Attitudes Toward Women Golfers in the Early Days (Part 1)


From old Life Magazine, 1900 (Life Publishing Co.)

From old Life Magazine, 1900 (Life Publishing Co.)


The period of about 1880 to 1900 marked the first major expansion of golf interest and play among Englishmen. This golf boom was sparked in part by the publication of The Badminton Library: Golf written and edited by Horace G. Hutchinson. Most of the new players were men. However, women’s golf received a boost during this period when the first British Ladies Championship was held at Lytham St. Anne’s in 1893.

Nevertheless, Lord Wellwood may have expressed the prevailing attitude of his fellows when he wrote in Hutchinson’s book,  “If [women] choose to play at times when the male golfers are feeding or resting, no one can object…at other times…they are in the way.” Hutchinson, himself, was even more direct, when he was quoted as saying, “Constitutionally and physically women are unfit for golf.”

In the U.S., the first women’s amateur championship was held in 1895 at the Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead, N.Y. But when golf began in America, the general attitude toward women golfers was anything but supportive. Consider a 1900 cartoon (above) showing a caddie on a knees ostensibly looking for a lost ball but actually looking at a shapely woman golfer nearby. The caption says “ADVICE TO CADDIES – You will save time by keeping your eye on the ball, not on the player.”

Golf poetry, when the subject was a woman golfer, also often focused on the girl and not the golf. Here is an example from Lyrics of the Links, an anthology of golf poems collected by Henry Litchfield West and published in 1921.

                     A TOAST

Oh, here’s to the merry golfing maid,
The maid whom we all adore;
With her buoyant tread and her coat of red,
And her cheerful cry of “fore!”

To the maid with the sun-kissed, ruddy face
And a freckle here and there;
The jolly girl with the truant curl,
And a heart as light as air.

To the maiden who follows the snowy ball
Far over the hills and dales;
Oh, she is the queen of the putting green,
Where her masculine rival quails.

So drink to the girl on the ballroom floor,
Or the yachting girl at sea;
But I’ll drink a toast to the girl I love most─
The golfing girl for me!

Ridicule was one of the few weapons women had to get back at male golfers and poets. Amelia Adams Harrington, clearly an early feminist, wrote these lines,


Hello, dear, how are you?
Glad you came around.
Fred’s out at the Country Club
Batting up the ground.

Did you go to Martha’s
Fred came in too late.
Played ‘til it was pitchy dark,
Forgot we had a date.

Oh, you leave tomorrow?
I would like it there.
Freddie won’t hear of it, for
The course is only fair.

We are coming ‘round to see
You and Mr. Haines.
Possibly on Sunday
That is─if it rains.

To be continued next week.




  1. No story of the very early days of women and golf would be complete without mention of Mary Stuart, also known as Mary Queen of Scots.

    In the 16th century the game of golf had become firmly established on the east coast of Scotland and was spreading abroad. Mary was a notable player.

    Her for golf was so strong that she fell foul of the Church and Scottish nobles for playing golf only a few days after the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, rather than mourning “properly” following his death. Today we would call that coping, given the zen-like nature of the game and its ability to help push away anything but the ball and the hole. Back then, obviously, things were far different.

  2. golfpoet says:

    Thank you for your comment. I agree. In fact I mention Mary Queen of Scots at the beginning of an earlier Post called “The Golf Girl – 1899 Version.”

  3. Legend has it that Mary Queen of Scots gave rise to the term “dormie”. This term used in match play means that the score is such that one player (or team) is the same number of holes ahead as there are still to play; thus that should one hole be halved, that leading player will win the match. As a result the the player can relax, knowing that he cannot lose the match.
    Many believe the term originates from the French/Latin “Dormir” that means “to sleep. It is believed that the queen like to take a nap while playing her round. While her Highness slept all could relax.
    Yet another believe also puts this term right in Queen Mary’s love of the links. The heathland near the coast is home to a number of indigenous species, including dormice, or “dormies” in the argot of the East Coast of Scotland. Dormice, as shy creatures, generally hid well from passing golfers, but a sighting was held to be particularly good luck for any links player passing.
    Either way the term still exist today and is often linked back to her Highness’s love of golf.


  1. […] Ball Poetry.” Others high on the list include, “A Poem You Can Relate To,” “Attitudes Toward Women Golfers in the Early Days,” and “Lying in Golf […]

  2. […] 8.  Attitudes Toward Women Golfers in the Early Days (Part 1) […]

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