Women’s golf club membership has not always been easy to achieve. While some clubs have encouraged women to take up the sport, others took a long time to accept them into this male-dominated world.
In 1811, the first golfing tournament for women took place in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh. This was not a tournament where the women played 18 holes on a full-sized golf course; it took place on a pitch and putt course.
Early Female Golf Clubs
It was in 1867 that the St Andrews Ladies’ Golf Club was formed; it still exists today under the name of the St Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club. At first, membership of this club remained low, but after 19 years they had managed to recruit around 500 members. Female players in the south-east of England were also encouraged to play with the development of an 18 hole golf course at Westward Ho!.
In the US, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in the state of New York opened in 1891 and women were able to obtain membership. They also had their own nine-hole course. Women’s tournaments were played here and also at the Meadow Brook Club, also in the state of New York.
The world of women’s golf started to develop properly at the start of the 20th century. Players such as Issette Pearson helped to promote the sport, and the United States Golf Association formed the Women’s Tournament Committee in 1917. In 1932, the first Curtis Cup was played in England at the Wentworth Club. Teams representing the US and Great Britain and Ireland took part. The Americans were the victors, and this tournament is still played every two years.
Professional Female Golf Players
It was in the year 1934 that Helen Hicks became the first professional female golfer. She won the Women’s Western Open in 1937 and the Titleholders Championship in 1940. Another player, Babe Zaharias, who was an athlete, became the first female golf player to attempt to take part in a men’s golfing tournament. It would be several decades before another female player tried this.
Over the next few decades, great strides were made in female golf, with the formation of the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950 by a group of high-profile female golfers. Wilson Sporting Goods helped to fund the association which established several tournaments.
In the 1960s, female golf tournaments started to be televised, and this helped to raise the profile of the sport, particularly in the US. It is known that this encouraged women to take up the sport and boosted support for the female game. In the 1990s, there were several programs designed to promote women’s golf even further. Now, female golf club membership is at its highest level ever, and with more and more women taking up the sport, it is not likely that this will change.