There’s No Better Time to Get Into Women’s Golf

Clockwise from top left: Allisen Corpuz, Nelly Korda, Lilia Vu, Lydia Ko. Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

For most of its 500-year history, golf was heralded as a “man’s game,” for which women — in the words of one 19th-century male critic — were biologically and emotionally “unfitted.” Never, it was believed, could women handle the strain of 18 holes, especially in competition: They were too delicate, talkative, mercurial, and impulsive; plus, their shoes and dresses were bound to spoil the surface of the greens.

Fortunately, the last century has seen substantial changes, bringing us to 2024 — a year that many expect to be the greatest in history for women’s golf. Drawing unprecedented prize money and exposure, the world’s top female golfers are playing some of the most impressive and compulsively watchable golf that’s ever been seen. Viewership for last year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach was up 118 percent from 2022, making last July the most-watched month ever for women’s golf. After a nail-biting final round, American Allisen Corpuz took home the title and a record prize of $2 million — more than double what Annika Sörenstam, arguably the greatest female golfer of all time, won for all three of her U.S. Open victories combined.

These developments reflect a concerted effort by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) to elevate the earnings and visibility of professional female golfers. Just this month, the LPGA announced a partnership with Hana Kuma — a creative media company co-founded by tennis star Naomi Osaka — to help more female golfers become household names. Meanwhile, new data show that more than 800,000 American women took up golf between 2020 and 2022, driving a nearly 70 percent increase in women’s golf spending between 2014 and 2021. Speaking about these trends, LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan credits initiatives including the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf Program — which last year reached its one-millionth participant — while others point to social media, off-course venues like TopGolf, and more prime-time TV coverage. “Women have been able to see other women playing the game, and that has made such a big difference,” says Abby Liebenthal, founder of the female-based golf community Fore the Ladies.

With the popularity of women’s golf only expected to grow, there’s no better time to get invested in the women at the top of the game. Here, our official guide for getting into women’s professional golf.

When to watch

For those just getting into women’s golf, the major championships are a great place to start. First on the schedule is the Chevron Championship, held annually outside Houston in April, followed by the U.S. Women’s Open — the oldest and most significant of the women’s majors, hosted this year by the prestigious Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After traveling to Sammamish, Washington, for this year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June, the women on the tour will then venture to France for the Amundi Evian Championship at the Evian Resort Golf Club in July before the AIG Women’s British Open in late August. For the first time since 2013 (and only the third time in history), the Women’s British Open will be held at the Old Course at St. Andrews, known worldwide as “the home of golf.”

Majors aside, other big events will include the Summer Olympics in Paris and the biennial Solheim Cup in August at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia, where former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are all members. Also exciting are amateur events like the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National in Georgia and the U.S. Women’s Amateur — the USGA’s oldest competition for women, dating all the way back to 1895. This year, the Amateur will be returning to Oklahoma’s Southern Hills Country Club for the first time since 1946, when Olympian and LPGA founder Babe Didrikson Zaharias won the event.

Who to watch

Women’s golf has never been so competitive or so diverse, with 21 countries currently represented in the top 100 of the Rolex World Rankings. As of today, the first spot on that list belongs to 26-year-old American Lilia Vu. After years as a top-ranked amateur, Vu struggled in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour and even considered calling it quits after losing her grandfather to COVID in 2020. Yet she persevered — and thank goodness for that. Last November, she became the LPGA Player of the Year after seizing four titles and two majors, including the 2023 Women’s British Open.

Closely trailing Vu is the world No. 2, American Nelly Korda, 25. Korda’s athletic success is family tradition: Her parents were stars on the professional tennis circuit, and her siblings, Jessica and Sebastian, are highly ranked pros in golf and tennis. In 2021, she had the year of her life, winning the PGA Championship before taking the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Though a blood clot and a back injury forced her to sit out much of the past two years, she has started 2024 with a bang, clinching the LPGA Drive On Championship in her hometown of Bradenton, Florida, at the end of January.

Another player to watch is Korda’s runner-up at Drive On, Lydia Ko. The 26-year-old from New Zealand had a flaming-hot start to her pro career, becoming the youngest woman to ever win a major in 2015. Over the past decade, she has won 20 times on the LPGA Tour, earning her the coveted title of LPGA Player of the Year in 2022.

Then there’s world No. 3, Céline Boutier, 30, whom many believe to be the greatest French golfer of all time. Famous for her explosive swing and “nerves of steel,” Boutier amassed four tour victories last year, including the Evian Championship in her native France. The daughter of a garage mechanic, she received support from the French Golf Federation before she went pro, playing golf for Duke University, where she helped her team win the NCAA Championship in 2014.

Of all the players on the LPGA Tour, England’s Charley Hull, 28, may be the most fun to watch. The world No. 7 and brand ambassador for golf-lifestyle brand Malbon delivered two runner-up finishes at the 2023 Women’s British Open and U.S. Women’s Open, where she stole the show on the final hole of the final round. “Shy girls don’t get sweets,” she said to her caddie as she attempted an eagle on a par-five — an incredibly daring shot given the circumstances.

Of the North American contingent, Canada’s Brooke Henderson, 26, and American Lexi Thompson, 29, are consistently fan favorites. The most-decorated Canadian golfer of all time, world No. 12 Henderson has annexed 13 tour wins, while 11-time tour winner Thompson is one of the longest hitters on the tour, averaging 270 yards per drive.

Of course, no conversation about women’s golf would be complete without mention of Rose Zhang — the 20-year-old phenom from California, who in 2023 became the first woman in 72 years to win her first start as a professional on the LPGA Tour. As a golfer at Stanford, Zhang spent 141 weeks as the world’s top-ranked amateur, seizing the U.S. Women’s Amateur, two NCAA championships, and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (occasionally with her dad as her caddie).

Why to watch

This year, women’s golf feels electric thanks to the talent of the women on the LPGA Tour, which Commissioner Samaan says is “off the charts.”

“A lot of the time you’ll hear, ‘Watching LPGA Tour golf is enjoyable because it’s more relatable,’ and that’s just so far from the truth,” echoes Liebenthal. Sure, the women’s game is different from the men’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s easier — in many ways, it’s harder. Relative to men’s golf, which has become so fixated on power and technology, women’s golf takes advantage of the full suite of clubs, offering a viewing experience that often feels more varied, strategic, and finessed.

Exciting, too, is the chance to watch women compete at courses like Augusta National and St. Andrews, where women have only recently been admitted as members. For much of its history, “golf” at St. Andrews stood for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden,” with women’s play restricted to a side patch of the Old Course. In 2015, the club voted to end its 250-year all-male policy, offering honorary memberships to seven women, including Sörenstam and Princess Anne.

Still, even at the highest level, women professional golfers bring home just a fraction of what their male peers make, while coverage of women’s sports represents just 15 percent of all sports media. Opposite Full Swing — Netflix’s highly successful docuseries about the men’s PGA tour — the name recognition and net worth of LPGA players remain comparatively small, with only two female golfers on the Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid female athletes in 2023.

Yet according to Samaan, that’s what makes 2024 feel so seismic for achieving “real equity and generational change” in the sport. After centuries spent waiting in the wings, women golfers are finally taking center stage. “It’s really happening,” Samaan adds. “You can feel it.”

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There’s No Better Time to Get Into Women’s Golf