Chapter Nine: The Trent Jones Era (Part 1)
197 “Thompson died” James A. Barclay, The Toronto Terror, p. 143. During his final years Stanley Thompson lived with his wife Ruth and did most of his work at an abode known as Dormie House, which was located on the 16th fairway of the Cutten Fields Golf Club (aka Cutten Club), a golf course that he had designed in 1933 and purchased in 1948. It was the Dormie House where Thompson’s will was read by Chuck Howitt, the executor, in front of the many creditors to which Stanley owed money.
Learning of Thompson’s death, Jones sent notes to fellow ASGCA members to inform them of the “very sad news.” On January 7, he wrote to ASGCA president Billy Bell: “Stan Thompson died very suddenly on Sunday. I know how everyone in the Society is going to feel about losing him. He was about to take off by plane for South America when he said he had such a headache he did not feel like going—and he died two days later of a cerebral hemorrhage. Ione has talked with Helen, who says she will miss being with all the members at our upcoming meeting [January 19-21, 1953 at Ojai Valley Inn in Bell’s home-state of California].” RTJ to William P. Bell, 544 Sierra Vista, Pasadena, CA, 7 Jan. 1952, in STF, JP, CUA.
197 “I can’t express the personal loss I feel” RTJ to William H. Diddel, c/o William P. Bell, 544 Sierra Vista, Pasadena, CA, in STF, CP, CUA.
198 “Stanley did more for us” Quoted in “Stanley Thompson, Golf Architect,” p. 1, accessed at http://www.stanleythompson.com/stanley-thompson/the-man/golf-architect/, on Apr. 14, 2013.
Although Jones was prospering after World War II, a brief recession had hit the U.S. economy in 1949-50, followed by the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. The conflict in Korea looked as if it would seriously impede the construction of golf courses. On September 8, 1950, Congress passed the Defense Production Act, authorizing the President, as part of a broad civil defense and war mobilization effort, to “control the civilian economy so that scarce and/or critical materials necessary to the national defense effort are available for defense needs.” (See David E. Lockwood, Defense Production Act: Purpose and Scope. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. June 22, 2001.) Ultimately, neither the legislation nor the on-going war did much to slow the building of new golf courses in America. Trent Jones and the ASGCA had been concerned about a clause in the Defense Production Act seemingly prohibiting the construction of golf courses, country clubs, driving ranges, and recreational clubs of any kind, but the Defense Production Act hardly affected the growth of golf during this period.
[NOTE: Jones exchanged several letters with other ASGCA officers about the possible effects of the Defense Production Act of September 8, 1950, on the development of golf course projects. In a letter to William P. Bell, then the AGCSA secretary-treasurer, on 16 Nov. 1950, Jones, then serving as AGCSA president, recommended that the Society “obtain a Washington lawyer who is close to the [Department of Commerce’s National Production] Authority, to get the proper interpretation—and I hope a favorable interpretation—that would allow the construction of golf courses.” (RTJ to William P. Bell, 544 Sierra Vista Ave., Pasadena 10, CA, 26 Nov. 1950). Legal help was arranged (Law offices of Joseph B. Keenan, Woodward Building, Washington, DC) and inquiries were made with “the powers that be” in the nation’s capitol. Additionally, Jones, on 9 Dec.1950, wrote a letter to the head of the Department of Commerce “on behalf of the American Society of Golf Course Architects” asking for “an exclusion from the prohibition against the construction of golf courses as contained in such order.” On 5 Jan. 1951, W. H. Harrison, the administrator of the Department of Commerce’s National Production Authority, replied, with regret, that “it is necessary to deny your request for exemption.” However, in his letter, Harrison explained that projects costing under $5,000, involving only earth-moving, or the preparation of drainage and irrigation systems (as long as “second-hand pipe” was used) were not prohibited by the new law. (W. H. Harrison, Administrator, Department of Commerce, National Production Authority, Washington, DC, to American Society of Golf Course Architects, 544 Sierra Vista Ave., Pasadena 10, CA, Attn: Mr. Robert Trent Jones, President, 5 Jan. 1951). Hearing this, Jones recommended to his fellow AGCSA officers that, for the time being, they let the matter sit where it was, not make any further inquiries of the Authority (fearing another “turn down”) and prudently continue with those projects they had under way. A more thorough study of the effects of the Defense Production Act on the building of golf courses in the United States is needed to be sure of the law’s effects, but it appears from the correspondence found in the Jones Papers (AGCSA Files) that the National Production Authority did little if anything to impede golf course projects during the period of the Korean War, which ended with the armistice of 27 July 1953.]
