From feminist pioneers to putting pros, the historic journey of the St. Andrews Ladies Putting Club
Who would you return to sink the putt to save your life? Tiger Woods? Jack Nicklaus? Ben Crenshaw?
There are plenty of debatable options, but it’s unlikely that many will see a group of women in Fife, Scotland, with no professional golfing experience, many of whom are far more mature than the average tour player.
Yet perhaps they should, because anyone who puts their life in the hands of St Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club will be entrusting it to an organization with more than 150 years of minor sports experience.
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Founded in 1867, the group is the world’s oldest ladies golf club, headed by a few dedicated, golf-loving women – and a few disgruntled men.
When the daughters of members of the St Andrews Royal & Ancient (R&A) Club – known as the historic home of the game – decided they wanted to play golf, it wasn’t a traditional activity for women. Among the limited options available, croquet and archery were the traditional options.
When the women landed on the caddies putting course, which was used by someone who carried members’ golf bags between rounds, the caddies wanted them gone almost immediately.
“They didn’t like it at all, and I don’t think the members liked it very much either,” club archivist Eve Soulsby told CNN’s Jazzy Golfer.
But the caddies had a problem: As club employees, they couldn’t complain to members. A compromise quickly emerged – to give the women a piece of land next to the iconic Swilken Bridge that they could use as a nine-hole putting course.
It was a rough area, full of rabbit holes, divots and sand, but it was a start. A month later, 22 women competed in the inaugural tournament at St Andrews Ladies Golf Club.
Word spread quickly. By the late 1880s, membership had grown to 600, including male associate members. Today, the 140-strong membership has an ever-growing waiting list to join, a number kept down to allow tournaments to run smoothly.
Soon after, Old Tom Morris, the course’s resident player, and greenkeeper, often referred to as the “Founding Father of Golf”, decided it would be a good idea for the ladies to visit the nearby Himalayan section of the course. It got its name from its mountainous topography.
Morris prepared the field for the club before retiring in 1895, when he was made an honorary member.
Soulsby believes that the club’s early members were instrumental in gaining greater independence for the women of St Andrews at the turn of the century, citing the creation of the Ladies’ Course, which – along with the Himalayan Putting Course – is still played today. is eligible
Revenue collected from visitors to the putting course is donated to local charities, with an exception made last year to fund Ukrainian organizations.
Officially named The Jubilee Course and opened in 1897, the fact that the designated women’s 18 holes were made “The Duffers Course” reflects the attitudes generally held towards women during this period. is “We pretend it didn’t happen,” Soulsby added.
Among those carrying the torch for those early pioneers today is Sylvia Dunne, the club’s current president.
A member since 2011, Dunne helps organize the group’s weekly tournaments; A showpiece two-round event on Wednesday afternoon and a one-round competition on Thursday morning for so-called “seniors” who may struggle to manage multiple rounds.
“It’s also the camaraderie and everything, because if you get older and you can’t play golf, you can be stuck at home doing nothing all day, and it’s really a very social club,” he said. said
“The best part is afterwards because they have coffee and biscuits and a blither.”
Members who won tournaments in the early 20th century may have been lucky enough to take home the royal prize. The first regal donation to the club came from Queen Victoria’s youngest son Prince Leopold, and other trophies were later given by Edward VIII and King George VI.
At one time, the R&A captains also donated trophies, but now they face off against the Ladies Putting Club in the annual 18 vs. 18 putting competition.
Dunne is one of the club’s best putters, winning six trophies in one season during his best year. However, she admits that Hari Puta can be a cruel mistress, even for her.
“One day recently I was very upset,” he said. “We have a prize for the most holes in one at the end of the season – so I suggested, isn’t it about time we had a prize for the closest misses?
“There is a lot of skill involved, but also a lot of luck. Some days the ball rolls for you and other days it won’t fall into the hole.