top of page

Early Ladies swing stories 1920-1940

100 years before the cell phone

- swing studies of champion women from between the wars.

Marion Hollins

Simone De La Chaume (later Lacoste).

The ladies are coming! In the two decades after the First World War, most of the world was busy finding and adapting to a new order. Fortunately for America, the economic boom of the “Roaring Twenties” was about to begin. America would see a large increase in the numbers playing golf, most particularly in the ladies' section.


The ladies were literally on the march as the newly won right to vote on both sides of the Atlantic gave them the license to enjoy a new age of hope. A woman's duties in the 19th century had been related to the cult of domesticity, in which a woman's virtue was tied to piety and submissiveness. It was the arrival of the twentieth century that saw a gradual change in female confidence and attitude. Women were becoming more aware they did not have to stay within the restrictive boundaries of those previously established marital roles.



Historically, for ladies' golf, it was probably the greatest period for elegance and style there has ever been.





The female competitors who took part in those adventurous times may not have had the robotic repetitiveness of their modern counterparts, or have been able to send the ball 250 yards on the fly, but they left a legacy of grace and balance with a touch of mystique that enriched the golfing world and will never be forgotten.







It was in these times that the film industry and Hollywood began to conquer the world: its productions attracted crowds of cinema-goers in all the Western nations and became the major source of public entertainment. It was estimated that at the end of the decade in America alone, there were over 90 million cinema-goers.


It was also at the beginning of the Roaring Twenties, or Jazz Age, that the rise of film stars like Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, and Clara Bow started to influence the whole of society. Their dress and costume, both on the film set and privately, plus a seemingly confident public awareness, had a huge effect on the rest of women's culture.







Photo: Complete with flapper headgear and hairdo, the multi-faceted and multi-talented Gloria Swanson was one of the most famous actresses to take part in both silent and talkie films, and continued into the color films from the thirties.

With all the new developments in the media, radio, and advertising press, it was the female element that gained the biggest stimulus. The flappers were the fashion leaders of the day. They smoked in public, drank alcohol (particularly cool in the prohibition years), and danced at jazz clubs. The flapper necklines were low and their dresses were short.

See Edith Cummings and "The Great Gatsby."

Zelda Fitzgerald was the original flapper. Husband Scott Fitzgerald was intrigued by the oddly appropriate title and even became inspired and produced work based on Zelda's lifestyle.

Zelda Fitzgerald was the most acclaimed of the early twenties flappers. She played golf every day with her best friend Xandra Karman for a while and had a good swing. Husband Scott Fitzgerald (famous as the author of "The Great Gatsby") also played with Zelda on some occasions at their home club the White Bear Yacht Club in Minnesota, but unlike his wife, he showed little aptitude or interest for the game.

The following female golfers are some of the pioneers of those times. These short biographies focus mostly on the player's effect on the golfing world and how they developed their personal swing style.


Marion Hollins 1892-1944


There was no better example of confidence and self-assertion than New Yorker Marion Hollins. She was sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and excelled at all sports she took her hand to, including golf.

An active suffragette and fighter for the women's cause, Marion Hollins was able to steer her life over the high walls and closed gates of the male-dominated bastions better than any other female of any period. History records her greatest gift to golf was not as a player but as a contributor, project manager, and architect of three of the most famous courses in the world, Pasatiempo, Augusta, and Cypress Point. Thanks to her foresight, determination, and generosity (she created her wealth, even after her father lost his fortune in the Wall Street crash) the golf game would enjoy her greatest achievements for posterity.




The swing study of Marion shows a well-tutored action. She had received lessons right from the beginning as a nine-year-old child. How much her mechanics were influenced by the legendary teacher Ernest Jones is difficult to say (Hollins recruited him from England in 1922 to teach on Long Island, New York) because she was already one of the best female players in America and had just won the 1921 U.S. Women's Amateur. She had already finished runner-up in the same event as early as 1913. Nevertheless, it was a perfect match for both teacher and pupil as Jones had his reputation seriously boosted and Marion Hollins gained an excellent international coach for her projects.


Ernest Jones, 1887-1965. Teacher of Virginia Van Wie, Glenna Collett Vare, Lawson Little, Betty Hicks, and many more.






Much of the basis for the Ernest Jones method was developed when he lost his lower right leg while in action in the First World War. Jones had to develop a new sense and understanding of balance after he recovered from the injury and went back to the driving range.