No longer reliant on public monies as it had been during the New Deal and the Second World War, Jones’s design firm prospered as never before. While Jones and Thompson had been in business together back during the Depression, Stanley had had no qualms about asking Robert for money; in turn, Jones occasionally asked Thompson for loans and advances. However, following the breakup of the partnership after 1935, Stanley quit asking Jones for help. No matter how strapped the Canadian got for cash, his feelings were too hurt by the way that Jones had abandoned him during a time of need, when Stanley wanted—nay, expected—Jones to help him build golf courses in Brazil, ever to ask him again for money. Stanley was not the type of man to hold a grudge, but Jones’s betrayal was a hurt that never quite healed, and Jones was aware of the lasting injury he had done.
Jones had tolerated his old mentor drumming up a few golf jobs in the U.S. in the late 1940s, two of which were in Jones’s home state of New York: the building of Bartlett Country Club in Olean, in the southwestern part of the state near the Pennsylvania border (a course no longer in existence), and the remodeling of Lockport Country Club, in the town of Lockport, part of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area. In the late 1940s, Thompson also sought the contract to expand the Seneca Lake Country Club in upstate New York from nine to eighteen holes, a job that Jones made clear to Thompson that he himself did not want—but was unsuccessful. Nor was Jones bothered at all that Thompson’s firm in the late Forties secured two jobs in Minnesota, a state into which Jones’s company would not venture until the 1960s. One of Thompson’s projects in the Gopher State called for the remodeling of Somerset Country Club in Mendota, a suburb of the Twin Cities. The other project, started in 1949, involved the construction in St. Paul of what was meant to be an 18-hole championship course called North Oaks Golf Club. Thompson considered North Oaks to be a prize project and demonstrated some brilliant originality in laying out the golf course “with the spectator in mind, in the hope that it would attract tournaments.” (Barclay, Toronto Terror, pp. 198-99.) In this respect, Thompson’s design of North Oaks presaged what would later develop into the concept of the “stadium course” pioneered by Pete Dye at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida, and by Dye at PGA West in La Quinta, California. Clearly, none of Thompson’s U.S. work bothered Jones in the least, partly because he still regarded Stanley as a good friend, but perhaps also because Jones still felt uncomfortable for harming Thompson by not joining him in Brazil. In the aftermath of the publicity that came with his redesign of Oakland Hills for the 1951 U.S. Open, Jones had all the work that he and his staff could handle.
198 “the quiet serenity of the cemetery” Barclay, Toronto Terror, p. 151.
198 “yet his twinkle and spark” quoted in ibid., pp. 150-51.
199 “Thompson’s funeral” Telephone interview with Geoffrey S. Cornish, Amherst, MA, 22 Apr. 1009. Lacking a formal listing of who attended Thompson’s funeral, my description of who attended is based on Cornish’s recollection, which seemed quite clear. Cornish particularly remembered that Robert Trent Jones did not attend the funeral.
200 “will be solved in time by helicopters” RTJ quoted Paul Gardner, “U.S. Has 5,000 Golf Courses; 4,000 Out of Date,” Nation’s Business (Oct. 1954): 62-67.
200 “his company completed” In the dozen courses Jones completed in 1949 were five remodeling jobs, three complete 18-hole layouts, three 9-hole layouts, and an extension of the course at the U.S Military Academy in West Point from 12 holes to a full 18. That same year Jones finished another military golf course, a 9-hole course in suburban Washington, D.C., at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which, at 3,561 yards, with lots of elevation changes, and narrow fairways, proved to be an extremely demanding layout.[i]The following year, 1950, Jones finished five projects, with five more wrapped up in 1951. Six more courses were finished by Jones in 1952 and, in 1953, a year that began with Stanley Thompson’s death, Trent completed nine more projects.
