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In her new book Par for the Ladies, Ailsa Fortune gives a vivid account of the early days of women’s golf based around the historic North Berwick Ladies’ Club; of the high society ladies who flocked to the small Scottish Victorian resort to play on its legendary links and who cemented the town’s reputation for glamour and golf.

In the late 19th century, North Berwick became known as the ‘Biarritz of the North’, as much for its golf as for its royal visitors and it continued to be a mecca for the rich and the famous until the outbreak of the Second World War. Princesses, noble ladies, politicians’ wives, industrialists’ daughters, all eager to be seen driving a ball across its illustrious course, appear on the pages of this singular book.

Par for the Ladies records the formation of the North Berwick Ladies’ Club, in 1888, and its rapid growth in popularity, identifying many of its original members, some of whom were among the most gifted golfers of their day. The underlying story of the women’s struggle to be accepted on equal terms with the men, and the men’s attempts to keep them on their ‘little links’ away from the long course, is told with gentle humour.

Ailsa Fortune’s narrative documents the gallery of great golfing women who have come out of North Berwick – among them Dorothy Campbell, Elsie Grant-Suttie and more recently Catriona Matthew – and at the same time presents a lively commentary on social developments and habits from the late 19th century to the present day. Snapshots of social change are captured through the lens trained on the ladies who golfed at North Berwick, all of whom contributed to making ladies’ golf the equal of the gentlemen’s game.

The book is illustrated with over 150 photographs, many of which have never before been published. Catriona Matthew, British Lady Champion in 2009, has written the foreword.

Ailsa Fortune has written British social and political history for Oxford University Press. She lives in East Lothian and writes and lectures extensively on local history topics. Par for the Ladies is her fourth book.

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