9 Oldest Golf Courses in America

The history of golf in America is often muddied by various golf clubs claiming that they are the oldest. However, it is widely accepted that modern golf evolved in Scotland and was brought to the United States sometime in the mid-17th century. From there, the first golf clubs were established and the members often played on shoddy courses with only a few holes.

As golf got more popular, many of these early clubs decided to set up nicer and larger golf courses, that would be modeled after the ones in Scotland. Several of these early golf clubs also decided to organize America golf and founded the United States Golf Association (USGA) in 1894. Today, many of these golf courses are still open and are some of the most exclusive in the country.

9. Saint Andrews Golf Club

Year Established: course built in 1897 – club established in 1888
Location:  Hastings-on-Hudson, New York
Type:  Private
Total No. of Holes:  18
Area:  136 (55.03 ha)

St. Andrews Golf Clubphoto source:  Saint Andrews Golf Club

Although this list shows otherwise, the Saint Andrews Golf Club claims it is the oldest golf club and has the oldest golf course in America. The club was founded in February 1888 by a Scottish sportsman named John Reid and his friends built a three yard course and played what is widely called the first round of golf in America. A few months later, Reid and his friends move the course to a 30-acre lot and by the end of 1888, they make the Saint Andrews Golf Club official.

As the group grows, Saint Andrews Golf Club moves one more time before settling in Grey Oaks to build a permanent nine-hole course in 1894. That same year, Saint Andrews becomes one of five golf clubs to establish the United States Golf Association (USGA). In 1897, Saint Andrews Golf Club moves to its current location, a 160-acre plot of land in Mount Hope. The new course is designed by club members Harry Tallmadge and William H Tucker.


8. Chicago Golf Club

Year Established: course built in 1895 – club established in 1892
Location:  Wheaton, Illinois
Type:  Private
Total No. of Holes:  18
Area:  Unknown – length is 6,950 yards (6,355 m)

Chicago Golf Clubphoto source:  Golf Tripper

Like most of the founding members of the United States Golf Association (USGA), the Chicago Golf Club is a private and exclusive club. The Chicago Golf Club was founded in 1892 and its first golf course was built that same year in nearby Downers Grove by Charles Blair MacDonald, who is widely considered the founding father of golf in America.

Over the next few years golf grew in popularity in America and so did the Chicago Golf Club. In 1895, the club moved over to the current site in Wheaton and MacDonald built a new 18-hole golf course. The new Chicago Golf Club course hosted the 1897, 1900 and 1911 U.S. Opens, the 1897, 1905, 1909 and 1912 U.S. Amateurs and the 1903 U.S. Women’s Amateur. The Chicago Golf Club is still going strong today and considers itself the first 18-hole golf course in America.


7. Newport Country Club

Year Established: 1893
Location:  Newport, Rhode Island
Type:  Private
Total No. of Holes:  18 – originally 9
Area:  Unknown

Newport Country Clubphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons via the National Archives and Records Administration

The Newport Country Club is another founding members of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and is so ultra-exlusive that it has no official internet presence. The club was founded in 1893 by Theodore Havemeyer and his friends. Later that year William Davis, the club’s first golf professional, laid out the Newport Country Club’s original nine-hole course. In 1895, a year after the USGA was founded, the first U.S.  Amateur and the U.S. Open took place at the Newport Country Club’s golf course – the U.S. amateur trophy is named after Newport Country Club’s co-founder and first USGA president Theodore Havemeyer.

The Newport Country Club’s grand old clubhouse, which is still in use, was also built in 1895 by Whitney Warren. A few decades after the original course was built, it was expanded to 18 holes by Donald Ross and completely remodeled in 1923 by A.W. Tillinghast. For the centennial in 1995 of the first two USGA events, the Newport Club hosted the U.S. Amateur tournament, which was won by Tiger Woods.


6. The Country Club

Year Established: course built in 1893 – club established in 1882
Location:  Brookline, Massachusetts
Type:  Private
Total No. of Holes:  27 holes
Area:  Unknown

The Country Clubphoto source:  Golf Course Gurus

The Country Club is one of the oldest and most exclusive golf clubs in America – the club is so exclusive that it has rejected high-profile celebrities from becoming members. As its simple name suggests, The Country Club was the very first country club in America and all other similar elite clubs have just copied the name of the original.

While The Country Club was founded in 1882, it was initially an equestrian and social club; golf was not introduced until 1893 and a small six-hole course was laid out. The following year, The Country Club became one of the founders of the United States Golf Association and in 1895, the club built its current golf course. The course slowly evolved over the years and today, there are 27 holes called the Clyde, Squirrel and Primrose nines.