Today at Fort Belvoir there are two 18-hole golf courses: the Gunstan Course, which plays to 6,865 yards from the back tees, and the Woodlawn Course, which plays to 6,781 yards. Trent Jones’s 9-hole design server as the front nine for the Gunstan Course, and is considered the toughest of the four 9-hole layouts at Fort Belvoir. From its opening in 1950, the facility has been open to all active duty and retired military personnel as well as to civilian staff and contractors who work at or have retired from employment at Fort Belvoir. The second nine of the Gunstan Course was designed in the 1970s by Edmund B. Ault.
200 “likely also the world’s wealthiest” By the early 1950s Jones had invested a significant amount of money in a broad range of stocks, bonds, and business deals. One of his major investments was in a uranium mine in Canada, which paid off handsomely when Canada, following World War II, quickly became the world’s largest exporter of uranium ore. One investment that seems not to have happened also came immediately after war’s end, when Jones communicated for several months with a commercial agent in France by the name of Robert E. Shaw (address: 41 rue Vitel, Paris) with the idea of becoming the sole U.S. distributor of a number of French liqueurs, champagnes, and brandies. (The chief brand names being discussed were a liqueur similar to Grand Marnier known as “Vieille Dauphine” and a distinctive kind of brandy from the Gascony region of southwestern France known as “Remond Armagnac.” Along with Trent’s interest in becoming the major American importer and distributor of these French alcoholic drinks, wife Ione got into the act, corresponding at even greater length during 1946 with the same Robert E. Shaw about importing and distributing French perfumes, notably from manufacturers “Rival” and “Atomic.” There is a great deal of very lengthy correspondence about this possible business venture in the Jones Papers at Cornell. From this author’s review of the letters, it seems that that the Joneses, after looking quite deeply into the commercial possibilities of placing these French imports into New York City stores, decided there were too many difficulties and uncertainties to go along with what Mr. Shaw was offering. Still, the seriousness with which Trent and Ione both looked into this immediate post-war profit-making scheme illustrates their highly entrepreneurial spirit, one that they shared with many Americans following Allied victory in World War II. At the same time, the correspondence from Ione to Mr. Shaw shows much more caution and studiousness about the proposed deals than ones sees in the letters to Mr. Shaw from Trent. During this same time period, Trent was also looking into a deal to import a certain brand of Scotch into the U.S. That, too, was an enterprise that seems not to have come to fruition.
201 “she taught Dad” email, Claiborne Jones to author, 8 May 2013. Claiborne Jones is the wife of Robert Trent Jones Jr. and in this case communicated Bob’s comments about his mother’s handling of his father’s business.
201 “found himself lost . . . or worse” RTJ Jr. to author, Palo Alto, CA, 1 Nov. 2013. Virtually everyone who did business with Trent Jones appreciated Ione’s sociable personality and its contribution to her husband’s business success. “Ione must be a tremendous asset to you business-wise,” Oak Hill Country Club member W. C. “Bill” Chapin wrote to Trent in 1956, “because of the delightful impression she makes on everyone.” I know that many people must share my enthusiasm for your lovely wife. Today Chapin’s comment might be considered as all-too-typical of 1950s’ man-to-man condescension toward women, but privately Trent certainly had to view his wife as being more than a good “help-mate,” so instrumental was Ione in the successful operation of his business. W. C. Chapin to RTJ, 20 Vesey St., New York 7, NY, 13 July 1956, Oak Hills Country Club Files, JP, CUA.
202 “favored Rees because of his polio” The Jones Papers at Cornell contain only a few letters in which Rees’s illness is mentioned. The first dates from 29 Sept. 1950, and is a letter to Laurence Sovik, Messrs. Smith, Sovik, Levine and Richardson, Wilson Bldg., Syracuse, NY, in which Trent Jones wrote “I know that you and Gladys will be happy to know that Rees is home and, while he has to stay quiet, he is getting along extremely well. The doctors seem to think that there will be no permanent injury.” A second letter, written to Jimmy Angelo, The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, SC, on 2 Oct. 1950 stated: “The day you called me my younger son, Rees, was sick in bed. We did not know until the following day that he had polio. He was taken to the hospital the very next day. I am happy to report to you that he is now home. He has the complete use of all his functions, a little stiffness in his back and neck, but the doctor feels that he will make a complete recovery with time. I feel we have been very fortunate.” That same day, 2 Oct. 1950, Jones wrote to George Hill, Coach, Department of Athletics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: “Rees is getting along well. We are happy to say he is home, and the doctor offers encouragement that there will be no permanent injury. However, he is on exercise, and he has some stiffness of back and next.” There are no doubt other letters concerning Rees’s bout with polio, lying within assorted files of the Jones Papers.
