When Were Women Allowed to Play Golf?

Women golfers have been hitting the links as early as 1552, the year Mary Queen of Scots commissioned St. Andrews Links, Scotland’s famous golf course 1. Although golf’s popularity has waxed and waned since then, women first became a force in golf in the U.S. in the 20th century when power players Babe Didrickson-Zaharias and Patty Berg were fixtures on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour 12.

Early History

Golf began when some bored Scotsmen began hitting pebbles with sticks in the 15th century. Mary Queen of Scots, the first woman golfer, is responsible for the concept of caddies on the golf course. When she played, French military cadets, or “caddies,” assisted her. Mary Queen of Scots helped spread enthusiasm for golf when she introduced the sport to the French when she studied in France.

Women's Golf in U.S.

Mr. and Mrs. John Reid, founders of St. Andrews Golf Club in Yonkers, New York, helped popularize golf in the U.S. after being introduced to the sport by a friend. The Reids enjoyed playing the sport as part of a couples competition, which seemed to be the usual way to play golf for women at that time, according to the History of Women’s Golf in America 13. The year 1891 was pivotal for women golfers in the U.S. It was during that year that the Shinnecock Hills golf course in Southampton, New York, constructed a nine-hole course for women and was the first club to offer membership to women golfers 1.

Early Competitions

Women began competing in golf matches as early as 1895, the year the U.S 1. Golf Association held the first Women’s Amateur Championship tournament. Women continued to enjoy tournament play in the early 1900s, but had to forgo playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I. In 1929, Glenna Collett became the first woman to win four U.S. Golf Association World Amateur championships, according to the History of Women’s Golf in America 1.

Ladies Professional Golf Association

The Ladies Professional Golf Association was formed in 1950 as a way to popularize the sport and provide competitive opportunities for golfers 2. Founders of the LPGA included such players as Sally Sessions, Louise Suggs, Berg and Didrickson-Zaharias, an Olympic medalist in track and field who later took up golf. Participants in LPGA tournaments were expected to do more than show up at the course with their clubs. Golfers had to pound hazard stakes into the ground, mark the golf course and call in results to the media. Over the years, tournament conditions improved as women’s golf became more accepted by men and women. While monetary prizes were often low or non-existent in early tournaments, professional women golfers eventually began to earn enough to make golf a career. In 2011, the LPGA reported that its tour members will compete in 25 official money events in 11 countries.