Game Changers

The Most Significant of Each Decade

How we made our selections for America's most important courses, as well as additional courses we believe have had an influence on American golf

November 2010

1884: Oakhurst G. Links, W.Va. -- Ground zero for the game that became a pastime, passion and occasional profession and eventually spread from coast to coast. Oakhurst only lasted until 1905, but a replica of sorts, meant for hickory club play, was built on the site in 1994.

1886: Dorset Field Club, Vt. -- Another pioneer course, its original nine was changed several times but a second nine wasn't added until 1999.

1886: Sarasota G.C., Fla. -- Florida's first course, laid out by the grandpappy of Florida golf, J. Hamilton Gillespie. Course was abandoned in 1925.

1887: Foxburg C.C., Pa. -- Cricket player Joseph Mickle Fox, member of Merion Cricket Club, learned golf from Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews in 1884, then returned and staked Foxburg. His design is generally considered to be the oldest course of continuous play in America.

1888: Saint Andrew's G.C., N.Y. -- Its early history typified how golf clashed with expanding suburbia. Its first course was six holes on 20 acres of H.O. Tallmadge's pasture in Mount Hope. In 1892 the club moved to a 34-acre orchard on Palisades Ave. in Yonkers, where members became known as the "Apple Tree Gang". In 1894, they moved to a nine-hole layout in Grey Oaks and in 1897, they moved to its present 18 in Hastings-on-Hudson.

1893: Chicago GC, Ill. -- Home of not only America's first 18 hole golf course, but its first two 18-hole golf courses. The original club in Downers Grove featured 18 holes laid out by C.B. Macdonald. Three years later, the club moved to Wheaton, where Macdonald laid out what he later called, "a really first-class 18-hole course of 6,200 yards." That course (later remodeled by Seth Raynor in the 1920s) hosted the 1897, 1900 and 1911 U.S. Opens, the latter being the first time the USGA designated par for its champions (Par that year was 76). The original Chicago G.C. 18 was reduced to nine holes, is now Downers Grove Golf Club, heavily remodeled in the 1960s.

1893: The Country Club, Mass. -- Scene of the 1913 U.S. Open, when amateur Francis Ouimet beat Brit titans Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff, "the shot heard round the world." Fifty years later, it was the scene of another three-way Open playoff, with Julius Boros defeating little-known Jackie Cupit and fan-favorite Arnold Palmer. A generation after that, the Open returned again. Rees Jones's renovation of the course in preparation for the 1988 Open (won by Curtis Strange in a playoff over Nick Faldo) was so well-received that he was anointed golf's new "Open Doctor" (a mantle previously held by his father, Robert Trent Jones, who had prepared a majority of Open venues in the 1950s and 1960s). From 1988 on, no architect would remodel more courses for major championships than Rees Jones.

1894: Myopia Hunt Club, Mass. -- Its nine holes hosted four U.S. Opens by 1908. Its first, in 1898, was the first Open contested at 72 holes. Its 1901 Open was the first to be settled in a playoff. Its last Open was reportedly the first to feature ankle-deep rough and extremely firm greens.

1894: Newport C.C., R I. -- At nine holes, it was America's first championship venue, hosting both the inaugural U.S. Amateur and inaugural stroke-play U.S. Open in 1895.

1894: Shinnecock Hills G.C., N.Y. -- After a second nine was opened in 1895, it became the first 18-hole course to host a U.S. Open in 1896. C.B. Macdonald remodeled the course in 1917, then William S. Flynn built a new one on the same site in 1931.

1895: Baltusrol G.C., N.J. -- Founded and designed by Louis Keller, who established the Social Register and created one of golf's first island greens. George Low made many changes during his 17-year stay as pro-greenkeeper. His friend A.W. Tillinghast replaced the 18 with the present Upper and Lower 18s in 1922. Both courses later hosted U.S. Opens, the only club in America with that distinction.

1895: Van Cortlandt Park G. Cse., N.Y. -- The first municipal golf course in America proved to be so popular that it instituted new concepts, advanced tee times and marshals to keep play moving.

