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The 5 Oldest Golf Courses in the United States

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For more than a century, Americans have played golf. It’s a life-long activity and can be played at almost any age. On which course did Americans first develop a passion for the sport? There is some debate. In some circumstances, general sports clubs or golf clubs existed before golf courses were built. Other times, courses were private before becoming public or they changed location from the original site. Golf Course vs. Golf Club For example, the Savannah Golf Club was established in 1794 in Savannah, Georgia. Newspapers from that time serve as a testimony to this history. However, the Savannah Golf Club built its first course in 1899, which disqualifies it from this list, but it is certainly worth an honorable mention.   There is also debate about whether the courses are still operational, if they have had continuous or non-continuous play throughout the years, and whether they were public or private from their time of conception. That said, this is an overview of five of the oldest golf courses in the United States, based on when the course opened for operation. It is also probably worth mentioning that the golf clubs drove the progression of golf courses. Therefore, all the oldest golf courses in the United States originated from social clubs known as golf clubs.

Nos. 1 and 2: Oakhurst Golf Club Versus the Foxburg Club

Consider the Foxburg Golf Club (Pennsylvania), and The Oakhurst Golf Club (West Virginia). Both Foxburg and Oakhurst had records of playable courses in 1884. The Foxburg, however, was a private course on private property that only had eight holes when it was created. In 1887, the Foxburg added nine new public holes to their course, and that course has been in continuous working existence ever since. The Oakhurst Golf Club also formed in 1884. Oakhurst claims to be “the first organized golf club in the United States.” Remember, some golf clubs at that time were not exclusively golf clubs. Oakhurst is the oldest golf course still in use in the same location in the United States. Although the Oakhurst links make up one of the oldest golf courses in the United States, it does not meet the criteria for continuous use that many of the “oldest course” title holders are proud of having. Unfortunately, the Oakhurst was only open from 1884 to 1912 and closed due to competition. The Oakhurst remained closed from 1912 to 1994, but it was reopened and remodeled with the classic aesthetic it once had. In fact, many patrons use antique equipment and dress in antiquated clothes while playing the course.

No. 3: The Quogue Field Club

One of the oldest golf courses in the United States is the Quogue Field Club in Quogue, NY. The private course was built in 1887 and is still in use today. Originally, the Quogue was an 18-hole course. In 1938, however, three holes were lost to a natural disaster. Now, only nine holes remain of the original 18 from 1887. Those nine holes are among the oldest in the United States golf course history.

No. 4: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

golf2 Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and course date back to 1892. Here, one of the oldest, original golf courses exists, but only 12 of the 18 holes. Willie Davis designed the original 12 holes at Shinnecock Hills. In 1894, another six holes were added. Shinnecock Hills is noteworthy not only for its longevity, but also because of its progressive history. It was the first golf club in the United States to accept female members, and among the first golf clubs worldwide. Shinnecock Hills is also home to the United States oldest golf clubhouse.

No. 5: The Chicago Golf Club

The Chicago Golf Club is the oldest 18-hole course in the United States. The course was originally only nine holes, but it was increased to 18 in 1893. The 18 holes were redesigned in 1895 and moved to a location in Wheaton, making it the second oldest 18-hole course still existing in the United States, next to Shinnecock. All 18 holes, sadly, are no longer accessible. The Chicago Golf Club is now known as Downers Grove Golf Club, and only 9 of the 18 holes are operated. Although some minor changes were made to the course over the years, Nos. 2, 4, 7, 8, and 9 still maintain their original design integrity.

Honorable Mention: The Royal Montreal Golf Club

The Royal Montreal Golf Club in Quebec has a history of different locations. When the Royal Montreal first opened in 1873, it was a highly recognized club. It even received a Royal title from Queen Victoria. Nonetheless, the Royal Montreal moved from its original location in 1896 to a new location while maintaining its original name. In 1959, it moved again, this time to its current location in Ile Bizard. It was, however, recognized as “in continuous use” throughout the transitions. Although the Royal Montreal is one of the oldest clubs in the United States, its location is not original. Therefore, it’s not among the truly old courses, but it deserves an honorable mention because of its prestige at the time.

Honorable Mention No. 2: St Andrew’s Golf Club

St Andrew’s Golf Club (New York) also deserves mention because it is among the oldest golf courses with continuous use today. The golf club proudly acknowledges more than 125 years of continuous course play and can attribute continuous play on the current course back to 1897 — although the club itself has been notably active since 1888. Shortly after the opening of St Andrew’s course in 1897, the Savannah Golf Club responded with a course that has been in use since 1899. Although there are some discrepancies about what makes a golf course old, the oldest golf courses or clubs in the United States are all worth visiting if the opportunity arises. They are all an important piece of history and loved by their communities.

