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25 Jun 2019

The evolution of women in golf

While women have always shown great interest and skill in the area of golf, like many things in this world, they have faced a chequered past with their male counterparts. Early on in the game’s history, women had rather a pivotal role in establishing golf as we know it today. In fact, it was Mary, Queens of Scots who commissioned the building of St Andrews golf course. Given most would acknowledge St Andrews as the birthplace of golf as we know it, women certainly had a role to play.

Unfortunately, women’s relationship with the game went a little downhill after that. As it turns out, the queen’s relationship with the game was a factor that contributed to her death.

On trial in 1587, her prosecutors suggested that because she’d played golf mere days after the death of her husband, her character must have been questionable. Sadly in the end, she was beheaded.

Golfing Empress, Mary, Queen of Scots | Artist’s Interpretation
Golfing Empress, Mary, Queen of Scots | Artist’s Interpretation

A long road back to the game

Whether poor old Mary, Queen of Scots was the reason or not, women seemed to disappear from golf altogether for nearly three hundred years. While the men of Scotland embraced the game, women were either not interested, or perhaps more likely, discouraged, from engaging in what was now becoming a gentleman’s game.
It wasn’t until 1867 that the first ever women’s organisation was formed, St Andrews’ The Ladies Club. They faced many struggles as they fought for credibility and a place on the course.

Famously, weeks before the determined women of the sport established the first ever Ladies Golf Union in 1893, they were met with scoffs and negativity. Yet the group were a success from the start, celebrating the inaugural British Women’s championship in the same year.

The Ladies Club at St. Andrews 1894
The Ladies Club at St. Andrews 1894

It was a woman who evened the playing field

While the traditional men of the game continued to exclude women in whatever way they could, women of the game were passionately honing and developing their craft. It was top female golfer Isette Miller who played a crucial role in developing the handicap system in 1893.

This change, which was happily embraced by the men of the sport became a fantastic leveller, enabling those with less experience to enjoy the game alongside the skilled players.

Weekes paddock, lady golfers
Ladies golfing at Weekes' paddock, Gundagai, NSW circa 1887

Women’s golf hit Australia

Golf in Australia really picked up steam at the turn of the last century. For women, this meant the establishment of the NSW Ladies Golf Union, which at its inception in 1903 had the participation of just five clubs.

Golfing for women in Australia grew massively over the years and after a brief hiatus during the first World War, the Australian Ladies Golf Union was established in 1921.

Bourke Golf Club 1912
Bourke Golf Club in Bourke, NSW circa 1912

A Fairway to go to get equality

Over the years, women golfers around the world faced criticism and ridicule. Many clubs ensured that no woman would enter their clubhouses and even Babe Zaharias, the first woman to compete (pretty spectacularly we might add) in a men’s tournament, wasn’t allowed to step foot in many clubs.

All over the world, women golfers were ushered out the back door, so as not to offend their male counterparts.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias at the All-American tournament at Chicago’s Tam-O’Shanter Country Club, Chicago, Illinois, 1951. (Credit: Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Babe Didrikson Zaharias won her last major golf tournament while suffering from terminal cancer. Photo credit: Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Golf is one of the most blood thirsty of games. It is therefore necessarily one of the most interesting of games. 
June 1909 by LMC, The Fortian Magazine for Fort Street Model School

Women’s Golf in New South Wales

Since the formation of the New South Wales Ladies Golf Union in 1903, now called Women's Golf New South Wales, things have evolved in many ways over the years.

Women are celebrated and acknowledged in most top clubs and the women’s championships are every bit as nail biting as the men’s. There are few rules that exclude women in the game now.

Although, even today traditional golf etiquette dictates that women must wait for men to go ahead. Moore Park Golf is one of the only clubs in the country where women do not have to wait for the men.

Golfer Miss Odette Lefebvre putting a golf NSW 1930
Golfer Miss Odette Lefebvre putting in front of a crowd, NSW circa 1930

Did you know? Mrs Anne (G.E.) Fairfax was the first President of the Ladies' Golf Union which formed in 1903.

Moore Park Golf

Only a stone’s throw from the city centre, and right next door to Centennial Parklands, Moore Park Golf, holds the title of Sydney’s first public golf course, opening the Golf House in 1926. 

When Scottish born Duncan McMillian resigned from his post as the Moore Park Golf Club Secretary in 1954, Mr Eric Blair took up the position. Shortly afterwards, Eric's then 14-year-old daughter Carole was honing in her skills with the help of master swinger Sam Richardson at Moore Park Golf.

At the young age of 16-years-old, Carole won two club majors, the Moore Park Winter Sield, a 36-hole stroke competition, and the Barrows Cup. By 1965 Carole was at the height of her golfing prowess, playing a handicap of 1.

During this time Carole was considered a weekend golfer as she worked full-time as an accounting machine operator with the Department of the Army and took annual leave to play in championships. 
Carole played grade pennants for 39 years and became a NSW State and Australian Captain in 1987, representing Australia on 4 occasions.

carole blair 1971
Carole Blair is one of the most accomplished golfers from Moore Park Golf.

More than just a game

Golf is a social sport with many health and wellbeing benefits. While the weather is cooler golf is a great way to spend time outdoors, reconnect with nature or spend time with a loved one. 

Moore Park Golf offers programs and lessons designed for all abilities plus a driving range to practice.

If you’re looking for a progressive open course, where men and women are equal, take a swing at Moore Park Golf.

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