1898: Garden City GC, Garden City, N.Y. -- Even though its Dev Emmett-designed course, laid out over country lanes, hosted the 1902 U.S. Open, the club brought in U.S. and British Amateur champion Walter Travis to remodel the course in 1906. It established Travis's credibility as a course architect and his notoriety for extreme bunkering.

1899: Ekwanok CC, Manchester, Vt. -- When it opened at 6,034 yards, Ekwanok was, by some 500 yards, the longest golf course in America. Francis Ouimet put Ekwanok in the national headlines by winning the 1914 U.S. Amateur on it, a year after he'd won the Open at Brookline.

1899: Pinehurst Resort & C.C., Pinehurst, N.C. -- What ultimately became a golfing playground presided over by great architect Donald Ross -- who constantly refashioned fairways of its first four courses (Pinehurst being the first complex in the world to have 72 holes), culminating in his mid-1930s solidification of the No. 2 course -- began with a modest nine-hole sand greens course designed not by Ross, but by Dr. D. Leroy Culver. Culver was a New Yorker who practiced medicine during winters in Southern Pines. After making an extended tour of golf courses in Great Britain and the European Continent in 1898, Culver laid out Pinehurst's first "links" by patterning it after holes and features he'd seen, drawing primarily upon The Old Course at St. Andrews. It's an architectural practice that remains popular even today.

Other 1890s courses worthy of consideration: Presidio G.C. (early military layout in San Francisco); Palmetto G.C. (South Carolina precursor to Pinehurst); Nassau C.C. (Long Island layout where the Nassau bet originated) and Oakley C.C. (Boston course where Donald Ross got his start).

1900: Flossmoor C.C., Flossmoor, Ill. -- Known until 1914 as Homewood Country Club, the early H.J. Tweedie design, subsequently altered by many designers, was a popular tournament venue in the early 20th Century, including several Western Opens (considered a major event in those days), the 1910 U.S. Women's Open, the 1920 PGA Championship and 1923 U.S. Amateur.

1903: Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio -- Its long history is intertwined with offbeat aspects of the U.S. Open. It's the only Open venue remodeled both by Donald Ross (for the 1920 Open) and A.W. Tillinghast (for the 1931 Open). In 1920 Open, 43-year-old winner Ted Ray won, drove the green on the dogleg-left, par-4 seventh every day, perhaps creating the first drivable par 4 in American championship golf 40 years before Arnold Palmer got the notion on Cherry Hills' opening hole. Inverness was the site of the Open's longest playoff, a double overtime session of 72 holes before Billy Burke defeated George Von Elm by a stroke. (The next year, the USGA abandoned 36-hole playoffs in favor of 18-hole ones.) At the 1979 U.S. Open at Inverness, where George and Tom Fazio built four new holes to eliminate that short dogleg seventh, the U.S.G.A. transplanted a tree between rounds to keep Lon Hinkle and others from playing down another fairway in order to reach the green on the new par-5 eighth in two. The day after that Open concluded, a member of Inverness's maintenance crew resigned to go work for Tom Fazio. His name was Mike Strantz, and he went on to become one of the most imaginative golf architects of the late 20th Century.

1903: Inwood C.C., Inwood, N.Y. -- Early seaside links with one of America's great finishing holes, a 425-yard par 4 with a Swilcan Burn-like canal across the front of the green. On this hole in the 1923 U.S. Open, Bobby Jones played one of the best shots of his career, an iron from 200 yards to within eight feet of the pin on the final hole of a playoff win over Bobby Cruickshank. It was the first of four Open titles for Jones.

1904: Oakmont C.C., Oakmont, Penn. -- The consummate penal design in American golf, staked out originally by Henry C. Fownes, who would add bunkers where ever he saw players hit a tee shot. Oakmont was constantly toughened by Henry's son, William C. Fownes Jr., and longtime greenkeeper Emil Loeffler, who devised huge rollers to make the putting surfaces firmer and faster. Amazingly, Oakmont didn't host its first U.S. Open until 1927, but no course has hosted more since. Its 621-yard par-5 12th hole was the longest in Open history until 1955, when Olympic's 16th was set at 630 yards. In 2007, its eighth became the first 300-yard par 3 in championship history. In 1984, Oakmont was placed on the National Register of Historic Places,

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