The earliest known reference to golf in America is a Dutch ordinance at Fort Orange ' later Albany, N.Y. ' in 1659.A History of Golf by Robert Browning gives a translation of the edict:
The Honourable Commissary and Magistrates of Fort Orange and the village of Bererwyck, having heard divers (diverse) complaints from burghers of this place against the practice of playing golf along the streets, which causes great damage to the windows of the houses, and also exposes people to the danger of being injured and is contrary to the freedom of the public streets;
Therefore their honours, wishing to prevent the same, hereby forbid all persons to play golf in the streets, under the penalty of forfeiture of Fl. 25 for each person who shall be found doing so.
There is much belief that what was played was not Scottish golf, however, but the Dutch game of kolven. Browning writes that, There is no reason to suppose that kolven as played in the Dutch colony in 1659 differed in any respect from the Dutch kolven already described in Chapter III (a game played on ice, told in the origination of the game of golf.)
Another reference to the game is an advertisement in Rivingtons Royal Gazette, a New York newspaper, in 1779.This ad confirms the tradition of golf being played by Scottish officers in New York during the period of the Revolutionary War.
This ad stated: To the GOLF PLAYERS ' The Season for this pleasant and healthy Exercise now advancing, Gentleman may be furnished with excellent CLUBS and the veritable Caledonian BALLS, by enquiring at the Printers.
Recent research into records at the port of Leith show that clubs and balls were shipped the colonies as early as 1743.A shipment of 96 clubs and 432 balls were sent to Charleston, S.C., that year.And in 1786 the South Carolina Golf Club was established, followed by the Savannah Golf Club in 1795.In 1811, a Miss Eliza Johnston issued an invitation to her wedding at the Savannah Golf Club.
Did they refer to golf as we know it?We dont know ' there is nary a newspaper account in this era that a match was actually played, nor are there golf relics.Golf was the rage in Scotland at this time and some theorize that the people of South Carolina were merely copying names which were European.Others hold firm to the belief that golf was actually being played in America.
At any rate, the War of 1812 pitting the U.S. against Britain effectively killed the game in America for decades.Golf was seen as British and would not be in favor in the United States for 80 years or so.
The first North American golf club, therefore, was not in the United States.Three-hole courses had sprung up in Montreal and Quebec, brought to the area by a military ships officers from Scotland.And on Nov. 4, 1873, the Royal Montreal Golf Club was born.It would be 15 years before a similar golf club was established in the United States.
Russell Montague of Pittsburgh, who studied as a young man in Britain, founded a course in 1884. He and several of his golf-loving colleagues enthusiastically participated, but they eventually moved away and play was discontinued in 1910.A Scot, J. Hamilton Gillespie, brought golf to Sarasota, Fla., in 1885.His two-hole course in the middle of town was revolutionary at the time, but it, too, failed to survive.
Which brings to the scene one John Reid, a New Yorker from Scotland who had often seen the game played while a youngster growing up on Scotlands seaside links.Reid settled in Yonkers, N.Y., and became an executive with an iron foundry.
He learned that in 1887 friend and fellow Scot Robert Lockhart was going to Scotland on a business trip.Reid requested that Lockhart order some clubs and balls while at St. Andrews, which Lockhart did.When the shipment of six clubs and balls arrived in the winter, Lockhart excitedly went to the Hudson River, which was iced over, and hit a few shots.Then he delivered the implementsto Reid.
Reid had intended to wait to play until warmer weather in the spring, but on Feb. 22, 1888, he was home for the holiday of Washingtons Birthday.The day was clear with relatively mild temperatures, so Reid hurriedly got together a few of his friends and laid out a three-hole course in a Yonkers cow pasture.
The little group was smitten, and when summer came, they built six holes and moved to a nearby 30-acre site.In November of 1888, they formed an informal club ' the St. Andrews Golf Club.As it developed, it was the first surviving golf club in America.
The Shinnecock Hills club gets credit as the first to have a real course built on rural turf. The area chosen was along of the Great Peconic Bay on Eastern Long Island and shares were sold at $100 each.A clubhouse was erected and in 1891 play commenced.
The first 18-hole course in America was the Chicago Golf Club, built in 1893.And in 1894, the first national amateur events were played.
That summer the Newport (R.I.) sent out invitations and 20 players attended to compete at medal play.Charles Blair Macdonald, who was to gain fame as a course architect, was heavily favored and shot 89 in the opening round.In the final 18 holes, however, he struggled fitfully and shot 100, handing the tournament to W.G. Lawrence.Macdonald was upset, claiming the tournament should have been settled by match play, not medal.
A month later, Macdonald was one of 28 players to compete in a national tourney at St. Andrews.He managed to get all the way to the finals, where he lost to Laurence Stoddard in a playoff when Macdonald sliced his tee shot into a cornfield.His excuse this time was that he was ill.
Such controversies caused the United States Golf Association to be formed on Dec. 22, 1894.Representatives of five clubs were invited ' St. Andrews, Shinnicock Hills, Chicago Golf Club, Newport and The Country Club at Brookline, Mass.Macdonald finally won the event, played at Newport, routing Charlie Sands, 12 and 11 in the first U.S. Amateur.
One day later, 10 pros and one amateur took over the course to play the first U.S Open. The Open was strictly an afterthought, the Amateur considered to be where the real competition was.Horace Rawlins, an Englishman, won. And one month later, Mrs. Charles S. Brown won the U.S. Amateur, arranged on short notice and played in Hempstead N.Y.
Golf in America had indeed begun.
By 1900, the explosion of the game in America was complete.Proof was that, at the turn of the century, there were more golf clubs in the United States than there were in Britain.