Today, women are continuously participating in golf. Currently, there are about 5.8 million women who play golf, and the number is projected to rise each year. The involvement of women in the golfing scene has a long history behind it, dating back to the 1500s, to get to where it is today.
Early Golf – 1500s
Going back to 1542 to 1567, Mary, the Queen of Scots, is noted as the first female to engage in golfing. In fact, she is credited in creating the term “caddie,” which comes from her assistant referral name “cadets.” During her ruling, St. Andrews Link, a famous golf course, was built.
Fast-forwarding to 1811, the first recorded golf tournament for women was conducted. This was done in Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland and was organized by the Musselburgh Golf Club. Shortly after this, in 1843, the St. Andrews Golf Club was formed and then expanded to the first-ever women’s golf club in 1867. The club became known as The Ladies Putting Club of St Andrews.
In the United States, one of the earliest clubs established was the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, in 1891. This club welcomed women to play. As the women population grew, another 9-hole course was built specially for them. The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club also became the source that first hosted the 6th U.S. Women’s Amateur. It was held at the Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead, New York, in 1895.
In 1917, the Women’s Tournament Committee of the United States Golf Association was established. In 1934, it became the Women’s Committee of the U.S.G.A.
In 1991, the growth of golfing programs emerged to help inspire women to participate in golf. With this can the LPGA Foundation, which encouraged the youth and juniors to play while offering scholarships for girls. With this rise, the Executive Women’s Golf Association, EWGA, was formed to increase participation within employed women. Along with a developing sport came opportunities for women entrepreneurs to design and manufacture golf accessories, and womens golf clothes including golf shoes, shirts, and golf skirts.
In 2001, the Women’s Senior Golf Tour, now known as the Legends Tour, was established for professional women golfers for ages 45 or older. In addition there were many iconic women that helped golf become what it is today.
In 2002, Suzy Whaley competed in the Connecticut PGA Championship and became the first woman ever to win an individual PGA professional tournament. After this win, it prompted the PGA to develop the “Whaley rule,” which requires every player, both men and women, to play from the same tees.
In 2011 Mariel Galdiano, age 13, became the youngest golfer to make the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open. That same year, Lexi, 16 years old, won the Navistar Tournament and was the youngest woman to win an LPGA tournament.
In 2016, golf returned to the Olympics Inbee Park was the first gold medalist in gold since the 1900s.
Golf has been a sport that is played and loved by many over the generations. It has a rich history with significant accomplishments. Even though golf was, and still may be, seen as a male-dominated sport, the growing acceptance of women players grew, especially at the turn of the century. The history of women’s golf was not an easy one, but with perseverance, it has brought victories that we will always remember.