The Evolution of Women’s Golf
How the game of golf has changed over the years and why women’s golf is only getting better.
Golf is a game that is deeply rooted in history and tradition, and for centuries has been identified as an elite sport for men. But, this was not always the case. In fact, Mary, Queen of Scots introduced the game of golf as we know it, all the way back in the 1550’s. During a trip to France, the Queen came across a similar game and enjoyed it so much that when she returned she insisted a golf course be built at St. Andrews in Scotland. Her influence ignited a passion for golf across Scotland and beyond.
The rise of women in golf
Unfortunately, the Queen’s legacy and reign didn’t last as long as it should have. In 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots was put on trial for playing a game of golf just a few days after her husband’s death. Her prosecutor noted that this was very suspicious behaviour coming from a woman who hasn’t had much time to mourn the death of her husband. It was also said that the Queen was playing “sports that were clearly unsuitable to women”.
Women’s inclusion in golf became a thing of the past and the game became focused around men and their businesses, and because women weren’t involved in business at the time, there was no need for them to be on the golf course. Thankfully, history would eventually take a turn for the better.
It was only centuries later that women would appear back in the golf scene. In the 1860s, British women began forming their own golf clubs – regardless of the fact that there was a lack of places for them to play. The British golf club, Royal St. George, had a sign on their front door stating “No Dogs, No Women”.
At the end of the 19th century, the R&A members decided to build their wives a putting green next to The Old Course in St Andrews, where they could putt away from the course and the “Gentleman’s Only, Ladies Forbidden” sport. With great boredom and a burning desire to hit the ball at full swing, female UK golfers decided a legitimate ladies golf union needed to be created to give them a fair shot at golf.
In 1893 their spokesperson, Issette Miller, wrote to a leading amateur at the time to seek advice and was told -“constitutionally and physically women are unfitted for golf. They will never last through two rounds of a long course in a day. Nor can they ever hope to defy the wind and weather encountered on our best links even in spring and summer. Temperamentally, the strain will be too great for them.”
This demoralising response gave these women the drive they needed to get their plan underway, and in just a few weeks The LGU was born. That same year, Issette Miller invented the First Golf Handicap. This system levelled the playing field between competitors of different abilities and experience, a system that has influenced play till this day.
Later on, in 1938, Babe Didrikson Zaharias– dubbed one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century – became the first woman to compete in a men’s tournament at the Los Angeles Open. In 1950, she co-founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), which is the oldest women’s professional sports association in America.
The rest of the 20th century saw incredibly talented female golfers like Nancy Lopez, Karrie Webb and Michelle Wie make history in women’s golf around the world. “I still can’t believe that I’ve achieved what I have. It’s like I’ve lived a dream.” – Karrie Webb
But this growth and success in women’s golf wasn’t without criticism. “Women are everywhere. We’re letting them play golf and tennis now!”—Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade in 2012.
Despite criticism from the media and a handful of men-only clubs around the world, the passion for women’s golf is still apparent and still growing. We’re excited to see what the future holds for golf and know that it is set to be something spectacular.