Towards the end of the long nineteenth century there was an expansion in leisure pursuits for middle-class women designed to promote their health and wellbeing, an expansion that continued into the inter-war period. Golf vastly increased in popularity among women and a national body was established to develop the game in their interests. As raised by Jane George in her chapter on the development of women’s golf between 1890-1914, relatively little scholarship focuses on those who pioneered women’s golf and their want to involve women in the game both socially and competitively. Whilst the ladies that feature in this article have been mentioned elsewhere, not least by Jane George herself, no researchers as of yet have looked in great detail at their roles as pioneer golfing coaches who made a living by instructing others through various mediums, from face-to-face instruction to the publication of advisory articles and books. Whilst the significance of family connections in sports has been identified and analysed by scholars such as Wray Vamplew, in this article specific emphasis is put upon the relationships between sisters. The opportunity that sisterhood provided for a sense of belonging and security in golf for women, as well as for practice and competition, has also remained hitherto unexplored. In some cases, it is plainly evident that sisters spent a great deal of time playing golf together, and in others it is less discussed by the women themselves but can still be observed from other sources.
Miss May Hezlet
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Miss Mary Elisabeth Linsie Hezlet was born in Gibraltar, Spain in 1883 to father Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Jackson Hezlet and her mother Emily Mary Owen (maiden name). In August 1903 The Evening Post invited May to write a set of four articles for them titled ‘Hints to Beginners’, ‘Driving and Iron Play’, ‘Approaching and Putting Style’ and ‘Ladies’ Competition’ in order to disseminate her golfing expertise and advice to a wider public. In the opening of the first article ‘Hints on Golf: Valuable Advice to Beginners’, May states that her intention is to ‘help the struggling beginner on her way’ thus showing that as well as being an expert player, May had a coaching instinct and was motivated by introducing other ladies to the sport.
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May, her sisters, and their mother, used to play golf together and they often all entered the same championships. May almost always won these championships and was lauded as being not only the best player in the family, but in the whole of Ireland at this time. The Bystander on April 22, 1908, ran a story titled ‘Three Golfing Sisters’ whereby May had become Irish Golfing Champion for the fifth time beating her sisters Miss Florence Hezlet and Miss Violet Hezlet (photographed above) to the title. The sisters are reported upon in several other articles as having entered the same tournaments, including many of the annual Ladies’ Golf Union championships. Given the amount of time these sisters spent playing golf together and the level of skill they accumulated, often all making at least the semi-finals in most tournaments, one could argue that their relationship to one another contributed in some way to this success.
Mrs Maud Gordon Robertson
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Helen Charlotte Maud Anderson was born in Old Machar, Aberdeenshire in 1866 to father Fortescue Lennox MacDonald Anderson and mother Frances Charlotte Fisher (maiden name), known as Charlotte. Mrs Gordon ‘Maud’ Robertson was the self-proclaimed first lady golf instructor in Great Britain. It is not known exactly when she started as pioneer in this new profession for women, but if the Daily Mail article is accurate in its description of her teaching for ‘just a year’ in 1906, then it can be reasonably deduced that she started at some point around 1905. She became a household name for Prince’s Ladies Golf Club at Mitcham which was founded in 1894 and had ‘ceased to exist’ by 1931. During her time as instructor it is reported that she taught her own members at the club as well as visiting finishing schools. Maud was reluctant to teach further afield, it seems she wanted to stay relatively under the radar and not provoke too much competition or be seen to be treading on the toes of ‘the male professionals’. As well as in-person teaching Maud also authored a book with illustrations provided by her friend Miss Annie Bell, titled Hints to Lady Golfers in 1909 and subsequently wrote a monthly column for Golf Illustrated called On the Ladies Links. Hints to Lady Golfers comprised of eleven chapters and covered such salient matters to beginner lady golfers at this time as ‘Bunker Play’ and ‘How to Dress’.
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Maud’s parents went on to have several other children and their daughter Blanch was born in 1872. Alan Jackson’s findings in his 1998 article ‘Mitcham’s Mystery Unmasked’ for Through the Green contains some discrepancies that are highlighted by the birth and census records of Maud and her family. Jackson speculates that Blanch Anderson was a name sometimes adopted by Maud, however if we accept that Helen Charlotte Maud Anderson went on to be the prestigious Mrs Maud Gordon Robertson (which Golf historians seem largely agreed upon) then Blanch Anderson is in fact Maud’s younger sister. Therefore, it is highly likely that some of the activities attributed to Maud have been done so in error and it was in fact her sister Blanch taking part in these activities instead. It is also likely to be Blanch Anderson herself who features in the Michael Brown picture in the September 1998 edition of Through the Green discussed by Jackson, shown above.