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Winston is the content manager for DIY Golf Cart. When he is not writing about golf, you can find him on the links or on his boat.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Kit Lefoy

    Dec 29, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    While it is not in the USA largely because we expelled the American invaders in the war of 1812-14 (battle of Lundy’s Lane, etc.) the Niagara On The Lake Golf Club ()9-holes) is one of the oldest clubs still on its’ original site (2nd or 3rd).

    It is just a cannon shot from Lewisburg, N.Y. across the Niagara River. Did I forget to mention that we gave Detroit back to America at the end of the war.

  2. Shelby Miller

    Dec 27, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    I am looking to find information on how to verify if our course is the longest family-owned golf course in the United States. It has been open since 1931 and has been in the same family the length of it’s existence. It is Cloverleaf Golf Course in Alton, Illinois. Feedback and help would be much appreciated!

  3. Greg Messina

    Dec 27, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Shennecossett in Groton, CT, established 1898 and still going strong. Great golf course, may not be the oldest but certainly one of the oldest.

  4. scott kolb

    Dec 26, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Since you mentioned Royal Montreal then Victoria GC in Victoria BC was formed in 1893 and like shinnecock is still on its same site and continuous operation. 125th year next year.

  5. Thomas Nakagawa

    Dec 26, 2017 at 11:35 am

    can you check out Moanalua golf course it is the oldest course west of the Rockeys

  6. anton kozlik

    Dec 26, 2017 at 11:31 am

    The oldest continuously played golf course in North America is the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course in Ontario. It opened in 1875.

  7. Michael Doctor

    Dec 26, 2017 at 11:02 am

    BLUFF POINT IN PLATTSBURGH NY

  8. Doug

    Dec 25, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Sorry palmetto was not mentioned. It started in 1892

  9. Jedd

    Dec 24, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Dorset Field Club in Vermont, 1886.

  10. Scott

    Dec 24, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Dorset Field Club in Dorset Vermont is in USGA museum as oldest course in country. Am I missing something here?

  11. Howie Zink

    Dec 24, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Mare Island Golf Course in Vallejo, CA was built in 1892, making it the oldest course west of the Mississippi.

    • Aaron

      Dec 24, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      There are other courses that make this claim. Gearhart, Country Club of Seattle, Del Monte, and Aetna Springs.

    • Tom R

      Dec 26, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      Mare island immediately came to my mind as well

  12. Ken Smith

    Dec 23, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Royal Montreal golf club is in Quebec , Canada not in the United States. Proof read your posts writers

    • Ken Smith

      Dec 23, 2017 at 11:38 pm

      Honorable mention is ok but what’s the point ? Stick to the u.s. courses for accuracy.

  13. larry

    Dec 23, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    What about Essex County Country Club?? 1887!!!

  14. DB

    Dec 23, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Middlesboro Country Club in Kentucky was Est in 1889.

  15. Bob Nied

    Dec 23, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Sorry…..bad information on Chicago Golf Club.

    • psygolf

      Dec 23, 2017 at 10:58 pm

      what’s incorrect? Maybe the transition of the current CGC to Wheaton was worded poorly, but I believe the description of the Downer’s 9 hole course is accurate, yes/no?

      • Joe Perez

        Dec 26, 2017 at 11:42 am

        A lot of the section on Chicago Golf Club is poorly worded. From the second half on I can’t tell if he’s writing about the *original* golf course or the 1895 redesigned course.

  16. Clint

    Dec 23, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, SC was founded in 1892. Designed by Alister McKenzie and been up and running on the original ground since inception. Definitely think it should be ok the list or at least honorable mention.

    • Jason

      Dec 23, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      Alistair Mackenzie didn’t do the original 1892 design, he came over in the early 1930s and transformed the sand greens to grass amongst other renovations while constructing ANGC a few miles away.

  17. Chuck

    Dec 23, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    This topic has been discussed at length on a number of golf websites. And as far as I am aware, a golf course that I have played in the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York is the oldest. And remarkably, it is almost unchanged from its earliest days. Most modern golfers would consider it a field, with some excruciatingly tiny greens.

    It is private; the club is the Edgewood Club of Tivoli, NY. The amateur golf club researchers at Golf Club Atlas seem to agree that having been founded in 1884, and operating continuously there ever since, Edgewood is the oldest continually-operating golf course in the U.S.A. Even better is the fact that the course is almost unchanged in all that time.

  18. Tim

    Dec 23, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    And The Country Club in Brookline is where on this list?

  19. Marty Desmarais

    Dec 23, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I know Quebec wants to leave Canada but I didn’t realise it was already part of the USA!?

    • Bob Jones

      Dec 26, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      The State Department is negotiating a swap of Quebec for Florida and one of the Dakotas.

  20. stephen hughes

    Dec 23, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Great article. The Royal Montreal is in Canada and was the first golf course on the continent.

    Take care

    • anton kozlik

      Dec 26, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      There is a difference between a “golf course” and a “golf club”. The Royal Montreal was the first “golf club” but has moved several times. Niagara-on-the-Lake, on the other hand, has been continuously in use since 1875.

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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