Golf is the most prestigious and symbolic for high social status game in the world. There is a big contradictory about its origins, but most golf courses in United States were built based on original designs and ideas from Europe. Top ranked, famous golf courses in America were built in the late 1890s. Most of them remain private, not accessible to the general public. But the history behind oldest golf courses is astonishing. Mysterious challenges of the game were developed in the architecture of natural landscapes by most prolific golf course designers of the last century. Original ideas, history behind the scenes of putting green can amaze the most sophisticated golf enthusiast. (photo: William Poultney Smith, AW Tillinghast and George Crump.)
Pine Valley Golf Club
Pine Valley Golf Club was ranked highest in Golf Magazine 100 Top Course in United States and the world in 2012. Designed and build by George Arthur Crump Jr. in 1913, Philadelphian hotelier and golf course architect, it is still considered the most challenging golf course in history. Golf fanatic and successful hotel businessman, Mr. Crump with his friend Joseph Baker travelled to Europe to study the most famous golf courses in Britain and the Continent, and by the time of their return George decided to make a significant improvement in the golf industry in his homeland.
Most golf courses at this time were built with a minimalistic approach to the site base. Instead, George used European ideas. During his hunting expeditions to New Jersey region, his decided to purchase 184 acres of sandy ground deep in pinelands, where he drained and pulled out twenty-two thousands of stumps with steam-winches and horse-drawn cables. His idea of a golf course was out of ordinary. No hole of his course was laid out of parallel to the next. No more than two running holes can be played in the same direction. You can't see any hole other the one you are playing. Unlike any other traditionally designed golf course, a round of golf of Pine Valley Course required a player to use every club in his bag.
George Crump was so obsessed with building his golf course; he died without seeing his project through. Some say; he committed suicide, others reported he died from an infected tooth. Nevertheless, four last holes he never completed was made by other golf course's architects after Crump's death in 1918.
The unique in its approach to the game, Pine Valley Golf Course has not been hosted any professional golf tournaments due to its limited space for thousands of spectators. This club is private except for one day in September of every year for general public to watch the Crump Cup, nationally recognized tournament for amateurs.
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta National Golf Club was designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie and opened for play in 1933. Interesting enough, initially, Alister MacKenzie was not a golf architect. He was a military surgeon in Britain army during Boer War when he became acknowledged with military camouflage. Later on, he said, "the brilliant successes of the Boers [during his service in South Africa] were due to the great extent to their making the best use of natural cover and the construction of artificial cover indistinguishable from nature."
After war, MacKenzie left medicine, became a member of several golfs clubs in England, and remained on Green Committees for years until 1930. His modern for his time ideas about golf courses included undulating greens, narrow and long greens angled from the center of the fairway, large free-form bunker shapes, and additional contouring. Those ideas became part of his development of Augusta National Golf Course. MacKenzie's golf architecture was born before the era of massive scale land preparation, and he was seeking to adjust the beauty of natural land layout with the game needs.
Augusta National Golf Course was open exclusively for male golfers until 2012, stressing out for 79 years that it is a private club and has the right to defend its membership policies.
Cypress Point Golf Club
The same golf designer, Alister MacKenzie, who designed Augusta National Golf Course, was the lead architect of Cypress Point Golf Club along with Robert Hunter. Located in Monterey, California, this private golf club is regularly rated among the best golf courses in the world. It has a single 18-hole course, and the 16th is played over the ocean. Opened in 1928, this golf course is another beautiful design idea of MacKenzie naturalistic approach. MacKenzie let the course fall where it does naturally, and the Monterey's coast is the most spectacular place on earth. Falling through the dunes of the coast, the course travels into Del Monte forest and reemerges to the coastline for the most amazing finishing holes. Some say that it is a "truly the Holy Grail of golf."
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Claimed to be the oldest golf club (1891) in United States, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is located in Southampton on Long Island, New York. It has hosted the U.S. Open four times. Can you imagine, how much the founders paid for 80 acres of land back in 1889? $2,500. The pay-off was quick with $4,400 paid in membership for newly signups.
This golf club was originally designed by Willie Davis from Royal Montreal Clubs with 12 holes in 1891. Willie Dunn from Scotland added six more holes, getting the course to 18. In 1985, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club held second U.S. Open. It appears though that the course wasn't challenging enough, and it was abandoned in 1901. In 1937, William Flynn redesigned the course into 6,740-yard configuration. It hosted 2004 U.S. Open only after extension of 256 yards.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is often called "favorite ladies club" for its acceptable of women golfers from the first day of its opening.
