First in a Series.
Michigan Golf History from 1895-1910:
The Bendelow and Willie Park, Jr. Era
By Art McCafferty
In 1885 the golfing citizenry of Fairfield, CT achieved at least 114 years of immortality by launching the Brooklawn Country Club, now considered the oldest club in the United States. At least that is what golfcourse.com is supporting.
Golfcourse.com, a Golf magazine property, is an excellent site to visit. The site represents the data that formerly resided in a printed publication, Golf America.
In 1888, New York's St. Andrews opened. Six years later it provided the site for the nation's first invitational amateur contest held in 1894. It, was also the year when some pioneering Michigan golfers teed it up at Roaring Brook Course in Harbor Springs. Roaring Brook Course is gone now, but Wequetonsing Golf Club and Harbor Point Golf Course still remain. And according to Nancy Duray of Harbor Point and "Red" Wilson of Wequetonsing, both of these Harbor Springs courses came on board in 1896. At least this is the point where we will start our coverage. There is a great Michigan map on the wall at Mission Pointe Resort on Mackinac Island. The map highlights Michigan development and also lists the amount of people in the state during that time. At least two of the top five population areas were in the north. Perhaps that is why many of our early golf courses were established there. It was during that time that cruise boats plied the Great Lakes and brought vacationers from Chicago up to Harbor Springs or Mackinac Island. Detroit vacationers were taken to Mackinac Island, the Les Cheneaux islands or Sault Ste. Marie. In the Upper Peninsula, Michigan mines were going full blast and places like Houghton-Hancock and Iron Mountain were densely settled.
Of particular note during Michigan's entry into the golf world, was the arrival of two early Scottish golf designers: Tom Bendelow and Willie Park Jr. Tom Bendelow, who later worked quite a bit with Donald Ross, was responsible for designing over 400 courses in America from 1895 to the early 1920s. His most noteworthy accomplishments outside of Michigan include Medinah #3, Skokie Country Club, East Lake Country Club in Illinois, Garret Park in Indiana, Tripoli in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Lakewood Golf Course in Colorado.
Willie Park, Jr. was the son of four-time British Open Champion Willie Park of Scotland, who won in 1860, 63-66-75. Willie's uncle Mungo won in 1874 and finally, Willie himself won in 1887 and 1889. He was also enough of a promoter to see the virtues of publishing his own instruction books, "The Game of Golf" (1896). The book was widely read at the time, as it represented the first such book on golf. While Willie did win his share of tournaments, his real love was golf club design and golf course design. He became so good at the latter, that he is noted as our country's "First Great Architect." His signature American course is Olympia Fields-North, Illinois. The course dates back to 1922, and it previously hosted the 1928 U.S. Open and the PGA Championships of 1925 and 1961. It also hosted the Senior Open in 1997. In England he is known for his masterpiece, Sunningdale Old, located in Berkshire. It will be the venue for the Solheim Cup match between Europe and America in the year 2000.
Harbor Springs. Designed by Dave Foulis, redesigned by Dave Gill
Harbor Beach Golf Course (Private)
Wequetonsing Golf Club (Private)
Kent Country Club (Private)
Grand Rapids. Designed by Donald Ross
Les Cheneaux Club & Golf Link (Public)
Saginaw Country Club (Private)
Saginaw. Designed by Tom Bendelow
Wawashkamo Golf Club (Semi-Private)
Mackinac Island. Designed by Alex Smith
Washtenaw Country Club (Private)
Silver Lake Golf Club (Public)
Grand Hotel Golf Course (Resort)
Mackinac Island. Back nine designed by Jerry Matthews
Manistee Golf and Country Club (Semi-Private)
Manistee. Designed by Tom Bendelow
Bruce Matthews/ back nine -1930
Pine Grove Country Club (Semi-Private)
Iron Mountain. Larry Packard/back nine- 1962
Ann Arbor Golf & Outing Club (Private)
Sault Ste. Marie Country Club (Semi-Private)
Sault Sainte Marie. Re-designed by Jerry Matthews
Hillsdale Golf & Country Club (Private)
Highlands, The (Private)
Grand Rapids. Built in 1908- Redesigned/ Donald Ross- 1916
Muskegon Country Club (Private)
Muskegon. Designed by Donald Ross
Prairie's Golf Club (Public)
West Shore Golf & Country Club (Private)
Grosse Ile. Designed by George Ferry.
Battle Creek Country Club (Private)
Battle Creek. Designed by Willie Park, Jr.
Kalamazoo Country Club (Private)
Kalamazoo. Designed by Tom Bendelow
Flint Golf Club (Private)
Flint. Designed by Willie Park, Jr.
Cadillac Country Club (Semi-Private)
Cadillac. Designed by Paul Blick.
Note* The Michigan Golfer is trying very hard to get things right in this series. However, if there are errors in the content, please let us know.
In our next issue, we will explore Michigan golf from 1910-1920. We will chronicle the arrival and impact of Donald Ross in Michigan. Ross matched the quantity of courses designed by Tom Bendelow by designing 413 courses, and most assuredly took the honors in quality.
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