New World: Oldest Golf Clubs and Courses
31 January 2014
This is a brief overview of the oldest golf clubs, courses and 18-hole courses in North America, without in-depth research.
There are now updated details of other golf clubs and early golf in America and a map in Oldest Golf Clubs and Courses in America Part II.
Three dates are given for each club where available.
Club foundation date Date present course started Date 18 holes
1794 (1899) 1899 1917
The Savannah Golf Club, in Georgia, USA can trace its origins back to 1794 and claim to be the oldest golf club in North America and USA, on a non-continuous basis.
There is a note in 1796 of the club holding a ball and also a notice of the annual general meeting to be held 1st October 1796 being the anniversary of the club formation.
“Saturday, the first of October, being the anniversary of the Savannah Golf Club, the members are requested to attend at the Merchants and Planters coffee house for the Purpose of electing officers for the ensuing twelve months and to transact other necessary business.”
This is now believed to be the second anniversary of the formation giving a foundation date of 1st October 1794. The present Savannah Golf Club and course was founded in 1899, apparently without knowledge of its ancestry at the time or for decades after, (much like Fraserburgh Golf Club). Its present course dates to 1899, and did not become 18-holes until the first quarter of 20th century, believed to be 1917 or so.
1873 1959 1959
Royal Montreal is the oldest golf club in continuous existence in North America, having been founded in 1873, when eight gentlemen met in an office at the docks. It received its Royal title from Queen Victoria in 1884, the ninth club to obtain a Royal title.
The first golf course was a 9-hole layout on Fletcher’s Field, part of Mount Royal Park on the outskirts of Montreal but the club moved to Dixie in 1896 where it remained for over sixty years until it moved to its present site at Ile Bizard in 1959.
Oakhurst Links are reported to have been laid out in 1884 by Russell Montague, with the first recorded match in 1888. The Links fell into disuse in 1912, but were revived in 1994 as a hickory course and have staged the US National Hickory Championship. Oakhurst struggled commercially in recent times and since 2012, have been part of Greenbrier, host of the Ryder Cup in 1979.
The Quogue course was first laid out in 1887, since when it is believed to have been in continuous use. The original course had 18 holes, but after a hurricane in 1938 the course lost 3 holes and was reduced to the 9 holes which it is today. It is a private members club.
1888 1897 1897
The St Andrews Golf Club is presently the oldest golf club documented to be in continuous existence in USA. It was started, as is widely known, by John Reid and four friends on three holes in an orchard on the outskirts of New York in November 1888 and nicknamed the Apple Tree Gang.
The Apple Tree Gang were nomadic until 1897, when they built an eighteen-hole course on the present site at Hastings-on-Hudson, also known as Mount Hope or Ardsley.
1891 1891 1894
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was founded in 1891, and has the oldest extant 18-hole golf course, as well as the oldest golf clubhouse, started in 1892 in America. It was also the first club in America to admit women, which it did from the start, and possibly the second in the world to do so, after Aldeburgh GC in England.
Its course is a links-style much influenced by a trip a year early by William K Vanderbilt, Edward Meade and Duncan Cryder, to Biarritz in southern France where they met Willie Dunn who had been the professional at Musselburgh, Royal Blackheath, Leith and North Berwick. This is the oldest extant course in North America which has 18 holes.
The initial course of 12 holes was designed by Willie Davis from the Royal Montreal Club and opened in summer 1891. In 1894, Willie Dunn himself added 6 more holes to make it an 18-hole course.
In 1896 Shinnecock hosted the second US Open, when low scoring led to criticism of the course. Thus in 1901 the popular ladies 9-hole course, laid out in 1893, was taken to lengthen and improve the course.
Chicago Golf Club
1893 1895 1895
The original course of the Chicago Golf Club was the first 18-hole course in North America. Its founder was Charles Blair Macdonald, who used to play golf on 7 holes on ‘Bluff’s Edge with two American friends, the landowner CB Farwell and Hobart Chatfield-Taylor. Encouraged by them, he raised funds and laid out a 9-hole course to the west of Chicago. In 1893, he increased the number of holes to 18, which was the first 18-hole course in North America.
The game, though new to Chicago, grew in popularity and the following year the Club decided to buy land at the present site in Wheaton and Macdonald designed at new 18-hole course of 6,500 yards, opened in 1895, and now the second oldest extant 18-hole course in America.
Charles B Macdonald won the first official US Amateur Championship in 1895.
After the Chicago club moved to Wheaton the original 18-hole course reverted to 9 holes and now operates as the Downers Grove Golf Club. They say holes 2, 4, 7, 8 & 9 and still much as they were 110 years ago.
The US Golf Association was formed in 1894 and the Canadian Golf Association a year later in 1895. The founding members of the USGA were St Andrews Golf Club, The Country Club, the Chicago Golf Club, the Newport Golf Club and the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
The Country Club 1892 1893 1899
Newport Golf Club 1903 1912 1912
Yale reports that they had a nine-hole course on farmland in 1895 at Winchester Avenue, one year after the USGA was founded, which is the same year the Springdale Association was formed by three Princeton members to buy the land for their golf club.
Page updated 27th April 2014 , 13th July 2014 and 31st December 2014.