Michigan Golf Course History 1931-1940
By Art McCafferty
The Roaring 20's quit roaring in 1929 as our country began to slip into the economic morass that would define the next decade. As if that were not enough, war clouds prefacing WWII were emerging in Europe and the Far East. Golf was just one of many things that had to yield to these awesome events.
The emerging golf professionals found small purses and fewer tournaments to showcase their skills. In the 30's Tommy Armour, GeneSarazen and Densmore Shute dominated the US Open. Oakland Hills hosted its second US Open in 1937, with Ralph Guldahl taking the championship. The Masters started in 1934 with Horton Smith winning the first of his two championships.
At home, Marvin Stahl and Jake Fassezke dominated the Michigan Open, with three and two wins respectively. The Michigan PGA was owned by Al Watrous, who won four of his nine titles in 32,36,38 and 39. The great Walter Hagen picked up a check for his first place win in 1931.
On the amateur side of things,William G. Curtis of Detroit GC ,Norvel A. Hawkins of Oakland Hills and James D. Standish of the CC of Detroit continued the leadership for the Detroit District golf Association (GAM).
The pickings were slim for golf architects, as the eroding economy caused many golf course plans to be shelved. In Michigan, a scant 19 courses were built during the 30's bringing the state's total inventory to 82.
At the University of Michigan and Crystal Downs, the team of Alister MacKenzie and Perry Maxwell designed two courses that continue to be listed in the "Best of" golf books. Locals, seem to think it was more Maxwell than MacKenzie. However, MacKenzie worked with many fledging architects. Bradley Klein, noted golf writer and speaker, indicates in his online article about MacKenzie, that " MacKenzie frequently collaborated with other talented designers among them, Robert Tyre ("Bobby") Jones, Robert Hunter, Perry Maxwell, and in Australia, Alex Russell. "
Maxwell, according to Klein was noted for a " distinctive flair with huge, contoured putting surfaces and swales - known as 'Maxwell's rolls'"- Maxwell is known for his work at Southern Hills in Tulsa and the original nine of Prairie Dunes. He also renovated Pine Valley, National Golf Links and Augusta.
For years the Michigan course was allowed to deteriorate. In fact, our editor Terry Moore, a Michigan grad, drew attention to how this gem had become tarnished by writing a story about it in the late 80's. At first blush, it seemed that Michigan AD directors, Fritz Crisler and Don Canham had other fish to fry during their tenure. As a result of this, the UM course did not get much attention.
In addition, course elms that had died during the Dutch Elm disease outbreak were merely replaced by pine trees Traps and bunkers were filled in to allow for speedier play and easier maintenance. And lastly, officials at the University turned the course into a parking lot for football games. Clearly, the course needed a champion.
According to U of M Golf Course Manager, Charles Green, all that changed under the leadership of Bo Schembeckler. Bo, while not a golfer at the time, felt that any and all Michigan athletic facilities needed to be the best. With that as his marching orders, Arthur Hills was brought in for a course restoration.
For the restoration, photographs were brought out, initial drawings revisited and the Alister MacKenzie/Perry Maxwell course began to appear once again. Hundreds of pine trees were taken out and new trees planted. Bunkers were restored, greens were reshaped and yielding to modern practices a new irrigation system put in. The executive course was torn up and replaced by a first rate team practice facility. Green says "This is the best shape this course has been in since I have been here", a time span of over three decades.
Finally, Donald Ross completed his final Michigan course with his work at Sunnybrook and Walter Hagen got his spikes wet with his work at Lakeland Hills Golf Club, in Lexington.
1931 Milham Park Municipal Golf Course (Public) Kalamazoo Municipal Staff Resigned by Bob Millar Remodeled Bill Newcomb Sycamore Golf Course (Public) Lansing City of Lansing Staff University of Michigan Golf Course (Private) Ann Arbor Designed by Alister Mackenzie & Perry Maxwell Restoration Plan 1992-94 Arthur Hills 1932 Edgewood Country Club (Private) Commerce Designed by Ernest Way Master Plan 1986 Arthur Hills Iron River Country Club (Semi-Private) Iron River Lyopawa Island Golf Course (Semi-Private) Coldwater Riverwood Golf Course & Resort Red/White Course Mount Pleasant Redesigned by Bruce Matthews 1933 Alwyn Downs Golf Course (Public) Marshall Tawas Creek Golf Club (Semi-Private) Tawas City 1934 Goodrich Country Club (Semi-Private) Goodrich Redesigned 1988 Jeff Gorney Mott Park Golf Course (Public) Flint Pine View Highlands Golf Club (Public) Houghton Lake Sunnybrook Golf Course (Public) Green/Red Course at Sterling Heights Designed by Donald Ross 1935 Four Lakes Country Club (Private) Edwardsburg Lakeview Hills Country ClubSouth Course Lexington Designed by Walter Hagen Minor Renovation Jerry Matthews 1983 1936 Gladstone Golf Course (Public) Gladstone Designed by A. H. Jolly. 1938 Brookwood Golf Club (Semi-Private) Burton Designed by Joe Zalogy. 1939 Alpena Golf Club Alpena Second nine designed by Warner Bowen 1979 81 Swartz Creek Golf Course (Public) Flint 1940 Palmer Park (Public) Detroit
Dr. Alister MacKenzie's US work Cypress Point, Monterey, CA (1928) Valley Club of Montecito, Santa Barbara, CA (1928) Pasatiempo, Santa Cruz, CA (1929) Crystal Down, Franfort, MI (1933) with Maxwell University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (1931) with Maxwell Augusta National, Augusta, GA (1933) with Maxwell Ohio State University-Scarlet, Columbus, OH (1939)
Source: Bradley Klein Interzine 1997 http://www.golfcourse.com
----------------------------- "I have used a number of source materials in compiling this list, but not all have proven to be accurate. If anyone sees a mistake here, please let me know. Art McCafferty Corrections
1925 Riverside Country Club (Private) Formerly Masonic CC Second nine 1927 Battle Creek 1925 Sparta Moose Lodge (Private) Sparta 1926 Crystal Downs Country Club (Private) Frankfort Designed by Eugene Goebel -Front nine1926 ReDesigned by Alister Mackenzie & Perry Maxwell 1929 Back nine completed in 1933 Minor Renovation 1991 Art Hills 1928 Newberry Country Club (Public) Newberry Second nine-Mike Husby 1999
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