For more on the Jones discovery and influence see the link- The history of the golf swing.









Let the hands and then body respond to the weight of the club head.


Tempo

Dynamics


One of the thoughts that Ernest Jones's teaching instilled in Marion was a greater awareness of rhythm and timing. After initial lessons, her favorite word in golf became POISE. It was her alternative to thinking pause (recommended by Jones). By implanting that in her swing sequence, Marion ensured she started the forward response with the lower body(see the film).


POISE.

As so often seems to happen with generous and formerly blessed people fate suddenly deals a bad hand and causes life to nose dive, taking everything that had been enjoyed (and possibly taken for granted) away. So it was with Marion Hollins. In 1937 she was involved in a car accident whereby she hit her skull on a hard object and suffered a serious concussion. After a period of convalescence, she returned to society, but it was like life had been driven out of her and she became only a shadow of her former self.



Inducted posthumously into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2020, Marion Hollins was just 51 years old when she died of cancer on Aug. 27, 1944

European Ladies

Meanwhile, back in Europe, Britain and France faced crippling war debts, deep economic recession, and high unemployment. In addition, Britain's poor labor relations led to the General Strike of 1926. Nevertheless, like America, European ladies' golf was on the rise. Cecil Leitch and Joyce Wethered, the great champions of the last decade, continued to carry the baton and dominate most events, but it was in the early twenties that the continental female golf game started to see players with games that could challenge not only at their national level but also in British events.



Inevitably, the same ladies would even have the audacity to start winning the biggest prizes in Europe.


Simone de la Chaume(Simone Lacoste).

Simone de la Chaume was born in Paris on November 24, 1908.


Like Marion Hollins, Simone de La Chaume was born into a wealthy family, with her father being the director of finance in France and her mother the daughter of a successful Paris solicitor.




Showing signs of being a champion as she holds a perfect balance at nine years old.






Simone de la Chaume had her first taste of golf when the family was on holiday in Bude, Cornwall. She even had a couple of lessons, and although she had a clear talent to strike the ball she never showed any interest in making it a hobby.








The rest of the family continued to play the game as members on the newly established St Cloud course in Paris, with Simone only occasionally hitting a few balls to relieve her boredom. The child prodigy only became more interested when the family bought a summer residence on the Basque coast and were exposed to three recently built courses, plus the already established Biarritz course (1888), all nestled in the beautiful western Pyrenees countryside.


The now 12-year-old Simone took lessons from the renowned English teaching professional from the Sante-Barbe course, Sam Freemantle. Her handicap came steadily down to single figures in two years.


Working hard on the swing. Simone`s mechanics continue to improve under her coach's critical eyes (you can sense that in-to-out path).


At sixteen years old Simone was now beating all the local opposition and won her first national title, The Femina Cup played on the St. Cloud course in Paris. With her game getting better with every challenge it seemed only natural that she would take the next step and compete on the international stage. Simone entered and won the British girl's championship in Stoke Poges with relative ease.





Interestingly one of the opponents she beat was future amateur champion Edith Wilson (seen left).









Simone De La Chaume was now considered to be the best female player in France. Bernard Darwin compared the game of Simone with stars like Cecil Leitch and Joyce Wethered, while Leitch herself considered Simone to be champion material. Many were impressed with not only the natural rhythm and repeating swing but also her cool head and excellent focus.

1927- The big year.

It would only be three years later in what was then considered the Ladies' biggest amateur prize of them all that the world would see just how focused and determined Simone De La Chaume was. Before the Ladies Amateur championship on Royal County Down in Newcastle, Ireland, Simone had been in fantastic form. She had won her National championships with a 7 and 5 victory over Pauline De Vilmorin in the final and beaten Cecile Leitch in an international event 3 and 2 over a 36-hole match. The championship turned out to have a Deja-vu feel about it as the last stages featured the same characters as those in the girl's championships three years before. Once again Simone had to beat Enid Wilson in an earlier round, and once again she would play Dorothy Pearson in the final. This time Simone won 5 and 4, establishing her name in the record books forever.

Look out for new additions to this section over the coming months.



133 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All

2 Comments


John Mule'
John Mule'
Jan 23, 2023

The research and attention to detail for this article was incredible. I'd actually love an entire book about this subject. As always, great job Bill!

Like
Replying to

That`s kind of you-thanks John. Yes I love working on the lady golfers. I could go on for so much longer as well.

Like
bottom of page