a press briefing on Thursday.

The Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters golf tournament began on Thursday morning, only accepts male members, and is considered sacred ground in the world of professional golf.   


Carney said he spoke to Obama, an avid golfer, about the club's controversial rule, and the president expressed his opinion that women should be allowed to join.

"It's obviously up to the club to decide," Carney noted. "But his personal opinion is that women should be admitted to the club."

The debate over the club's exclusive membership has recurred numerous times since the club's founding in 1933. This year, technology company IBM, one of the tournament's corporate sponsors, appointed a woman, Virginia M. Rometty, as new chief executive. The CEOs of the tournament's corporate sponsors have traditionally been offered a complimentary membership in the club, but Rometty has not yet been offered one.

"We've kind of passed the time that women should be excluded from anything," Carney said.

Augusta's membership policy has long been a source of controversy for the club, and has bubbled up in the past around the time of the Masters, which is held every spring. 

Club Chairman Billy Payne sidestepped a question about the policy on Wednesday.

"As is the case whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members, and that statement remains accurate and remains my statement," he said.

Obama has made regular trips to the golf course during his time in the White House, and hit the links over the weekend for his first round of 2012. 

— This story was last updated at 12:40 p.m.