202 “hired her first maid” email, Claiborne Jones to author, 8 May 2013.
202 “Francis J. Duane” Through the end of the Second World War, Frank Duane had been employed by the New Hampshire Department of Forestry and Recreation working on small landscaping projects. But Duane wanted to get back to New York City, having grown up in the Bronx. He had also come to love the game of golf. So when Jones advertised for an assistant designer to take charge of his 20 Vesey Street office in Lower Manhattan, 26-year-old Duane jumped at the chance, and Jones hired him. Herbert Warren Wind, who visited Jones’s Vesey Street office while researching his piece for The New Yorker, described it as “a large, austere-looking room” that contained “a photograph file the size of a pool table, a desk, two drafting tables, and a washstand.” On a bookshelf stood a series of trade journals dealing with cement, tractors, piping, pumps, sprinklers, hoses, grass seed, and fertilizers. Spread around the office were “tottering piles” of magazines: Golf Illustrated, Golf, American Golfer, Professional Golfer, Golfdom, Golfing, and Timely Turf Topics. In the photograph file was a large “library of color photographs of famous golf holes.” The sink in the room was equipped with bars of Synol soap for poison ivy, a testament to all the time Duane and Jones spent out-of-doors at construction sites and trekking across prospective golf properties amidst plants, weeds, leaves, and ivies of all varieties. Over the years anyone building golf courses out in wild, undeveloped areas inevitably found himself suffering from painful rashes and itching due to contact with noxious vegetation. HWW, “Profiles,” The New Yorker (4 Aug. 1951): 41-42.
203 “rich years, about to become better” RTJ, GMC, p. 92.
203 “a host of advances in agronomic theory and practice” One of the most important books in Jones’s working libraries on Vesey Street and in Montclair was the USDA’s annual publication, Grass, The Yearbook of Agriculture, published by the Government Printing Office. The yearbook, usually running about 700 pages in length, covered a wide range of subjects pertaining to grass, but there were always a couple of articles dealing specifically with golf courses. Throughout the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Fred V. Grau of the USGA Green Section sat on the committee responsible for overseeing the contents of the annual publication.
204 “20 Vesey Street building” Today in the building standing just to the west of 20 Vesey Street is the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site.
205 “give you a free hand” RTJ to AK, 14-15 1991, USGA OHC, transcript, p. 57. Meeting clients in the office is pretty rare for golf course architects, perhaps for architects of any kind. The architect usually meets the client at the proposed site. “Celebrity” designers like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer might sometimes have clients come to them, but typically the designer went to the site or to a nearby golf course designed by the firm to discuss business. The author would like to thank John Strawn for this insight.
206 “do not break the back or the spirit of the average golfer” HWW, “Profiles,” The New Yorker (4 Aug. 1951): 48.
207 “Who better than Jones himself” In the Jones Papers there is a newspaper clipping, undated and without attribution to which paper it came from, that must have concerned Trent Jones a great deal. It was an Associated Press story from Trenton, New Jersey, likely from 1958 or 1959, headlined “Architect Ruling Sets Precedent.” The story centered on New Jersey Superior Court Judge Frank J. Kingfield’s ruling that “architects cannot get construction contracts from public agencies if they are to supervise the work.” In his ruling Judge Kingfield denied an application from the Somerset County Park Commission and the successful bidder, William F. Gordon & Co., of Doylestown, PA, to throw out a lawsuit brought by two other contractors (C.B. Carlson & Sons of New Fairfield, CT, and Stanley Ziobro Co. of East Rutherford, NJ) who had lost the bid to construct Somerset County’s new public golf course, Green Knoll Golf Course in Bridgewater, NJ, to Gordon’s architectural firm. As the news story related, “Gordon prepared the plans for the course and was to supervise the work. On April 2, the Park Commission awarded the firm the contract to build it,” resulting in the law suit. The lawyer for one of the plaintiffs “showed that there were many points where the Gordon Co. would be telling the Gordon Co. what to do.” In defense of giving the building contract to Gordon Co., the attorney for Somerset County’s park commission pointed out that Gordon’s bid was $31,000 lower than either of the other two bids and that “that amount was the difference between having a golf course and not having one.” In his ruling, Judge Kingfield found the parks commission and architect Gordon “had probably acted in good faith but public bodies must protect the taxpayers;” in this case, the judge held that “there is a conflict of interest here which shouldn’t permit this contract to stand.” The readers of this book should find it interesting that William F. Gordon, an ASGCA charter member and its president in 1953 (and again in 1967) apparently did not utilize “shadow” construction companies as Trent Jones did—or at least had not done so in this particular case. One wonders how Jones’s awareness of this New Jersey court ruling might have affected his approach to future business. The author is not aware of law suits brought against Jones for a similar conflict of interest, though he was clearly guilty of it many times over. I have discovered that one of the ways that Jones, Inc., and no doubt many other golf architect businesses handled the possibility of a conflict of interest charge was by making the shaping of the green complexes, and even shaping of the fairways, an extension of the design of the golf course and stating precisely that in the contract with the client.
