THE origin of ladies' golf may be carried back to a period coeval with man's, if we sanction the hypothesis that fathers, husbands, and brothers of those early days resembled the male relatives of our own, and gave old balls, discarded clubs, and unprofessional advice to any maiden who showed a tendency to chase feather and leather into holes, rather than to practise on the virginals, or embellish tapestry frames. Furtively, then, there has ever been a woman golfer; unrecognised, unhandicapped, unadorned with medals, she drove her ball through the air behind my lord and holed out in two, while he paid for a bumper of his favourite claret. Happy, prehistoric female, who lived her golfing life, unconscious of short links, the struggles for silver-backed hair-brushes, Brigg's "brolleys," photograph frames, and all the Sturm und Drang of an open meeting!

MISS AMY PASCOE. {Lady Champion, 1896J

MISS AMY PASCOE. {Lady Champion, 1896).

When we leave the hypothetic, though probable, and enter the historic period, we find our game has a royal patroness. Mary, Queen of Scots, whose Stuart ancestors were golfers, played in the fields round Seton Palace in 1567. That even earlier in the same century golf had elicited the approval of another queen, is proved by a very interesting letter of Katherine to Cardinal Wolsey, written at the time King Henry VIII. invaded France. I am indebted to the Rev. Mr. Kerr's valuable book on "Golf in East Lothian" for this epistle, dated August 13, 1513; it is as follows : "Master Almoner, from hence I have nothing to write to you but that you be not so busy in this war as we be here incumbered with it. I mean that touching my own concerns, for going further, when I shall not so often hear from the king. And all his subjects be very glad. I thank God, to be busy with the golf, for they take it for pastime; my heart is very good to it, and I am horribly busy making standards, banners, and bagets." The quaintly expressive phrase, "My heart is very good to it," remits to us a pleasant memory of a queen's grateful content with the sport which kept her subjects quiet and amused.

Unfortunately, we have little in the way of records for preserving the historical continuity of women golfers. From the same source as the above I get an entry taken out of the Dowager-Countess of Mars' House-book, under date September 23, 1638: "Paid for ane golf club to John the Baun 5s." Here is our introduction to a seventeenth-century player, but we are left to guess at the form and wood of that "ane club"; certes, it was what the noble lady would call finely fashioned and of most excellent workmanship; Master John Baun would see to that.

Of the game in the eighteenth century we read in a statistical account of Scotland, that the women of Musselburgh on holidays frequently play at golf; and I may possibly give the Scot a great shock by proving that the pot-hunting said to be so prevalent among the fair Saxons is a Scottish invention. We have no authentic account of women playing for aught but the love of the game, until incited thereto by the Musselburgh Golf Club. That primeval innocence should have no chance, you will note two handkerchiefs - silk ones - were added to the other premiums. The minute, dated December 14, 1810, runs : "The Club resolve to present by subscription a new Creel and Shawl to the best female golfer who plays on the annual occasion on 1st Jan. next, old style (12 Jan. new), to be intimated to the Fish Ladies by the Officer of the Club."

"Two of the best Barcelona silk handkerchiefs to be added to the above."

The account of this registered bribe lands us inside the door of the nineteenth century, and a few decades further, behold, we are in the middle of the ladies' links! The invasion of England by Scottish gowff, circa the sixties, caused a rapid multiplication of clubs and courses. Woman caught the golf fever from the men, but the habitat of the male sufferer was put under strict quarantine, and a small piece of ground ornamented with a few greens and destitute of hazards, was presented to the ladies as a sufficient balm for their delirious energy! From these undulating croquet lawns, plus a tee box and a few flags, have been evolved the short links of 1897. If we visit the courses of the earlier clubs we notice that they are always lengthening; the bunkers deepen, other difficulties increase. Here and again we come across a rudimentary putting green, or hazard, but as months roll on they will disappear. When a new green is laid out there is always a struggle in its construction, between the tendency to preserve the ancestral type of croquet ground and the effort to adapt itself to the surrounding conditions of play. Why, with space and funds ad libitum, are many new links laid out on an improved model of thirty years ago, instead of being planned to fit the game of the best scratch players? These are often penalised by the structure of the course. The mean distance of the holes, or a badly placed hazard, may only allow them to reach the flag at the same time as their opponent to whom they give, perhaps, eighteen strokes. The player takes a half shot with cleek or iron and is on the green in one, and as the large handicap uses a higher tee and a full swing with a wooden club she is there also, and the better woman is one down. Again, at the next tee, scratch dares not take her driver, because the ball may run into the hazard placed to catch a weak second shot; neither approaching can she lay herself dead with a brassy, as the ball running up to the green will be caught in the bunker guarding it. She must therefore choose an iron, and with another short loft reach the flag in three. But the big handicap is by her side, for after her foozled drive, she used her wooden club to clear the second hazard, and a full iron enables her with her stroke to secure a half, though she does muff a short putt. The only thing to do is to smile and hide one's annoyance as best one can. Small wonder there are players for whom a medal round on some short courses is a better test of temper than golf!