Miss Lily Freemantle
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Lily Louisa Freemantle was born in Droxford, Hampshire in 1891 to her father William Freemantle and mother, Louisa Philips (maiden name). Lily held an appointment as lady golf instructress in St Moritz as well as being employed by Sunningdale Ladies Golf Club, in Ascot. She was from a family of golfers and in an interview she gave to Sporting Life on 17 May 1911 describes herself as having ‘lived all my life in a golfing atmosphere’. Similarly to Mrs Maud Robertson, Lily states that she played very little golf, as she had more of an aptitude for teaching the sport than competing in it. Lily attributes learning the style of her play to her observations of another woman golfer, that of Lady Hamilton Russell, as well as mentioning the accolades of someone even closer to home.
In the same interview for Sporting Life in 1911 Lily names her sister Elsie Eva as being one of the first lady golf professionals. Elsie Eva Freemantle was born in 1887 in Droxford, Hampshire. In the interview, Lily states that Elsie Eva stopped being a golf instructress after she married, which was typical of women at this time, Mrs Maud Robertson being an exception. When Elsie Eva got married it is reported that two members of her bridal party were Miss Mabel Freemantle and Miss Lena Freemantle, who were possibly another two of the Freemantle sisters. Thus far, Mabel and Lena are not found to have had any involvement with the golfing world. Elsie married Bernard Samuel Callaway, who was also a golf professional, on September 27th, 1906, at the Holy Trinity church in Fareham.
The Outlier: Miss D.M. Smyth
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Miss D.M. Smyth, the lady professional for Le Touquet in 1913 and pictured in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News has proven the most difficult to research. This is mainly due to only having the first initials of her first names, a full name is not given in any of the articles found on her thus far. It is reported in The Leicester Daily Post on Monday, June 10 in 1912 that a Miss D.M. Smythe (note the slight variation in spelling here too) has been appointed to Le Touquet Golf Club ‘to take charge of the ladies’ club and to act as teacher to its members’. The article describes her as being a ‘well-known exponent of the game’ and is set to take up her role the following month, in July, ahead of the Ladies’ Championship of France on the 8th.  Prior to taking up her role she was living in West Kensington where a representative of the Belfast Evening Telegraph went to visit her at her home. Throughout the course of this interview Miss Smyth states that she has been playing golf for six years with her home club being Barnehurst at Bexley Heath. She states that she is ‘not at all well-known’, which may explain the difficulty in finding any more information on her, and that she is proficient in several other sports besides golf.
If anyone knows any more on Miss D.M. Smyth and can help me build a picture of her life and activities, please get in touch. [Update for a follow up article please click HERE]
The presence of golf playing sisters is a biographical pattern that can be observed amongst three of the four early women golfing coaches and professionals discussed in this article. Families were often the communities around which many sports were oriented, and golf was no exception. This article has foregrounded the women within these families, and the sisterly bonds at the forefront of this boom in ladies’ golf. One could argue that the rise of these women to coaching and professional positions may have had its roots in golfing with their sisters, and been cemented by their playing, competing, learning, and teaching golf with one another. Irrespective of the wider applicability of this argument, and although men often remained the gatekeepers to participation, it is clear that in the golfing world women were able to establish effective networks and rise through the ranks to make names for themselves as professionals and experts.