208 “buffeted the earthwork” HWW, “Profiles,” 40.
208 “still mainly upper class” According to his oldest son, Bob Jr., “Dad never operated a bulldozer but I did when I started in the business, at Dad’s insistence.” RTJ Jr., quoted in email, Claiborne Jones to author, 8 May 2013.
208 “our family vacations” RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 31.
208 “unable to stay away” HWW, “Profiles,” 40.
209 “hillbilly” Kirsch, GiA, p. 121.
209 “darling of the media” RTJ to AK, p. 36; Kirsch, GiA, p. 121.
209 “basic ploys of how to make money” RTJ to AK, p. 36.
209 “beautiful to the eye” Sam Snead, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, handwritten letter to RTJ, 23 Feb. 1955, Sam Snead Files, JP, CUA. In this file there are no less than two draft proposals for “Sam Snead Country Clubs” along with several pages of sketches of a prototype facility as well as several pages of cost and revenue estimates. The documents are undated, but they appear to date from 1953 or 1954.
The concept of Sam Snead Country Clubs was perhaps the biggest idea for a golf course development in the history of golf up to that time —one that Jones felt could make him and Snead a fortune. Jones estimated that the club’s driving range alone would make $615,000 a year, according to the following formula: “70 tees @ 12 minutes per bucket equals 350 buckets per hour times 14 hours per day equals 4,900 buckets…. 4,900 buckets per day times 180 days equals a year by selling “4,900 buckets of balls per day times 180 days equals 882,000 buckets.” The capital outlay for a single Sam Snead Country Club was estimated by Jones to be $175,000: $20,000 for the range, $20,000 for the range covering [shelter], $15,000 for the parking and walls, $25,000 for the short course and miniature course, $40,000 for the clubhouse, $5,000 for landscaping, $2,500 for the movie screen, and $48,000 for the real estate. Jones estimated that the annual yearly income from the facility would be $255,000: $200,000 from the range, $40,000 from the short course, and $7,500 each from the “putting course” and the “miniature novelty course.” In addition, the clubhouse would net $20,000 profit per year, and the golf concession sales would net $30,000 per year. The grand total of yearly income would add up to $305,000, with maintenance of the entire complex only requiring $48,500 per year.
