Women and Golf
Women in NH are heading for the links
Rowena Wilks on the course at the Country Club of New Hampshire in North Sutton.
Photo by Tyler Wilks
Scots first brought golf to America in the mid-1800s and American men quickly took to the game, establishing clubs and courses in the East. The first women made their way into the sport a bit at a time, initially playing in a “couples format” with male partners. Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, NY, has the distinction of being the first golf club in the US to give women their own membership in 1893 and the first to have a golf clubhouse.
Then in 1895 the USGA sanctioned the first Women’s Amateur Championship with the first event tournament taking place in Hempstead, NY, at Meadow Brook Club. Lucy Barnes (Mrs. Charles S. Brown) won the championship and women’s tournament golf now had its own place in the nation. But as successful as women have been in golf, it hasn’t always been easy to draw women to the links, having a long-held reputation as a gentlemen’s sport.
While nationally numbers of female golfers have declined, the women’s golf scene in New Hampshire is holding strong, with growth particularly in the number of junior golfers. The New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association holds many tournament events, from junior girls to seniors. The NHWGA’s objective is to “promote, stimulate, organize and maintain interest and activity in golf among women in the state of New Hampshire.” They also award numerous college scholarships each year in addition to supporting the McDonough Scholarship Fund. Through their works — and the efforts of the First Tee of New Hampshire, teaching its “Nine Core Values” inherent in the game of golf and essential for success in life — the Granite State has a solid foundation for women’s golf and has ensured its place for future generations of women golfers.
Located in Sugar Hill, NH, Sunset Hill Golf Course is the oldest designed 9-hole golf course in the state, having first opened to the public in 1897.
Looking good on the course has never been easier with so many styles to choose from. The Nike Dri-FIT Sport Racerback Polo ($70) features Dri-FIT technology to wick away sweat and a racerback shape for wider range of motion.
The Nike Golf Tech Skort ($60) with its skirt style, featuring poly spandex fabric for flexibility and wicking properties, is an instant classic.
A nice set of clubs can be had at an affordable price. The Top Flite Ladies XL Boxed Set ($199.99) features a 460cc titanium composite driver, one fairway wood, one hybrid, three irons and a putter, all inside an attractive, lightweight stand bag.
The Women’s Callaway Solaire ($69.99) are designed for comfort on the course and feature all-rubber, simulated-spike outsoles and Ortholite inserts.
Expert Advice with Rowena Wilks
After serving terms as both the second vice-president and first vice-president, Rowena became president of the New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association (NHWGA) in October 2011 and has been the pro shop manager at Baker Hill Golf Club in Newbury since 2006. She resides in New London with her husband.
Where are your favorite spots to golf here in New Hampshire? We have some wonderful golf courses here in New Hampshire and my favorite is Baker Hill. The Country Club of New Hampshire is lovely. It’s not in tip-top shape but it has a beautiful layout. The holes are really separate from each other and there really aren’t any houses around. You can enjoy the nature there. Lake Sunapee and Winnipesaukee have beautiful courses and so does the Manchester Country Club.
Men seem more drawn toward golf as a recreational sport than do women. Why do you think this is? Men use golf for business relationships and traditionally we’re less inclined to use it that way. Also, once women have children, they’re either going back to work or busy with them at home and don’t have the time to commit — and it is time consuming. But there are some 9-hole rounds available and the Twilight League, and that’s all the time that some women are able to give up for it. And that’s a trend all over the United States. It’s a time constraint and because it’s such a “man’s sport,” women often aren’t comfortable approaching a course and finding out about tee times. Our membership is holding steady for NHWGA and there’s been more interest for our junior women’s golfers.
How do you keep in shape during the off season or during times you aren’t golfing? You really do need to be fit to play golf. To get in shape for the season you need a strong core. I also play tennis and work on my balance. I do weight training and have even taken some classes in combat training. Both your left and right side need to be strong so I do weight work to equalize that. Many golfers have back problems, so it’s important to prevent that. Of course, walking the courses gets you plenty of exercise. I walk four miles a day.
What tips or suggestions do you have for women trying their hand at golf for the first time? I think you can go to a local course and talk to the people at the pro shop about what’s available for lessons or clinics. They have 18 holes for experienced groups and 9 holes for group lessons. Try to find a small 9-hole course before joining a league and play quite a few rounds. Play with someone who can guide you. There is a lot of etiquette you need to learn. Golfers really like you to follow the rules and take care of the course. The good thing about golf is the handicap system because you can play competitively with anyone, so it kind of levels out the playing field. And remember that even at a public course you need to call for a tee time.
How did you first get involved in the sport of golf? I started playing with friends at Maple Leaf Golf Course a little 9-hole course in Sutton, about 20 years ago. I immediately realized it was a game for me. I had played sports in high school and then started tennis but golf was so much more involved than tennis. I enjoyed the camaraderie, the exercise, the beauty of the courses and the integrity of the game. I soon was good enough to join the ladies league there and my husband and I both enjoyed our own evenings out while the other stayed home to watch our three young children. Soon my friends talked me into playing at The Country Club of New Hampshire and joining the league there.
When did you realize that golf was going to be more than just a hobby? I became president of the Ladies’ Twilight League at CCNH (Country Club of New Hampshire) and was so for several years. Then I was asked to join the NHWGA (New Hampshire Women’s Golf Association) and become the representative for CCNH. Once I joined NHWGA I traveled around the state and began playing at many different courses and making new friends. In 2007 I joined the board of directors for NHWGA as the specialties chair. I was in that position for two years and then moved to second vice for two years and then first vice for two years, until becoming president. In 2006 I also took the job of pro shop manager at Baker Hill Golf Club in Newbury. I love my job and get to play quite a bit of golf there. My husband and I are members at The Country Club of NH in Sutton and enjoy playing golf many evenings in the summer.