Article © of Jodie Neville
There is a follow up to this article – Solving the Mystery of DM Smyth – which can be read HERE
 Skillen, Fiona. (2012) ‘‘Woman and the Sport Fetish’: Modernity, Consumerism and Sports Participation in Inter-War Britain’ The International Journal of the History of Sport 29:5 https://doi.org/10.1080/09523367.2012.675206
 George, Jane. (2011) ‘‘An Excellent Means of Combining Fresh Air, Exercise and Society’: Females on the Fairways, 1890 – 1914’ Sport as History: Essays in Honour of Wray Vamplew (London; New York: Routledge) p.3
 Vamplew, Wray. (2008), Successful workers or exploited labour? Golf professionals and professional golfers in Britain 1888–1914. The Economic History Review, 61: 54-79. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2007.00380.x
 Photograph taken from The Bystander, April 22, 1908 p.195
Gibraltar, British Armed Forces And Overseas Births And Baptisms birth record for Mary Elizabeth Linsie Hezlet, born 1882, 77/137. Available at: Record Transcription: British Armed Forces And Overseas Births And Baptisms | findmypast.co.uk (oclc.org) (Accessed: 15 March 2023)
 ‘For Golfers, Four Articles by Miss Hezlet’, The Dundee Evening Post, Saturday, August 15, 1903, p.4
 Hezlet, May. ‘Hints On Golf’, The Dundee Evening Post, Monday, August 17, 1903, p.5
 Photograph taken from The Bystander, April 22, 1908 p.195
 ‘Famous Women Golfers: Mrs. Hezlet and Four Daughters, Including Winner, in Irish Championship.’ New York Times; Apr 19, 1908; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index pg. S3
 The Courier, Wednesday, May 19, 1909, p.6 and The Courier, Monday, May 19, 1913, p.7
 Photograph taken by Miss Annie Bell and featured in the June 1998 issue Through the Green, article by Alan Jackson on p.20-21
 Scotland, Modern And Civil Births 1855-2019 for Helen Charlotte Maud Anderson, born 1866, registered Old Machar, Aberdeen, Scotland. Available at: https://www-findmypast-co-uk.mmu.idm.oclc.org/transcript?id=R_687509466 (Accessed: 15 March 2023)
 Robertson, Mrs Maud Gordon. (1909) Hints to Lady Golfers. Published by Walbrook and Co, London
 Golf’s Missing Links list Maud as “instructor”. Available at: https://www.golfsmissinglinks.co.uk/index.php/england/south-east/surrey/820-sur-princes-golf-club-mitcham (Accessed: 15 March 2023). Prince’s Ladies Golf Union ‘ceased to exist’ reported in The Tatler, Wednesday 7 January 1931
 ‘Only Woman Golf Teacher.’ Daily Mail, June 23, 1906, p.5. Daily Mail Historical Archive (accessed March 14, 2023). https://link-gale-com.mmu.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/EE1866087856/DMHA?u=mmucal5&sid=bookmark-DMHA&xid=09eeca9b
 Jackson, Alan. ‘Mitcham’s Mystery Unmasked’, Through the Green, June 1998 p.21
 Image taken from Fine Golf Books: Rare & Collectable Golf. Available at: Hints to Lady Golfers first book written by a lady professional! | Mrs Maud Gordon Robertson (finegolfbooks.com) (Accessed: 15 March 2023)
 ‘Helen Anderson’ (1871). Census return for Castle Terrace, North Berwick, Haddingtonshire, Scotland. 1871 England, Wales & Scotland Census. Available at: Record Transcription: 1871 England, Wales & Scotland Census | findmypast.co.uk (oclc.org) (Accessed: 15 March 2023)
 Hamilton, David. ‘The Ladies Championship of 1897’, Through the Green. September 1988, p.25
 Photograph taken from The Tatler, ‘The Advance Guard of Emancipated Womanhood is Upon Ye’ Wednesday 10 May 1911, p.9
 England, birth certificate for Lily Louisa Freemantle, born 1891; registered quarter 4, Droxford District 2C/123. Available at: Record Transcription: England & Wales Births 1837-2006 | findmypast.co.uk (oclc.org) (Accessed: 15 March 2023)
 ‘The Lady Golfer, Interesting chat with Miss Lily Freemantle, A Golfing Family’, Sporting Life, 17 May 1911, p.7; with special thanks to Douglas at Antique Golf Scotland for helping me track this source down.
 England, birth certificate for Elsie Eva Freemantle, born 1887; registered quarter 2, Droxford District 2C/125. Available at: Record Transcription: England & Wales Births 1837-2006 | findmypast.co.uk (oclc.org) (Accessed: 15 March 2023)
 ‘St. Helens’, Isle of Wight County Press, Saturday 29 September 1906, p.8
 England, marriage certificate for Elsie Eva Freemantle and Bernard Samuel Callaway, married 1906; archive Portsmouth History Centre CHU 44/1C/2. Available at: Record Transcription: Hampshire, Portsmouth Marriages | findmypast.co.uk (oclc.org) (Accessed: 15 March 2023)
 Photograph taken from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News July 12, 1913, p.941
 ‘Lady Golf Professional Appointed to Le Touquet’, The Leicester Daily Post, Monday, June 10,1912, p.7
 ‘Lady Golf Professional’, Belfast Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, June 18, 1912 p.5