Female Golf Player

How the Role of Women in Golf Has Changed

On International Women’s Day we felt a an article about women’s golf might be a good subject. Once considered a predominantly male-dominated sport, golf has undergone significant transformations over the years, particularly in terms of women’s involvement. Understanding the evolution of women’s roles in golf is essential not only for appreciating the progress made but also for recognising the ongoing efforts towards greater inclusivity and gender equality in the sport.

The Historical Role of Women in Golf

From its early beginnings, women have been a part of the golfing landscape, albeit with numerous challenges and barriers to overcome.

In the early days of golf, societal norms dictated that women’s participation in the sport was limited, with few opportunities for them to play on equal footing with men.

This can be seen as early as the 16th Century:

  • 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots was criticised after being seen playing golf days after the death of her husband, Lord Darnley.
  • 1867 – Ladies Club of St Andrews is formed by local female golf players.
  • 1893 – The Ladies Golf Union were founded by women golfers in St Andrew’s but was heavily criticised by certain male players.
  • 1944 – The Women’s Professional Golf Association (WPGA) was established in the USA.
  • 1946 – The first women’s major event, the U.S. Women’s Open, was held at Spokane Country Club in Washington.
  • 1949 – The WPGA ceased operations.
  • 1950 – The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) was formed at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita, Kansas.
  • 1952 – The English Women’s Golf Association was formed, replacing the Ladies Golf Union.
  • 1953 – The U.S. Women’s Open became a United States Golf Association (USGA) event.
  • 1978 – The PGA Tour removed its restrictions on women joining, however, no women have joined the tour since this date and only a handful competing in PGA events.
  • 2011 – Both the English Women’s Golf Association and the men’s English Golf Union merged to form England Golf.

Despite these obstacles, pioneering women emerged, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations of female golfers.

Restrictions and Barriers

Throughout history, women faced various restrictions and barriers when it came to accessing golf clubs, competitions and courses.

Gender-based limitations were prevalent, with many clubs prohibiting women from becoming members or playing during certain times. This is now less common among most clubs. Moreover, cultural and societal attitudes towards women in golf often perpetuated stereotypes and biases, further hindering their participation.

Restrictions in competitions are still in effect in many clubs. Women, in general, are unable to drive the same distance as men, therefore, women are not always as competitive in a men’s amateur competition. Whether or not a woman can compete in a men’s event is often at the discretion of the golf club.

Famous Historical Women Golfers

Throughout history, there have been numerous trailblazing female golfers who defied the odds and left a lasting impact on the sport.

Babe Didrinkson Zaharias

An early pioneer of women’s golf, Babe Didrinkson Zaharias competed in multiple sports. She competed in the 1932 Olympics, winning two gold medals and one silver medal. Subsequently, Babe took up golf in 1935. She was the first woman to compete at a PGA event in 1938, the Los Angeles Open where she did not make the cut, but no other woman competed on a PGA event until over six decades later in 2003.

In 1945, Babe regained her amateur status and competed in three other PGA events in which she made the cut for two events. After winning several women’s amateur events she turned professional in 1947 and dominated the tour. In 1948 she applied to join the US Open but was rejected by the USGA on the basis that it was a male-only event. By 1950 Didrinkson won every women’s golf title available and retired due to health reasons.

Annika Sörenstam

Annika Charlotta Sörenstam, from Sweden, had a stellar career in women’s professional golf. Widely regarded as one of the best female golfers in history. Sörenstam’s legacy is adorned with remarkable achievements since starting her professional career in 1992, having secured victory in an impressive 90 international tournaments, a feat that crowns her as the female golfer with the highest number of wins. Among her notable triumphs are 72 official LPGA tournament victories, inclusive of ten majors, along with an additional 24 victories on the international stage.

In 2003, she completed a career grand slam, a remarkable feat attained by triumphing in each of the four major championships recognised during the zenith of her career. Despite retiring from competitive golf after the 2008 season, she returned one last time, which cemented he place in golfing history. She returned to win the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open, further solidifying her status as a force to be reckoned with.

Other Pro Female Golfers

There are too many professional female golfers to note, but here are some with incredible achievements in the game:

  • Patty Berg – Founding member of the LPGA and holds the most majors of any woman golfer with 15.
  • Kathy Whitworth – Won 98 tours during her career and was dominant in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Mickey Wright – Started her professional career in 1955 and went on to win 13 majors during her time playing golf.

Women’s Golf Events

In the contemporary era, women’s golf events have evolved significantly, with a diverse range of tournaments and championships showcasing the talent and skill of female golfers across the world.

Major women’s golf events attract global attention and serve as platforms for women to compete at the highest levels of the sport. Since 1930 there have been major championships for women, currently, there are five majors held throughout the golf season:

  • The Chevron Championship – started in 1983
  • Women’s PGA Championship – started in 1955 but was called the LPGA Championship until 2014
  • U.S. Women’s Open – started in 1946
  • The Evian Championship – started in 2013
  • The Women’s Open – started in 2001

Diversity and Inclusion at Golf Clubs

Promoting diversity and inclusion in golf is essential for ensuring that the sport remains accessible and welcoming to all. However, this was not always the way. What is thought to be the last male-only golf club in the UK opened its doors to women in 2019.

Initiatives aimed at encouraging more women to take up golf, as well as creating an inclusive environment within clubs and organisations, are crucial for driving positive change. Also, building interest in golf at a young age will discover talent regardless of gender or socio-economic background.

Women Golfers at West Essex Golf Club

West Essex Golf Club are always pushing for more women memberships at our golf club near London. Our facilities are designed to be inclusive to anyone, from our driving range to our putting green.

We also run a ‘get into golf’ program for everyone to discover a love for golf. Specifically, our Women’s Golf Academy is here to develop a love of the sport in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Call our friendly customer service team who can explain how our golf club works to new members. Visit our membership page for details on golf membership at West Essex Golf Club.