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 quiet a few young ladies would play.
There were very few recreations open to respectable young ladies at this time; croquet, battledore and archery were some of their pastimes. Many of these young ladies’ fathers and brothers were members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club who came to spend the summer in St Andrews or who were home from Colonial Service.
There was some tension between the caddies and these adventurous ladies so much so that Mr D. L. Burn decided that a piece of ground be found where the ladies could play outwith the public gaze and away from the caddies. Mrs Boothby suggested that there was a piece of ground to the north of the Swilcan Burn. 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! We have presently two hundred lady members but no associate members due to current legislation.
The Club holds its competitions from April through to September on Wednesday afternoons, playing for trophies which the members are allowed to hold onto for a few minutes before being taken from them and made secure! The monthly medals are in the form of the signs of the zodiac for that month and of gold, silver and bronze. On Thursday mornings, one round shotgun-start competitions attract fields of up to sixty competitors.
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; probably the best value entertainment in St Andrews!