Before 1860 the caddies had laid out a small putting area near where Rusacks Hotel now stands. They would play to pass the time while waiting for a bag. When the course was empty a few young ladies would play on it.
There were quite a few recreations open to respectable young ladies during the 1860s such as croquet, battledore and archery. These ladies had male family members from the Colonial Services in the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Around this time, there was quite a bit of tension between the caddies and the adventurous ladies so much that Mr D.L Burn decided that a piece of ground be found where the ladies could play out with the public gaze and away from the caddies. After the recommendation of Mrs Boothby a piece of ground north of the Swilcan Burn was given to the ladies. The ground was rough with whins which were used by local washerwomen to dry clothes, and pitted with rabbit holes. A nine hole course was laid out, a “miniature links”, by Old Tom Morris requiring a cleek and a putter and so the St Andrews Ladies’ Golf Club was formed in 1867.
One of the main obstacles on the course was the fishermen’s path which was frequently flooded and planks had to be laid to allow the ladies to play. This path still runs through the green but is now tarmacadamed over and is still referred to as “Jordan”. At some point more ground was acquired to the north and as the ground became smoother only putters were used.
On competition days a tent would be erected and a caterer brought in to provide refreshments. There are many reports of the tent being blown down! It was only in 1898 that a very basic corrugated iron shelter was built; the present Clubhouse was erected in 1999, when again, the previous shelter had blown down!
The first competition took place in 1867 with first prize a gold locket and second prize a silver pebble brooch. Both these prizes are still in the Club’s possession and are played for annually. Other generous prizes were donated and in the early days these included brooches, rings, gold bracelets, opera glasses and long white gloves.
As the Club flourished the number of members swelled. In 1900 there were four hundred lady members and two hundred Gentlemen Associate members. As the members were all of the same social standing and with many young eligible gentlemen and ladies, many matches were made. Presently the club has two hundred lady members but no associate members due to current legislation.
The Club has come a long way from its early beginnings. After closure during the Great War the membership was sadly depleted and the Club went into financial decline. After 1920 it was decided that the green would be opened to the public for a nominal charge and this is still the case today.