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A look back at the history of golf in America

Next week we celebrate the 4th of July. It’s a day of barbeques, parades, fireworks, red, white and blue and our favorite pastime: golf!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, we also want to celebrate the history of golf in America.

Golf in America was originally played in locations on a few holes laid out in pastures. It is thought that the first organized golf played in America was on Harleston Green, which was an undeveloped pastureland near the corner of Pitt and Bull streets in Charleston, SC.

The first known record of anyone purchasing golf equipment in America dates to 1743 when Charleston merchant David Deas received a shipment of 432 golf balls and ninety-six clubs from Scotland. There is no record of what he did with the equipment, but it showed there was interest in golf at that time.

In 1786, the South Carolina Golf Club was formed. Not much is known about how many members were involved or where they played due to the lack of historical records. In 1794, the Savannah Golf Club was established in Savannah, GA and eventually grew into the modern-day incarnation of the Savannah Golf Club, which was incorporated in 1799.

The first 18-hole course in the United States was created at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois in 1892. It was one of the five founding clubs of the United States Golf Association (USGA) which was established in 1894. The other founding clubs include:

  • The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1882 and was originally a horse racetrack. The first six holes were laid out by three club members in 1893 with a full 18-holes in play by 1899.
  • Newport Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island. It was founded in 1893 as a 9-hole course and in 1897 an additional 9 holes were added making it an 18-hole course.
  • Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, on Long Island. It was founded in 1891 as a twelve-hole golf course that was expanded to eighteen holes in 1895.
  • Saint Andrew's Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. It was founded in 1888 and started as a 3-hole course. The club’s current 18-hole site in Yonkers, NY, has been its home since 1897.

The U.S, Amateur Championship is the oldest golf championship in America - one day older than the U.S. Open. It was created in 1895 because of a controversy. In 1894, two clubs - Newport (R.I.) Golf Club and New York's St. Andrew's Golf Club - had conducted invitational tournaments to attract the nation's top amateur players.

Both clubs proclaimed their winners as the national champion. It was decided that golf needed a national governing body to conduct national championships, develop a single set of rules for all golfers to follow, and to promote the best interests of the game. With that, representatives from the five clubs listed above founded the USGA on Dec. 22, 1894.

In 1895, the USGA conducted Amateur, Open, and Women's Amateur Championships. The Amateur and Open Championships were conducted at Newport Golf Club during the same week in October.

We hope you enjoyed this little history lesson. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

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