5. Downers Grove Golf Club (Original Chicago Golf Club)

Year Established: 1892
Location:  Downers Grove, Illinois
Type:  Public
Total No. of Holes:  9 – originally 18
Area:  Unknown

Downers Grove Golf Clubphoto source:  Daily Herald

While the Downers Grove Golf Club might not come up when searching for the history of golf courses in America, the golf course is one of the oldest and is actually the site of the original Chicago Golf Club – one of the founders of the United States Golf Association (USGA). In 1892, the in Downers Grove, Illinois was selected by Charles Blair MacDonald. MacDonald built a nine-hole course that expanded to 18 holes in 1893, making the Downers Grove Golf Club the site of the first 18-hole golf course in America.

The Chicago Golf Club continued to play golf at the Downers Grove course until 1895, when it moved to a new course built again by MacDonald in nearby Wheaton, Illinois. After this, the golf course was passed around to different owners before it was purchased by the Downers Grove Park District in 1968. The golf course was downsized to nine holes and has multiple renovations since then.


4. Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

Year Established: 1891
Location:  Southampton, New York
Type:  Private
Total No. of Holes:  18 – originally 12
Area:  259 acres (105 ha)

Shinnecock Hills Golf Clubphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

The original golf course of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was built in 1891 by Willie Davis and was initially 12 holes – this is also the founding date of the club. A year later, the Clubhouse was built and has essentially remained the same for over a century, but had an extensive restoration in 2016. in 1895, the golf course was expanded to 18 holes and had four major revisions before the current course was designed by William Flynn and built by Dick Wilson of Toomey and Flynn in 1931.

In addition to being home to one of the oldest golf courses and golf club, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is one of the founding members of the United States Golf Assocition (USGA). Recently, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was mired in controversy when the Shinnecock Indian Nation filed a lawsuit claiming that the land the golf course is built on land that was seized illegally from the tribe in 1859. The lawsuit was dismissed and for awhile, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club took down its logo of a Native American man in full headdress, which the club says is a tribute to its longstanding relationship with the tribe.


3. Foxburg Country Club

Year Established: 1887
Location:  Foxburg, Pennsylvania
Type:  Public
Total No. of Holes:  9
Area:  61 acres (24.7 ha)

Foxburg Country Clubphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

The Foxburg Country Club is another golf club that’s brought up any time there is a discussion over which golf course is the oldest in America. The club’s founder was Joseph Mickle Fox, a descendant of the land and oil rich Fox family from Philadelphia. Fox learned how to play golf in Scotland and brought back golfing equipment so he could play in the U.S.

Back in Foxburg, Fox laid out a makeshift 8-hole course that soon became very popular. In 1887, Fox decided to build a larger course five-hole course on the site that is now the Foxburg Country Club. Within a few years, Fox expanded the course to nine holes and in the early 20th century a small clubhouse was built. In 1941, the Foxburg Country Club bought the summer house of the Grange family and it has served as the clubhouse since then.


2. Dorset Field Club

Year Established: 1886
Location:  Dorset, Vermont
Type:  Private
Total No. of Holes:  18 – originally 9
Area:  Unknown

Dorset Field Clubphoto source:  Dorset Field Club  

The Dorset Field Club claims that it is the oldest continuously operating golf club in America and home to the oldest continuously operating golf course as well. According to the Dorset Field Club, it’s history began in 1886 when its first President, Arvin Harrington, along with Frank Holley and William Kent, laid out a nine-hole course, assigning a name to each hole. They initially named the course the Dorset Field Links, using Scottish tradition, but changed the name when the clubhouse was built in 1896.

Since then, the golf has been played non-stop at the Dorset Field Club. Over the years, the course was improved and lengthened and has had five significant alterations – it became an 18-hole golf course in 1999. To highlight Dorset Field Club’s long history, the State of Vermont has posted an historic marker on the highway near the ninth green with the heading “Dorset Field Club: Oldest Continually Operated Golf Course in the United States.”


1. Oakhurst Links

Year Established: 1884
Location:  White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, West Virginia
Type:  Public
Total No. of Holes:  9
Area:  37.8 acres (15.3 ha)

Oakhurst Linksphoto source:  TheGolfCourses.net

While there is a lot of argument over which golf course is the oldest, Oakhurst Links is widely considered to be the oldest golf course in America. Oakhurst Links was designed and built in 1984 by a man named Russell Montegue and his friends. Montegue had learned about golf in Scotland and decided to build his own golf course right outside of his home, which served as the Oakhurst Links Clubhouse for many years. The first competition at Oakhurst was held in 1888.

Although Oakhurst is the oldest golf course, it has not been in continuous operation. Oakhurst stayed open until 1912 when the land was reverted to pasture – the golf course was not restored until 1994. In 2012, Oakhurst Links was in danger of shutting down again, Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice, bought the historic golf course and promised to preserve its history. Oakhurst Links along with Montegue’s house is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

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  1. Portage Country Club, in Akron, Ohio was founded in 1894. It became a Langford designed course (1918) with a redesign done by Tillinghast (1936). In addition, the first golf ball to be designed and manufactured using rubber as the outer core was completed and received patents for by one of its founding members.
    http://www.portagecc.org.

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