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New USGA Golf Museum Exhibit Celebrates Women Pioneers

By David Chmiel, USGA

| Aug 6, 2017 | FAR HILLS, N.J.

In 1895, Morris County Golf Club became the first women-only club to be granted USGA membership. (USGA Museum)

On the eve of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, the USGA Golf Museum unveiled a special exhibit to celebrate women who have blazed trails in golf course architecture. Now, golf fans who visit the Museum will get the chance to learn more about the efforts made by women to make the game more accessible to all players.

“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. Curated by USGA historian Victoria Student, the exhibit features a wide range of artifacts from the USGA and pieces on loan from the United Kingdom that illustrate how, since the late 1800s, women have influenced golf course design theory and played a role in creating more equitable and enjoyable experiences for anyone who plays golf.

“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,” said Diana Murphy, president of the USGA. “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 female golf clubs, such as Scotland’s St. Andrews Ladies’ Golf Club (1867) and Carnoustie Ladies Golf Club (1873).

In 1894, Morris County Golf Club, just 15 miles from the USGA Golf Museum in Far Hills, N.J., began as an all-women’s 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 to become a USGA Associate Member Club, granting full voting rights. 


The "Breaking New Ground" exhibit features a wide range of artifacts celebrating women in golf. (USGA/Jonathan Kolbe)

“The women whose work we commemorate in ‘Breaking New Ground’ built a foundation for the modern competitive women’s game, in some cases literally by making the playing fields that challenge the world’s best,” said Adam Barr, director of the USGA Golf Museum. “Top women golfers have a well-deserved reputation for being relatable and sharing their enthusiasm for the game. It was exciting to see many of them enjoying our new exhibit and reflecting on the contributions of the pioneering women whose work helped everyone who loves the game.”

The exhibit also features artifacts from women who pioneered the male-dominated golf course architecture field. Beginning with Ida Dixon and May Dunn Hupfel, 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. Among Hollins’ contributions to golf course architecture are Women’s National Golf & 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 Beljan, along with industry movers and shakers Arthur Little and Jann Leeming, bring “Breaking New Ground” into the present and future. The exhibit includes videos that highlight their work to increase playability and accessibility through course design and setup.


The USGA Golf Museum is showcasing the "Breaking New Ground" exhibit -- and much more -- in Far Hills, N.J. (USGA/John Mummert)

VISIT THE USGA GOLF MUSEUM: “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. ET, Tuesday through Sunday.  

SPECIAL MEMBERS’ OFFER: Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for USGA Members; show your Insider on your smartphone or tablet and receive one free adult admission. Kids 12 and under enter free. For more information about the USGA Golf Museum, click here.

OTHER MUSEUM ATTRACTIONS: In addition to “Breaking New Ground,” visitors to the museum also can check out the Hall of Champions, as well as rooms dedicated to Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Mickey Wright. After you finish your museum tour, you can pay $5 and try your luck on the USGA’s nine-hole Pynes Putting Course, where you can test your skills with historic replica clubs or modern putters.

David Chmiel is manager of members content at the USGA. Email him at