210 “in league with Snead” The idea for Sam Snead Country Clubs was not the only business dealing between Snead and Jones in the Fifties. In 1954-55 Jones and Snead went in together to purchase a piece of real estate just west of Fort Lauderdale with the idea of building a golf course on it. In his 1991 interview with the USGA, Jones tried to clarify the deal that he had entered into with Snead: “I went to a dinner party one night [in the New York City area] and I met a widow of a banker in Miami [named Davie]. And she said, ‘My husband died, and I’ve got a piece of land. Would you like to build a golf course on it?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ So I went down to Florida… and got this land. At this point Sam’s agent, Fred Corcoran, came in and said, ‘Look, I’d like to get in on that land you just bought.’ I said, ‘Okay, you’re in, Fred,’ I had to pay some money but it wasn’t fabulous. I could handle it. Then Fred came back to me and said, “Look, Snead would like to invest in that, too.’ And I said, ‘Okay, but that’s enough. We don’t want anymore.’ Snead and I wanted to build a golf course, but Corcoran couldn’t come up with the money. He didn’t have the money.” Early on, Snead wanted to sell his share of the Davie property. He wrote a letter to Jones on 23 Feb. 1955 (Snead Files, JP, CUA) in which he expressed his concern “about the property we purchased west of Fort Lauderdale. I would like to know your thoughts and what you are planning to do and when. I have had several propositions on golf courses…. If you are too busy to start the courses this year, I would like to sell my part.” Apparently the property was eventually sold but not until the mid-1970s. By then, it had grown to be worth a considerable amount of money, much more than the original purchase price. In a May 1974 accounting of Jones’s personal and corporate finances, his accountant wrote that the Davie property “represents the most valuable single asset”(Paul Colwell, “A review of personal and corporate finances,” 3 May 1974, handwritten document, p. 5, Davie Property Files, JP, CUA). In his 1991 USGA interview, Jones explained the sale of the land, which Jones himself needed to have happen because of a serious cash flow problem within his company at the time caused by an economic recession:”The county [Broward] came up and wanted to buy the land for a park. At that time Fred Corcoran had just died [he died in 1977]. His wife was in trouble because of the money situation. We sold the land for about $300,000. Fred’s wife’s share was close to $60,000, and it saved her. She still has a house on the Winged Foot course that they had at the time, which she was about to lose. Snead got the same amount of money and it all worked out very well. I’ve been lucky.” RTJ to Alice Kendrick, 14-15 Feb. 1991, USGA Oral History Collection, p. 37. There is a considerable amount of correspondence with Snead in the Sam Snead Files, JP, CUA, much of it about their business dealings.
By the way, Fred Corcoran was a leading sports agent and a major figure in the promotion of professional golf in America in the 1950s and 1960s, some say taking it from a minor curiosity to a major business. Born in Massachusetts in 1905, in 1936 Corcoran became the tournament manager of the PGA. At roughly the same time he became the business manager for Sam Snead. Later Corcoran also helped to found the Ladies Professional Golf Association. On Corcoran’s life, see his daughter Judy Corcoran’s book, Fred Corcoran: The Man Who Sold the World on Golf (Gray Productions, 2010).
210 “Baltusrol boasted” For a history of Baltusrol Golf Club, see Robert S. Trebus, Richard C. Wolffe, Jr., and Stuart F. Wolffe, Baltusrol—100 Years: The Centennial History Book (Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, NJ, 1995. See also “Baltusrol Golf Club: Synonymous For Title Tournaments Since 1901,” The Jersey Golfer, Dec. 1964, 5.
210 “named Baltus Rol” The motive for the February 1831 murder of farm-owner Baltus Roll, for whom Baltusrol Golf Club was later named, was apparently robbery. Somehow the affair caught the attention of the New York metropolitan newspapers, which gave it wide and sensational coverage. For a summary of the murder’s history, see “Club History of Baltsrol Golf Club: The Murder—The Name,” accessed on 5 May 2013 at http://www.baltusrol.org/club/scripts/section/section.asp?GRP=9747&NS=PCH.
210 “The original course” By 1900, the original golf course at Baltusrol (laid out by a man named George Hunter) had evolved (further modifications by its head pro, Scotsman George Low, Sr.,) into one of the best 18-hole courses in America. Its reputation led to its hosting the U.S. Open in 1903, an event won by 24-year old Scottish immigrant Willie Anderson with a score of 307, the second of what would become Anderson’s record of four Open championships. (Between 1901 and 1905, Anderson won four of five Opens, only losing in 1902 when he finished fifth at Garden City Country Club to fellow Scot Willie Lochterlonie.) The clubhouse for what came to be called the “Old Course” at Baltusrol—a structure totally rebuilt after a fire burned down the original in 1909—also had the honor of being the first to host a golfing U.S. President, William Howard Taft. Located along a main rail line only forty-five minutes from New York City, the popular golf club hosted the 1901 U.S. Women’s Amateur, 1904 U.S. Amateur, 1911 U.S. Women’s Amateur, and 1926 U.S. Amateur. In the midst of these major tournaments, Baltusrol, in 1915, hosted its second U.S. Open, with the title going to New Jersey amateur Jerome D. Travers with a four-round score of 297. The assignment A. W. Tillinghast completed in 1922, resulting in “Baltusrol Upper” and “Baltusrol Lower,” two superb layouts whose names derived from the fact that the “Upper Course” sat higher up the hill dominating the property and, in the opinion of golf course historians, to this day represents “some of the best steep side-hill architecture” ever produced. (Doak, Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, p. 96.) The next U.S. Open held at Baltusrol, in 1936, took place over the “Upper.” That crown was won by an obscure New York area pro, 30-year-old Tony Manero, who, with his closing round 67, scored a record low four-round total of 282—four shots better than the record held by Sarazen and Chick Evans and an impressive 17 shots lower than the winning score at Oakmont the previous year. Incidentally, this was Hogan’s first Open, missing the cut.
