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The first record of women playing golf dates back to Scotland’s Bruntsfield Links in 1738, though women’s golf societies weren’t formed until the last quarter of the 19th century. And rest assured, the dominant philosophy about women playing golf — once the male establishment begrudging accepted that women can actually play the sport — was that it was mostly a footnote the real game. In fact, females have been integral to all elements of the game from its inception. Mary Queen of Scotts is said to have commissioned the first golf course in the 1550s, Londoner Issette Miller developed the earliest golf handicapped system in 1893, and the Ladies Pro Golf Association was founded in 1950. In short, a lot has changed since the 17th century, and while women are still excluded from the Masters tournament, women are now the fastest-growing segment of the sport, with as many as six million female golfers in the United States alone.
But it still took some time for the industry to recognize that women should approach playing golf different from men. Part of it has to do with biology. Women typically have wider hips, narrower waists, and larger chests than their less-than-fairer counterparts, so swing techniques that work for a man need to be completely re-thought. Femme-specific equipment also matters, with clubs that typically have a softer flex, a slightly heavier head, and shorter shafts. Women also tend to hit the ball about 75 percent as far as men, which means their way of playing golf is based on both power and strategy.
To better understand this, a women-specific instructional book is essential — as a far cry less expensive than signing up for a clinic or coach who focuses on such nuances. Here are some of the best, from learning the basics to reading about some of the sport’s most amazing femme athletes, all the better to inspire, instruct, and get you confidently out on the links.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Cindy Reid’s Ultimate Guide to Golf for Women
Cindy Reid is widely regarded as one of the best golf instructors in the history of the sport. She started offering lessons after seven years on the pro-LGPA and U.S. Futures Tour, where she won four events, and has worked with pros — both men and women — for decades. All that knowledge has been distilled into her indispensable Cindy Reid’s Ultimate Guide to Golf for Women. It covers pretty much every aspect of the game as it relates to female players, including mechanics such as driving, putting, and course management, as well as more nuanced topics like etiquette, fashion, fitness, and flexibility to help women get the best out of themselves.
Targeting both beginner and accomplished players, it includes easy-to-understand strategies to improve your skills, supplemented with color photos. But it stretches beyond advice on merely covering the correct mechanics to penetrate why — and how — women should approach the game differently than men. Jargon is kept to a minimum, and tips on buying the right equipment are included.
Best Value: Golf Handbook for Women
The first European woman to qualify for the U.S. Tour and British Ladies Open Champion in 1977, Viven Saunders’ book explores all elements of the physical aspects of the game, with photos and illustrations to help illuminate her suggestions on how to get the best shot every time. It covers all the essentials from a female point of view, including knowing which shot to play, reading greens, judging distance, establishing strategies for stroke and match play, and tips on how to get out of trouble spots.
She also talks about how to develop good habits from the start, conquer fears, and focus on enjoying the game to the fullest. And though the specific product recommendations may be a bit dated (it was published in 2000), her tips on what different clubs do — and how to find the right gear for each situation — has proven essential to many readers.
Best for Beginners: Feeling Naked on the First Tee
Rather than merely focusing on the mechanical differences between men and women, Ann Kelly’s Feeling Naked on the First Tee taps into solutions to alleviate the trepidation and self-consciousness that many first-timer female golfers feel. It starts by laying out everything a new golfer should know, from what to wear to where to stand to where to park the cart and how to mark your ball. The slim volume isn’t a voluminous resource; more a crash course told in a light, humorous tone with an undercurrent of authority.
Kelly isn’t an accomplished pro or golf instructor with decades of exposure to the sport, and the book benefits from this more casual approach. She refers to herself as an average golfer who started playing after her two kids left for college, and the overall tone feels like a best friend is virtually holding your hand, making it easy to walk up to the tee for the first time without worrying about all things you think you’re supposed to know.
Best for Perfecting Your Swing: Venus on the Fairway:
Debbie Steinbach played on the LGPA tour for 11 years before becoming a pro teacher and is consistently ranked as one of the 50 instructors in the United States by Golf for Women magazine. This book taps into her experience to offer a detailed overview of what a woman golfer needs to do to perfect her swing in a way that’s both instructional and entertaining.
Supplemented by copious photos and simple visual keys, it details the women-specific considerations around grip and set-up before exploring all aspects of the swing, utilizing practice drills that teach readers how to “feel” key swing movements rather than over-think them.
Overall the tone is playful (sample section: “The Boob Factor”) and jargon-free. She also offers some hard-won advice on playing with male golfers as well as tips on finding the right equipment and proper etiquette on the links.
Best for a Historical Perspective: Par Golf for Women
First published in 1954, Louise Suggs once said she had won so many tournaments during her career that she can’t even remember them all. She was one of the 13 founders of the LGPA and took a no-nonsense approach when playing the game. Her seminal book is often thought of as the women’s version of Ben Hogan’s classic Five Lessons. The book captures her playful-yet-serious approach to the sport, offering a window into a time when women were bona fide pioneers in golf. She passed at the age of 91 in August 2015, but her thoughts about golf are timeless, as witnessed by this oft-repeated quote: “Golf is very much like a love affair, if you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun, if you do, it breaks your heart. Don’t break your heart, but flirt with the possibility.”
Best for the Basics: A Girl’s On-Course Survival Guide to Golf
Christina Ricci’s book covers largely the same topics as other instructional books in this round-up: course management, mental tools, rules, and etiquette. But it also includes a joke section that could be the most valuable part of this wire-bound volume. Ricci worked as a marketing exec and started playing golf at 30. Five years later, she boasted a 5 handicap and a serious passion to get other women in the sport "to pick up the stick and stick with it.”
She utilizes bright and colorful illustrations and graphics to help articulate her tips, and also to imbue a bit of whimsy into what’s often a pretty straight-laced genre. It’s small enough to stash in your golf bag for in-the-field reference (or joke-telling), with clear definitions of the various rules of the game geared to help female golfers build confidence, have fun, and succeed.
Best for Inspiration: Wonder Girl
Less a book about how to golf as a women, and more a study of what it meant to be one of the best women golfers in the world, this non-fiction volume by Don Van Natta chronicles the astounding life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, a singular athlete who was All-American in basketball and won gold medals in track and field in the 1932 Olympics before finding golf. And then everything changed. She’s one of the jargon-free founders and won more consecutive tournaments than any golfer in history, proving to be one of the greatest athletes of all time—regardless of gender.
Very much the pioneer, she viciously defended her tomboy looks and behavior and embraced every one of her rough edges, shattering stereotypes and charging through life on the field. Dubbed one of the top ten athletes of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated, this book won’t teach you any of golf’s fundamentals. But it will inspire you to keep playing your way, regardless of the barriers life (or the patriarchy) put in your way.
Best for Big Swings: Power Golf for Women
Author Jane Horn is a noted golf teaching professional pro-LGPA and owner/operator of her eponymous school of golf in Pittsburgh, Penn., and this book lets you tap her myriad expertise without having to travel. In it she tackles the biggest misperception for female golfers: that they don’t have the strength or power to hit hard and achieve distance. In her view, it’s less a matter of physical strength and more tied to a misconception about how power is generated, specifically for female golfers.
She focuses on distance hitting, including lessons on aiming and setting up the proper stance, as well as increasing arm length and width and developing a plan for longer tee shots to help women get the power they want with each swing. Some readers wish there were photos, rather than just pencil illustrations, to help demonstrate her tips, but her exercises and drills have proven essential for regular players.