The Etiquette of the Victorian Golf Course: Twelve Tips for a Co-Ed Game

Illustration of a Woman Playing Golf by Ellen Clapsaddle, 1902.
(Sally Fox Collection, Harvard Library)

During the Victorian era, golf was a hugely popular sport. Both men and women played for pleasure and for competition. Much of this play was done in the company of those of the same sex. However, by the end of the century, it was becoming more common for men and women—especially husbands and wives—to golf together. As a result, many magazines and journals of the day offered advice to men on how to conduct themselves on the golf course when in the presence of a lady. They also offered advice to women on what they must and must not do in order to be accepted as ‘a popular member of the club.’

Advice for Women

The 1898 edition of The Capital gives a list of essential tips for female golfers who wish to play the game in mixed company. I present them to you below in no particular order.

1) Be Quiet.

“It is better to be seen and not heard on the golf links when a game is in progress. Good ‘putting’ requires absolute concentration of mind.”

2) Seriously. Be Quiet.

“A woman who chatters incessantly and is especially communicative just when a critical ‘drive’ is about to be made is not the most desirable of partners.”

3) Don’t Cast a Shadow Over a Man’s Golf Ball.

“Standing so that a shadow falls upon your partner’s ball is not only impolite, but detrimental to the success of his ‘drive.’”

Three Women Playing Golf, Jackson Sanitorium, 1890.

4) ‘Fore!’ is a Warning, Not a Consolation.

“To play first and to shout ‘fore!’ afterward is apt to add insult to actual injury. ‘Fore’ is called as a warning that a ‘drive’ is about to be made. It is not an expression of consolation after one has been hit.”

5) Don’t Daydream or Dawdle.

“Standing on the putting green after you have ‘holed out,’ whether it is to gaze at the scenery or write down your score, will exasperate your best friend on earth if he or she happens to be playing behind you.”

6) Stay Out of the Men’s Café.

“Drinking in the men’s café is not to be approved of merely because it is at a country club.”

Western College Women Golfing, n.d.
(Photo by Frank Snyder)
Advice for Men

For men who were obliged to golf with a female, The Capital offers several additional tips. Most of these consist of strictures on exhibiting patience when partnered with a woman who played poorly and slowed down the man’s game. Below are the top six tips in no particular order.

1) Keep Your Coat On.

“A man should not play in his shirt sleeves when women are in the game.”

2) Pretend to Like Her as Much as You Like Your Golf Ball.

“Don’t appear to prefer your ball to her company, and stand guard over it while she, some distance off, is making vain efforts to catch up to you. Stay near her and endeavour to make her feel she is not such a bad player after all.”

3) Remember that Women are Not Athletic.

“A man should remember when playing golf with a woman that even if his partner is an athletic girl, she may not care to scramble over fences and stone walls alone, and that it is courteous for him to help her.”

Grand golf tournament by professional players on Leith Links, 17th May 1867.
(Library of Congress)

4) Offer Your Help When Needed.

“If she is a beginner he should offer to make her ‘tee,’ but if she plays as well as he does she will prefer to build it herself.”

5) Don’t Yell at Her for Slowing You Down.

“If you choose as a partner a woman who keeps you back by slow play don’t quarrel with her on this account. Abide by your choice and do what you can to help her enjoy the game.”

6) Exercise Forbearance.

“Don’t fail to remember that you were once a beginner yourself.”

Mr. Horace Gordon Hutchinson by Leslie Ward, Vanity Fair, 1890.

There’s lots of golf on this week. If you’re watching, I hope you will spare a thought for those determined lady golfers from the Victorian era—and for those Victorian men who responded to their presence on the golf course with good manners (if not outright enthusiasm).

Mimi Matthews is the USA Today bestselling author of The Matrimonial Advertisement, The Pug Who Bit Napoleon, and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty. She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law.

Sources

The Capital, Vols. 7-8. Los Angeles: Capital Publishing Co., 1898.

Golf Illustrated, Vol. III. London: Golf Illustrated, 1900.

Hutchinson, Horace Gordon. The Book of Golf and Golfers. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900.

COMING SOON
One of BookBub’s “25 of the Best Books Arriving in 2021”

John Eyre
A Tale of Darkness and Shadow

From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes a supernatural Victorian gothic retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s timeless classic.

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer–a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

Find out more or Read an Excerpt

Pre-Order Today

ebook: $3.99 $4,99

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple | Google

Advance Praise for John Eyre

“In this thrilling remix of Charlotte Brontë’s work, Matthews skillfully transforms a well-known story into a truly original tale.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Bertha Mason Rochester shines, dominating her scenes with vitality and strength.” -Publishers Weekly

“[Matthews] retells Charlotte Bronte’s classic story in a way that will keep fans of the original novel totally gripped from cover to cover… Fresh and dynamic… Fast-paced and spellbinding…a book you will have a hard time putting down.” -Readers Favorite

“One of the most moving, suspenseful, innovative and remarkable retellings of a classic in the history of, well, ever… Every page is sheer rapture as [Matthews] moulds popular source material into a spell-binding creation so wholly her own.” -Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration

“A wonderful sinister atmosphere, deliciously creepy characters, and a female character who is a powerful force… A true homage to the gothic genre without being derivative… Highly, highly recommended!” -Clarissa Harwood, author of Impossible Saints


© 2015-2021 Mimi Matthews

For exclusive information on upcoming book releases, giveaways, and other special treats, subscribe to Mimi’s newsletter THE PENNY NOT SO DREADFUL.

You can also connect with Mimi on Facebook and Twitter.


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
Privacy Policy Consent
5 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pam Shropshire
Pam Shropshire
3 years ago

Even though I’m not a golfer (my boss is an avid one), this seems mostly good advice, even for the 21st century. Except for not drinking in the men’s cafe, of course! Lol!

Ellen Borowka
Ellen Borowka
3 years ago

So glad to not be playing golf or any game in those times… it would be really hard for me to be quiet… seriously quiet! Ha! :) Great article… love it!

Syd
Syd
3 years ago

These are so interesting – had no idea golf was that popular for women before the turn of the century. Had a few giggles with them!

Our website uses cookies which may collect information about your visit to improve our website (anonymous analytics), to show you media (video and audio), targeted advertising, and social media feeds. Please see our Cookie Policy page for further details or agree by clicking the 'Accept' button.

Cookie settings

Below you can choose which kind of cookies you allow on this website. Click on the "Save cookie settings" button to apply your choice.

FunctionalOur website uses functional cookies. These cookies are necessary to let our website work.

AnalyticalOur website uses analytical cookies to make it possible to analyze our website and optimize for the purpose of a.o. the usability.

Social mediaOur website places social media cookies to show you 3rd party content like YouTube and FaceBook. These cookies may track your personal data.

AdvertisingOur website places advertising cookies to show you 3rd party advertisements based on your interests. These cookies may track your personal data.

OtherOur website places 3rd party cookies from other 3rd party services which aren't Analytical, Social media or Advertising.