For a fine trilogy on Tillinghast and the history of his golf course designs see Arthur W. Tillinghast, Robert S. Trebus, Richard C. Wolffe, Jr., and Stuart F. Wolffe, The Course Beautiful: A Collection of Original Articles and Photographs on Golf Course Design (1998); Tillinghast, Trebus, Wolffe, Jr., and Wolffe, Reminiscences of the Links (1998); and same authors, Gleanings from the Wayside (2001), The publisher for all three fine books of “The Tillinghast Trilogy” has been Treewolf Productions of Basking Ridge, NJ.
211 “too extreme for reasonable putting” RTJ, Golf’s Magnificent Challenge, p. 63. See also RTJ, “Playing Values at Baltusrol,” USGA Journal and Turf Management (July 1954): 16.
211 “keen concentration and delicate touch” RTJ, “Playing Values at Baltusrol,” p. 16. The fact that Trent Jones in 1948 had also done a good job with some remodeling at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, a classic course laid out by Hugh Wilson in 1912, home of the 1929 Open that Bobby Jones won, and a rival pick for U.S. Opens held in the Greater New York City area, also worked in his favor with Baltusrol.
212 “received many compliments” RTJ to AK, pp. 93-94; RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 26.
212 “the subtle character of the original Tillinghast design” Doak, Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, p. 96.
212 “the hole is eminently fair” RTJ, GMC, pp. 90-91.
213 “Case closed” RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, ed. Marge Darwell. 2 Mar. 1998, p. 27.
213 “this hole is not too tough” Jenkins, Sport’s Illustrated’s The Best 18 Golf Holes in America, p. 40, 44-45.
214 “sank it for a hole-in-one!” Baltusrol Golf Club website, The Famous Fourth,” accessed on 7 May 2013, at http://www.baltusrol.org/club/scripts/library/view_document.asp?GRP=9747&NS=PCH&APP=80&DN=FAMOUS4TH. “A Great Golf Hole: The 4th at Lower Baltusrol” was featured in the USGA Golf Journal in its November 1964 issue. The description of the hole was provided by Johnny Farrell, Baltusrol’s head professional, who had witnessed Robert Trent Jones’s ace on the hole during the redesign of the course for the 1954 U.S. Open.
214 “That ended the argument” RTJ, GMC, p. 91. (Connecticut-based architect Orrin E. Smith completed Rockrimmon’s second nine in 1953. Today Golfweek ranks the 6,830-yard par-72 layout as the 159th best “Classic” golf course in the United States, the “Classic” category, according to the magazine, involving designs pre-dating 1960.)
214 “let the legendary prowess of Robert Trent Jones” As sportswriter Dan Jenkins wrote in the book cited immediately above, other “miracles” besides Robert Trent Jones’s hole-in-one have occurred at Baltusrol. “On the old course, back before Tillinghast built the two present eighteens,” Jenkins elaborated, “the most famous hole was No. 10. It was nicknamed ‘Island,’ because it was a par-4 with the green totally surrounded by water. Once, during an exhibition match, Walter Hagen drove into the water. But in those days the balls floated. Hagen took off his shoes and socks, walked into the pond, hit the ball off the top of the water and made a birdie.” Sport’s Illustrated’s The Best 18 Golf Holes in America, p. 45.
214 “playing Baltusrol’s fourth in even par” ibid., p. 44.
214 “Hogan, in his quest for an unprecedented fifth Open title” Going in to the 1954 U.S. Open, Ben Hogan was sending mixed messages. At the third annual LIFE-PGA National Golf Day held at Baltusrol a week before the start of the Open, Hogan had shot a sensational 64, eight under the normal par (for members) of 72. After the round, however, he complained of fatigue and various aches and pains. “My head,” Ben said, is so sore I have trouble coming it.” The virus kept him weak and uneasy for most of the throughout the tournament; still, after two days, he was only two strokes behind leader Gene Littler, having shot 71-70 to Littler’s 70-69. It was a 76 in the Saturday morning round that ended Hogan’s chances at Baltusrol. If he had shot 67 in the final round, as he did at Oakland Hills, rather than the 72 he did shoot, Hogan would have tied for the title with Ed Furgol, the eventual winner, and taken the tournament into a playoff.
