What is certain is that the first Ladies' 'Golf Club was formed at St. Andrews in 1867, and that Limpsfield Chart Golf Club, from its inception in 1889, has had an enthusiastic ladies' section, originally with its own course, avoiding much of the gorse, heather, whin and scrub of the men's course.
Just four months after the Limpsfield Chart course was opened the ladies played their first competition - a medal round over the nine holes. Seven players only returned score-cards, due to an extremely strong and gusty easterly cross wind. The competition was won by Mrs Lansdale with a net score of 46, playing off a handicap of 26. The other scores ranged from 59 to 102. The entrants included three players of a handicap of scratch, two of whom were visitors.
The lowest handicap player of the ladies in those early days was Miss Bartlett who had a handicap of Plus 4, and there were also several players with handicaps of scratch. It was, of course, in the days when Golf Clubs determined their own handicapping systems, long before the Ladies Golf Union came into existence, introducing the national handicapping scheme. The LGU handicaps were adopted in 1926.
The first Standard Scratch Score allocated to the Limpsfield Ladies' course was 79 for the two rounds of nine-holes, gradually reduced to the present SSS of 69. To some extent the reduction indicated the comparatively easier playing conditions, as well as the use of the modern design and manufacture of the golf clubs and the balls, and, no doubt the improved standard of play.
The first recorded match played by the ladies of Limpsfield Chart Golf Club was against the ladies of Blackheath Golf Club, at Limpsfield on the 21st April 1891; a return match being played at Blackheath on the 4th of June in the same year. The ladies of Blackheath Golf Club won both matches, the first by one hole and the other by 13 holes.
Lest it be thought that that is an author's error it was in the days when the results of matches were decided on the difference between the aggregate of the number of holes won by each member of the team.
The members of the teams playing in the first match with the number of holes each won were
|Mrs Smith - 4||Mrs McKearn - 11|
|Mrs Parsons - 3||Miss Richardson - 2|
|Miss Watney - 2||Miss Moore - 0|
|Miss A Stewart - 2||Miss A Moore - 0|
|Miss P Stewart - 1||Miss Farnell - 0|
|Miss Rooke - 0||Miss Smyth - 0|
|Miss Thompson - 0||Miss Sillar - 0|
|Total - 12||Total - 13|
The match against Blackheath was followed by those against the ladies of
Seaford GC (1893); Wildernesse GC (1893); Rye GC (1906); Hazelwood GC (1906); Ashdown Forest GC (1909); Purley Downs GC (1910); Crowborough GC (1911); Sevenoaks GC (1911, before it became Knole Park); Warlingham GC (1913); Knole Park GC (1924); Tandridge GC (1926); Wrotham Heath GC (1925); Woldingham GC (1932 later becoming North Downs GC); Pilldown GC (1966), and against the Gresham Artisan Golf Club (1953).
Some of those matches have since departed from the ladies match fixture list.
In 1911, a Mrs. Pearson presented a trophy in her name, to be played for annually, in a singles match play knock-out competition for teams of ladies with handicaps of 13 to 30, from Golf Clubs in the four counties of Kent, Surrey, Middlesex and Hertfordshire which were affiliated to the English Ladies Golf Union. The Limpsfield Chart GC ladies first entered this competition in 1958, and subsequently rather spasmodically due to difficulties in raising teams. Although progressing quite well in many of the rounds, they have yet to win the trophy.
Over the years many trophies have been presented to the Limpsfield Chart Ladies Section, and a list of them and their donors is given on a later page.
In 1910 the lady membership of Limpsfield Chart Golf Club was restricted to 35; by 1915 it had been increased to 45, by 1950 to 71. 104 in 1965, and finally it was limited in 1971, and still is, to 100 including the lady members from the Family Membership. The ladies section was closed down in 1940 for the duration of the Second World warbut as there was little support forthcoming afterwards it was not re-npi-ned until 1950.
Until 1898 the lady members were not allowed to play over the Mini's course unless they held a handicap of 8 or below and were playing with a gentleman member of the Club, and even then not on Sundays, Bank Holidays, match or competition days.
When the course was re-constructed in 1901, the ladies' own course was abandoned, and they played over the 'new' course from their own forward tees, but they were still restricted as to their playing days and times. Those of handicaps of 12 and under were permitted to play on I he Saturdays and Bank Holidays provided they did not tee-off before 2.30pm. Today, lady members have the same playing rights as the Full (men) Members, but by mutual, tacit understanding the ladies do not play on Saturday or Sunday mornings, except when playing in the mixed foursome events, and the men avoid Thursdays (Ladies' Days) .mil other times such as the Ladies' Spring and Autumn Meetings which are held over the two days of the Thursday and the Friday.
The Ladies' Section runs its own internal affairs, subject to the Rules of the Club and approval of the Club Committee. It has its own set of rules, elects its own Officers and Committee and holds its own Annual General Meetings. Lady members, however, like the Mid-Week members, Student and other members, were debarred from attending and voting at the Club's Annual and General Meetings, which are open to Full Members only. The ladies, however, do have representation at those meetings through their Lady Captain and the I Honorary Secretary of the Ladies Section. Just how long that domain will be allowed to continue is a matter of conjecture.
lt is worth mentioning here that as long ago as 1914 ladies were being appointed Golf Club Officials. Mrs R P Graham then became Secretary of the Edgware Golf Club. Miss L A Thorpe became secretary of Luffenham Heath G C in 1916, and in 1932 Mrs Morley wa appointed Secretary of Keighley G C, Yorkshire. Today there is a growing number of Lady Golf Club Secretaries who are doing a fine job. Limpsfield Chart Golf Club from its beginning has had a succession of Lady Honorary Secretaries of its Ladies' Section, who have earned and deserved much praise.
In 1987 the Ladies' Section was permitted to have its own means of recognising those of its members who had given exceptional service to the Section, by electing them Honorary Lady Vice-President. It was indeed most fitting that the first to be so honoured was Mrs Eirene Belk, the longest serving lady member of the Club, who has done so much for the Club and the Section.
The Ladies' Section was also honoured by one of its members, Mrs Alice M Monk, being elected President of the Surrey Ladies County Golf Association from 1983 to 1985, and becoming its Captain in 1976/1977.
No reference to the Ladies of Limpsfield Chart Golf Club would be complete without mentioning that they are constantly raising funds for the benefit of the Club and its members, providing needed furnishings and equipment both for the Clubhouse and Club kitchen. This they do as well as paying their full whack of their annual subscription. Not only that, but they provide a regular weekly, lovely floral arrangement for the Clubhouse, and for the Club's social events.
Alan Hickman, 1988