The Christchurch Ladies’ Golf Club was mentioned in a brief statement in the minutes of the annual meeting of the Christchurch Golf Club on 13 April 1892. It said “a letter was read from the Ladies’ Club and this was referred to the Committee with the power to act”.
While this is the first mention of the Ladies’ Club’s existence, it would have taken some time for those who formed it to reach the stage of approaching the Christchurch Golf Club to ask for rights to play on their course at Hagley.
Organised golf for women was in its infancy at the end of the 19th century. A few women’s clubs were formed in Great Britain in the 1870s and 1880s but it was not until 1893 that the English Golf Union was formed. Women’s golf in India was also being organised at the time the Christchurch women formed the first women’s club in New Zealand closely followed by the Otago women.
The first President for 1893 was the Countess of Glasgow, while Mrs. P. Campbell was Club Captain with a total of 33 members. In the early days members had to be elected to the club. This meant that the proposing and seconding person had to obtain the required number of votes.
While the Christchurch Ladies’ Golf Club was independent until 1996 it always relied upon the Christchurch Golf Club for its courses. In the 1890s they were based on a 18 hole layout at Hagley with both clubs having separate Club houses or “huts” as they were known in those days.
In 1898 the Christchurch Golf Club leased land to the west of Christchurch where the current Russley Golf Course is. The women were given playing rights there and were also involved at the official opening in July 1899. The men and women play few official matches at Russley with no public transport to get there. Early in 1900 the Christchurch Golf Club turned its attention to the current site at Shirley which was 10 minutes by tram to town. Nine holes were laid out fences were erected and the men played their first match on 4th August 1900. Hagley was reduced to nine holes in 1901 and the “Hagley Hut on Wheels” was moved to Shirley and the lease given up on Hagley. The moved to Shirley caused anxiety as they were unsure if play rights on the new course would be granted. In 1900 the men changed their rules to allow the ladies to play on the Shirley links. The amalgamation of the two clubs was suggested in the early 1900s but did not finally take place until 1996.
The move to Shirley meant that the Christchurch Golf Club had to purchase land and money was raised from members with the first shares in the newly formed Shirley Links Co. Ltd. Brought by the Ladies’ from the sale of their “Hagley Hut” and some club reserves.
The first Clubhouse (on the current green keeper house site) had the expenses shared between the men’s and ladies’ clubs. After a grand opening by Governor General, Lord Ranfurly on 21 March 1903 the two clubs had a clubhouse with a central dining room, a ladies’ tea room at one end and a men’s smoke room at the other.
There were a few problems with a request from to the women’s committee for; “less noise in the tea room” and concern about high heel damage to the polished wooden floors.
The outbreak of World War 1 had many women involved with war duties; these ladies’ were granted honorary memberships and women working for the Red Cross granted Saturday playing rights.
The number of active members in 1920 was 120 and steadily increased to 190 in 1929. The depression dropped numbers to 156 in 1932. Between 1932 and 1942 numbers went up and down to 130.
The women always made generous contributions towards the furnishings of the common rooms of the clubrooms and extra capitation which was needed for the need clubhouse completed in 1927.
During and following World War 2
During World War 2 members of the Christchurch Ladies’ Golf Club raised money for wartime charities and contributed to food parcels for members of the club serving overseas. Work continued after the war with the Save the Children Fund. After the war golf was relatively leisurely for many of the members with more time spent in the clubhouse. With better roads and more cars it made golf easier to play regularly on club days.
The members grew steadily again after the Second World War and by the early 1950s a waiting list developed. By the mid 1960s the waiting list became a problem with the number of wives waiting to play golf with their husbands in mixed matches. These women were given honorary memberships to allow play.
The problem of the waiting list was solved during the 1970s with economic fortunes of the country. By the mid 1980s the club membership was rapidly declining from 225 in 1985 to 179 in 1989. During the early 1990s attracting new members was difficult but the introduction of the “starter membership” scheme was a success to introduce ladies’ to the game.
Golf in the Weekends
The Second World War was a permanent turning point for weekend ladies’ golf at Shirley. During the war like the limited WW1 access women who were working during the week could play during the weekends. After the war the two clubs worked out a trial set of playing times which would give women the chance to play at weekends. In the late 1980s Sunday restrictions were removed and the morning time of 8.30-9.30 was introduced.
The weekend playing rights made it possible for closer links between the two clubs and more players were participating in the mixed events. This made way for the needs of the Ladies’ Golf Club to be more appreciated and the late 1980s saw the Christchurch Ladies’ Club being invited to send representatives to committee meetings of the men’s club and also to the match and sub committees. This made it much easier for the two clubs to share the one course.
In 1996 the two clubs amalgamated to become the Christchurch Golf Club with the ladies’ providing money to rebuild the pagoda to mark the occasion.
New Zealand Championships
The first Ladies’ New Zealand Championships was held in Dunedin 1893 and from 1894 to 1910 the Christchurch Ladies’ Golf Club hosted six of these tournaments. The first two won by Christchurch members- Mrs Lomax Smith in 1983 and Mrs Wilder in 1894. The driving competition at the 1897 championships was won by Miss Wilford, after three shots, with an average distance of 114 yards (each drive was measured and the average taken to find the winner) but the longest individual drive was 124 yards hit by Miss Rose of Wellington.
The Club hosted two New Zealand Championships between the wars in 1920 and 1929.
After 1945 the Club has hosted three New Zealand Championship meetings 1946, 1955 and 1967.