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History of Womens Golf


The history of Womens Golf goes back to Mary Queen of Scots, in the 1540’s, named as the first female golfer in the St Andrews Experience Website,  however it took until 1811, for the first womens competition took place, where 55 fishermans wives participated.


It took until 1861, for the first womens golf club to be established and in 1867, the Ladies Putting club of St Andrews was formed, and exists to this day, with an active membership of around 200 women.  An interview with the current committee and archivist, can be found on the Womens Golf History Podcast HERE.


Women golfers of the 1890’s were the next generation of golf pioneers, specifically Issette Pearson a founding member and first honorary secretary of the Ladies Golf Union, the creator of one of the first equitable handicap systems, enabling women with mixed abilities from different clubs to play together,  In 1910, Issettee started the Pearson Trophy, an annual intercounty trophy which is still played today by teams across, Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey.  Counties were selected based on their proximity to London, which made travelling to matches easier as the main mode of transport was by train.  The Pearson Trophy is played by teams with WHS Handicap Index 12.5 – 34.4 across each county, with the winners meeting to play a final match play knockout in July each year.

In 1894, Issette met Mabel Stringer the captain of Littlestone Golf Club in Kent, when Issette came to inspect the course in advance of Littlestone hosting the second  Womens Amateur Golf Championship in 1894.  After their first game, Mabel and Issette became good friends and Mabel became an active member of the Ladies Golf Union.

A summary of Women Pioneers and initiatives  from 1890 until 2022

Pioneers in Womens Golf

1890 – 1914

Below is a paper from Sports Historians, who have given their permission to publish their paper on the origins of women’s golf up to 1914, a fascinating read full of characters and their determination to participate and develop golf for women.

Women to the Fore 1890-1914

1893 – 2017

Ladies’ Golf Union – Wikipedia – was set up in 1893, Issette Pearson was a founding member, and it became the governing body for womens golf in Great Britian, this remained in existingance until 2017, when it was merged with the R&A.

1952 – 2011

English Womens (formerly Ladies) Golf Association (EWGA ) – was formed as the governing body for womens golf in England, and merged with the Englush Golf ULnion to for England Golf, which remains the governing body for amateur golf in England

2018 – 2024

In 2018 – the R&A published:

The Women’s, Girls’ and Family, Participation in Golf: An Overview of Existing Research (2018)

RA - women and golf research 2018

2018 – Women in Golf Charter – R&A

The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter, to encourage, organisations, governing bodies and commercial partners to register a statement of intent to support Women in Golf, both as players and also as individuals employed across the Global Golf Industry.  More information abut the initiative and the 1,300 signatories, (June 2024) can be found here:  Women In Golf Charter (   Women on the Tee is a Women in Golf Charter Signatory.

In addition to the R&A signatories, individual clubs and county associations have signed the national governing bodies commitments, a list of these can be found on governing body websites.

2019 – Women in Golf Leadership Program – R&A

In 2019, The R&A launched the Women in Golf Leadership Program , to provide a development opportunity for women in golf and to create a global network of women working in the golf industry, the latest update from the program which has seen 100, past and current women participate in the program, can be found HERE

2022 – Investment in Golf Development

In December 2022, the R&A announced a £200 million investment in amateur golf, alongside the publication of their PLAYBOOK, which defines their purpose and focus for the next 10years, a key strategic initiative is the transformation and evolution of women’s golf.

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