The History of Women in Golf
golf
history
7 min read

The History of Women in Golf

Learn about the storied past of women’s golf and find out why you need to start following the LPGA.
Alexis Bennett
Updated on
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Did you know that the first female golfer was Mary Queen of Scots? Although she is celebrated as the first female to play on the golf course, the first women's golf club, St Andrews Ladies' Putting Club, wasn't established until 1867, but it's still around today.

Although it may still be a male-dominated sport, there is a rich history of women in golf: from the first ladies’ professional golf association in the 1950s to the first women's golf tournament career grand slam in 1961 by Mickey Wright, followed by Juli Inkster, who won the Invitational Pro-Am at Pebble Beach in 1990—the only professional golf tournament in which men and women compete head to head.

Male golfers such as Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods were household names during their periods of dominance and still come up regularly in conversations about the “best golfers of all time.” Millions of viewers tune in for the men’s Major Championships: the PGA Championship, Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open. But how many golfers are aware of and can name the women’s professional golf tournaments or major championships? Many might not even know that the sheer number of them alone differs from the men’s side of the game.

There have been many groundbreaking moments in the history of women's golf, along with the development of the LPGA Tour. In this article, we’ll give you a glimpse of this storied past and share some of the many reasons to follow the diverse and exciting direction women’s golf is heading.

A Quick Look:

  • A History that Dates Back to 1587
  • Women’s Professional Golf Majors
  • It’s Time to Pay Attention to the LPGA
  • Learn to Putt and Practice Like the Pros
  • FAQs

A History that Dates Back to 1587

As mentioned, many claim that Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was the first woman to play golf. In fact, she is credited with inventing the word "caddie" which was a reference to her "cadets" that assisted her on the course.

Later, in 1811 the first recorded golf tournament for women was held in East Lothian, Scotland, and organized by Musselburgh Golf Club, for the wives of local fishermen. In 1867, the famous St Andrews Club in Scotland opened The Ladies Club of St Andrews for female golfers, which is now known as St Andrews Ladies' Putting Club.

One of the first women to hold the title of professional golfer is Helen Hicks, who even signed a contract with Wilson sporting goods. In 1937, Hicks won the Women’s Western Open, and in 1940 she won the Titleholders Championship—two tournaments that are now featured on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour, which she helped found in the 1950s.

Another founder of the LPGA championship is Babe Zaharias, a true legend who after being denied amateur status, competed in the 1938 LA Open as the first woman golfer to compete in a man's professional golf tournament. She won the British Ladies Amateur in 1947 and, along with Hicks, founded the first women's professional golf association.

The game has grown quite a bit for women since then; as of last year, 6.2 million women now play the game. The growth of women's golf was helped by Title IX, junior golf programs, golf instructors, and golf clubs that welcomed women golfers. There are hundreds of women’s collegiate golf programs, and many have rosters filled with student-athletes from different parts of the world. In the last 20 years, adding women's and junior clinics to what local golf courses and clubs have to offer has made golfers of all ages and genders much more diverse. 

The LPGA Tour was formed in 1950 by a group of 13 women golfers, including Alice Bauer, Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, and Babe Zaharias. The leading money winner in 1950 was Babe Zaharias, who won $14,800 that year (she was also a gold medal-winning track and field Olympian!).

The 2022 leading money winner on the LPGA Tour was Lydia Ko, who made $4.36 million. The total purse for the LPGA Tour in 1950 was $50,000; last year, it was over $101.4 million. To say the tour has grown is an understatement. Many LPGA Tour stars have lucrative sponsorships along with their prize winnings. 

Women’s Professional Golf Majors

The major championships are the U.S. Women’s Open, the Chevron Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and the AIG Women’s Open. Since the LPGA Tour started, some of the most famous golfers have been Nancy Lopez, who won nine events in her first year, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Annika Sorenstam (the first woman to shoot a 59 in competition), and Michelle Wie West.

These athletes have made extraordinary accomplishments and are great examples for people of all genders who want to be athletes. For example, Kathy Whitworth won 88 titles on the LPGA Tour—that puts her six entire wins ahead of Sam Snead and Tiger Woods on the all-time professional win list. 

With some new interesting trivia and women’s golf facts, we hope you have the tools to take a vested interest in watching and supporting the women at the top of this great game. It is a space that is continuing to grow, and the golfers are getting better and better, especially the younger generation.

It’s Time to Pay Attention to the LPGA

Watching women’s golf at a high level has many benefits and joys. Not too long ago, news was made when Jordan Speith and others on the PGA Tour noted in interviews what an amazing golf swing Nelly Korda has. Yes, she does have one of the best golf swings ever. Anyone can benefit from watching the full-swings' rhythm, tempo, balance, and timing on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour. Their scores are nothing to sneeze at either.

For example, in a recent LPGA event, the winner was 16 under par for four rounds in windy conditions. In fact, professional female golfers are some of the best athletes in the world. They have engaging personalities, strong work ethics, and fun golf games. 

LPGA Tour Q-School is just as demanding and difficult as PGA Tour School. They are also mothers, spouses, and entrepreneurs who play in every pro-am, attend every banquet, and lead the charge for more equitable pay in women’s athletics. In the last decade, the LPGA Tour has become a global golf tour, which has opened the doors to women of all backgrounds to compete at the highest level. 

Learn to Putt and Practice like the Pros

It doesn’t matter your age or ability; any golfer can appreciate the powerful and rhythmic action of these women’s full swings and the consistency of their short games. If you haven’t yet, tune in to the LPGA to be impressed, entertained, and inspired. 

If watching the women at the top of their game has already inspired you, it’s time to get practicing. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced golfer, the best place to start is always with the short game. Luckily, with a premium indoor golf putting mat like PrimePutt’s, you don’t even have to turn off the TV to get a quality practice session in while learning a thing or two from the women at the top of the world rankings like Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko. 

FAQs

Who are the most accomplished female golfers of all time?

Some of the most notable names in the game include Babe Zaharias, Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Joanne Carner, and Annika Sorenstam.

Who has won the most tournaments as a female golfer?

Hall of Fame legend Patty Berg won 15 major championships for women’s golf from 1937 to 1958.

What are the women’s majors?

There are five major championships in women’s golf. In order of play, they are the Chevron Championship, U.S. Women's Open, Women's PGA Championship, the Evian Championship, and the Women's Open.

Alexis Bennett
Updated on
Alexis is a longtime student of the game. After collegiate and professional playing careers, she spent 9 seasons coaching, most recently at a Division 1 university. In that time, she led her teams to 8 top-4 finishes in conference championships and led one player to the NCAA Regionals as an at-large bid in 2021, capping the best individual playing career in the program’s history. Now, Alexis hones her expertise as a copywriter and content marketer in the golf niche, staying tied closely to a game she’s loved her whole life.

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7 min read

The History of Women in Golf

Learn about the storied past of women’s golf and find out why you need to start following the LPGA.
Alexis Bennett
Updated on
Read article

Real practice for the real course