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.
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,
IT’S A GREAT LIFE
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.