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Women's Major Championships: Star Venues - Australian Golf Digest Women's Major Championships: Star Venues - Australian Golf Digest

Classic golf-course architecture is growing its foothold on women’s major championships

You are forgiven if you see the following three courses and think it’s the itinerary of a cracking golf trip organised by a bunch of architecture enthusiasts: Sahalee Country Club in Washington state, Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania and the Old Course at St Andrews. It’s not a golf trip, though. They’re three of the five courses staging LPGA majors in 2024. That’s some list if you’re into great golf courses.

While the Chevron Championship, the first women’s major of the year, has already been held at The Club at Carlton Woods in Texas, the Women’s US Open is only weeks away from heading to one of the great courses of America’s north-east: Lancaster. Fans of Golden Age course architecture will be glued to the TV when the best women golfers in the world play the 1920 William Flynn design from May 30 to June 2. Weeks later, from June 20-23, they’ll contest the Women’s PGA at one of the classic layouts of the Pacific North-West, the treelined and majestic course at Sahalee, a former PGA Tour and men’s major championship venue. Two months later – after July’s Evian Championship in France and the Olympics in Paris in early August – the women’s game will grab the focus of the golf world when the Women’s Open heads to the Old Course from August 22-25.

It’s only the third time the Women’s Open will be played at St Andrews’ Old Course after it was first staged on the old links in 2007, and then again in 2013.

The LPGA stars are part of the lure as well. Perhaps the tour has never had a bigger list of characters and quality players than the current crop, which includes, but is certainly not limited to, Nelly Korda, Minjee Lee, Hannah Green, Lydia Ko, Lilia Vu, Rose Zhang and Allisen Corpuz. The courses are also helping to draw a wider spread of golf fans keen to see the great tracks of the world being played by professionals. Last year, the women’s game went to Pebble Beach for the US Open, New Jersey’s iconic Baltusrol for the PGA and famed Walton Heath outside London for the Open.

The men’s tour can’t go to a lot of these venues anymore; they’re just hitting the ball way too far.

“The past few years we’ve gone to places I’ve really wanted to go to,” Lee, Australia’s top-ranked golfer at world No.5, told Australian Golf Digest recently. “We are trying to go to venues that have more history and the women’s game is trying to carve its own history, too. So many people have worked so hard for us to be in this position [to go to venues like St Andrews]. I’m just really grateful, but I also think we deserve it too. It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling, I think.”

The LPGA is quickly overtaking the PGA and DP World tours as the most watchable and compelling professional circuit in the world. Give me the best golf swings in the professional game and classic course architecture over the garbage brand of power golf men have been playing on dull courses for a large part of the PGA Tour’s schedule.

This will be glaringly obvious at St Andrews in late August when the Women’s Open will come a week after the PGA Tour’s FedEx St Jude event at the lacklustre TPC Southwind course in Memphis. Australian fans will be hoping Lee, Green or any of the other Aussies playing on the LPGA Tour can join Peter Thomson (1955), Kel Nagle (1960) and Cam Smith (2022) as the only Australians to have won a major at St Andrews.

Having triumphed at the 2021 Evian and 2022 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles near Pinehurst, Lee has vanquished the stress of trying to become a multiple major winner. She can freewheel it at St Andrews.

“I want to win more majors,” Lee said. “I mean, any other majors would be amazing, but the Women’s British Open is pretty high on my list. At the Old Course at St Andrews and winning at the Home of Golf would be pretty cool. I’ve never been to St Andrews.”

So, what’s next? Lee certainly would love to see a women’s major at Augusta National before her career is up. It would be a fantastic follow-up to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, created in 2019, that sees the final round played at Augusta the week before the Masters.

“I’ve been a couple of times to watch [brother] Min Woo at Augusta, I’ve felt that it would be pretty amazing to play it,” Lee said. “I don’t know if in my golf lifetime we will go there for a women’s [professional] event, but hopefully a women’s professional event will go there in the future. That’d be pretty amazing. With the [Augusta] Women’s Amateur, it feels like they’re going in the right direction, but not quite over the line yet for a big women’s professional event. It would be disappointing if it took too long because it’s a really special place. It would be so cool if we could experience that like the men.”

Minjee and Min Woo each playing a major at Augusta National every year? Sign me up. 

 getty images: christian petersen