USGA celebrating women in golf course architecture

USGA celebrating women in golf course architecture

Museum exhibit illustrates contributions to design theory and player enjoyment.

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July 27, 2017
People News
Since the late 1800s, a small but influential group of women have carved a space of their own in golf, using the one tool that most influences a player’s experience: the golf course. The USGA Golf Museum’s new exhibit, “Breaking New Ground: Women and Golf Course Architecture,” explores this rarely discussed segment of golf history and recounts unique narratives of female leadership, initiative and innovation.  

Artifacts from the museum collection, in addition to loans from the United Kingdom and local historical archives, illustrate how women have influenced golf course design theory and played a role in creating more equitable and enjoyable experiences for all who play the game. 

Curated by USGA historian Victoria Student, the exhibit officially opened on July 12, the eve of the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open Championship. Players in the championship field were given a sneak preview at a private welcome reception on Tuesday of U.S. Women’s Open week at the USGA Golf Museum, located a few short miles from the championship site and on the grounds of the USGA headquarters.

“These incredible women not only shaped the dialogue surrounding how courses could be more welcoming to other women - they also inspired new generations to build careers and opportunities in golf,” USGA President Diana Murphy said. “We all have something to learn from their ingenuity and passion for the game, and the USGA couldn’t be prouder to showcase their contributions.”

Since the turn of the 19th century, women have adapted courses to better suit female playing abilities, and have established separate clubs to serve as places of recreation and competition. “Breaking New Ground” tells the stories of several early women’s golf clubs, such as the St. Andrews Ladies’ Golf Club (1867), Carnoustie Ladies Golf Club (1873) and Morris County Golf Club (1894). 

Located less than 30 miles from the present-day USGA campus, Morris County Golf Club was the first all-women’s golf club to become a USGA Associate Member Club. The exhibit displays the letter dated June 21, 1895 to the club’s president, Nina Howland, communicating the unanimous approval by the USGA Executive Committee for the club’s Associate Membership, granting full voting rights. 

The exhibit also features artifacts from women who pioneered the male-dominated golf course architecture field. Beginning with Ida Dixon and May Dunn, and continuing into the 1930s with Molly Gourlay, Britain’s first female golf course architect and trusted assistant to Tom Simpson, the groundwork laid by these women culminates with Marion Hollins, the well-connected visionary behind Women’s National Golf and Tennis Club on Long Island and Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. 

Selected writings and course sketches by Alexa Stirling, a three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and member of the inaugural USGA Women’s Committee, exemplify the demand throughout history for golf course design to take diverse audiences into account, as well as the collaborative effort by the world’s top female players to improve the game they loved. 

Modern-day architects Alice Dye and Jan Bel Jan, along with industry movers-and-shakers Arthur Little and Jan Leeming, bring “Breaking New Ground” into the present and future, as the exhibit displays videos highlighting their work to increase playability and accessibility through course design and set up. 

“Breaking New Ground” will be on display at the USGA Golf Museum, located at 77 Liberty Corner in Far Hills, N.J., through December 2018.  The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.