The ownership of the land is under a question though. Indian Nation of Shinnecock claims that this land was illegally seized in a white land grab in 1859.
Oakmont Country Club
Oakmont Country Golf Club is one of the older in United States (opened in 1903). It was built by Henry C. Fownes, former iron manufacturer from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia. His Carrie Furnace Company, sold to Carnegie Steel Corporation in 1896, made him a wealthy man at the age of 40. He spent his retirement years playing golf and investing in his private golf club. His idea of a golf course was simple. He purchased 200 acres of vast farmland, got one hundred and fifty workers, and with two dozens of mule teams, slowly built a link-style course. Today, his golf course is considered one of the most difficult in the United States. It has large, extremely fast, and undulating greens.
At those times, Haskell ball became more and more popular, and Fownes build his course to handle this new technology at 6,400 yards. It is 1,200 feet longer than recommended 6,000 yard length.
Without today's technologies, bulldozers and earth-moving equipment, Fownes has built Oakmont Country Club relying on the natural landscape. His course originally had 100 bunkers, and fairways over existing hills and swales presented Oakmond's mysterious challenge.
Herbert Warren, a famous journalist, called Oakmond "an ugly old brute" in the New Yorker. No long after, the club committee planted trees to make the course look more beautiful, but in the mid-1990s trees were removed due to its destructive effect on the course. The wind is a big factor in navigating the course, and it is no doubt a challenge for golfers.
Merion Golf Course (East)
Merion Golf Course (Haveford Township, Pennsylvania) is a private golf club founded in 1896 by members of Merion Cricket Club. Designed by 32-year-old Hugh Irvine Wilson, a Princeton University graduate, the Merion East was open in 1912. Hugh was an excellent golfer himself, but he has no idea how to build golf courses. To achieve his goal of building decent golf course, he traveled to Scotland and England to bring back traditional ideas. Distinctive Scottish-style bunkers, we know today as the "white faces of Merion," are the result of this trip.
Merion Golf Course hosted 5 U.S. Opens from 1934 to 2013. This club was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Located in Pebble Beach, California, Pebble Beach Golf Links golf course is mentioned among the most spectacular courses in the world. Its wide open views of Carmel Bay on the south side of the Monterey, Peninsula are incredible. Established in 1919 as part of the complex of the Hotel del Monte, it was originally designed as a local excursion route for visitors. One of its designers, Jack Neville, was focused on placing as many holes as possible along the coastline. This created a "figure 8" layout. Various changes to the course were made up to 2014. Pebble Beach hosted U.S. Open five times. The next scheduled time is 2019.
Pebble Beach Golf Links is not private anymore. It became public in 2001.
Winged Foot Golf Club
Winged Foot Golf Club is ranked number 8 by Golf magazine. It is a 36-hole golf course in Mamaroneck, New York. Its architect, Albert Warren Tillinghast was one of the most prolific architects and writers on sports in the history of golf. He designed around 265 golf courses. Shackelford wrote. "Humor and quirkiness abound on his holes, but every course is a strong test of skill from the first hole to last."
Tillinghast always felt that greens were essential to any course. In writing about Winged Foot, he said that its "holes are like men, all rather similar from foot to neck, but with the greens showing the same varying characters as human faces."
Winged Foot Golf Club had hosted six U.S. Open, two U.S. Amateur, various PGA Championships, and U.S. Women's Open. It is a private golf club for the rest of the year.
Sand Hills Golf Club
Sand Hills Golf Club was built in 1995 and designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. It is located in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. Ranked high, this golf club remains unqualified, but claims to be a links course as Pebble Beach Golf Links. When the main design was done, there were a hundred different holes on the course. It was slowly reduced to 18. Sand Hills Golf Club does not have all characteristic of seaside links, but it is one of the most naturally arranged golf courses. There is no better place for a golfer to disappear for a few days due to its remote location.
Fishers Island Golf Club
The Fishers Island Club is a private country club on the east of Fishers Island, New York. Founded in 1926 and design by Seth Raynor and Charles Banks, it was called the "Cypress Point of the East." This link-style course is only two miles wide and eight miles in length. Accessible only by ferry, Fishers island Club is one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the world. The island itself became very popular among the most affluent New Yorkers who have bought property there in their search for secluded seascapes. It is impossible to play at this golf course for anyone who is not a part of its up-scale community. ...