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.
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.
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.
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.
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.