214 “as competitors played the hole” Recalling the 1954 Open many years later, Jones remembered: “Everyone thought that Gene Littler would be the winner. Only twenty-three years old, he was the reigning National Amateur Champion and had just turned pro a few weeks before the Open. Young Gene missed an eight-foot putt on the 72nd green that would have tied. An even better chance of winning was in the hands of a pro by the name of Dick Mayer. He was in the lead going into the final hole but took a triple-bogey 8 to ruin his chances. It looked like Furgol was going to mess up the final hole also. On the 18th he pulled his drive into the woods but then played a smart shot out onto the Upper Course, which USGA officials told him would be in-bounds. From there Furgol hit a iron onto the green and two-putted for a par and the win. Furgol winning took everyone by surprise. I don’t think Ed Furgol won any major tournament after this one.” RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, ed. Marge Darwell. 2 Mar. 1998, p. 26. Jones was correct about Furgol’s subsequent record. His best finishes after winning the ’54 Open was a tied for fourth at the ’56 Open played at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY, and a fifth place tie in the 1963 Masters. The golfing public easily recognized the quick, cramped swing of Ed Furgol, who played out of Westwood Country Club in St.Louis. As a 11-year-old, he had shattered his left elbow in a playground accident and played golf with a crooked left arm, as would future Tour player, Calvin Peete, a winner of 12 PGA events but never a major.
214 “relatively more placid manner of redesign” Trent Jones did more at Baltusrol than create the course’s most renowned hole by adding to what was already there. Though he did not build any new greens, he refined the shape of several greens and consolidated a number of green-side bunkers into larger complexes of sand and mounding. Jones also lengthened several holes, including the back-to-back par-5 finishing holes. Jones made the 17th especially more brutish, stretching it out to 623 yards, for a long time the longest par-5 to be played on an Open golf course. (Reputedly the 17th green had never been hit in two shots by anyone, not until the 1993 U.S. Open when John Daly ripped a fairway wood onto the green. In the 2005 PGA Championship held at Baltusrol, by which time the hole was playing 650 yards, Tiger Woods actually hit his second shot over the green.) The 17th was a hole that Jones loved, called “a great hole” and “one of golf’s best par-5s,” before any redesign; all he had to do little with it was add the length. Describing the brilliance of the hole, Jones later wrote: “About 375 yards from the tee the fairway is split by what members call the ‘Sahara Desert,’ a vast area of sand and rough-covered mounds. This poses no problem for the professional who can direct a drive through towering trees, then strike a crisp second shot. But it can cause much trouble for the amateur who might not play with such precision. Providing the Sahara is successfully negotiated, the third shot is uphill to one of Tillinghast’s insidiously subtle, two-tiered greens.” Jones was almost as fond of the existing 18th hole, whose tee he moved back for the championship to 542 yards, still a stout par-5 for its day. Trent loved how a stream traversed the hole “at a point designed to catch the player who slightly misses either his drive or second shot.” He also liked how this green, too, was elevated from the fairway, with bunkers to the front and side for which he did some slight remodeling. He also liked how the putting surface, “while not severe,” was “difficult to judge.” (RTJ, GMC, pp. 237-38.)
In redesigning Baltusrol, Jones kept to the paradigm that ruled his redesign the previous year at Oakland Hills, with some minor adjustments. While keeping the greens as Tillinghast had originally designed them, Jones tightened up the approaches by reshaping and adding a few surrounding sand traps. Working with chief greenskeeper Edward Casey Trent, Trent also made sure that Baltusrol’s maintenance crew cut the height of the putting surfaces down to three-sixteenths of an inch, making them speedy for the championship. Although Jones did not take the need for tee-shot accuracy as far as he had for Oakland Hills, he did narrow the landing areas for several of the holes by pinching the fairways into narrower alleyways with new flanking bunkers, at the same time eliminating a number of bunkers that were no longer relevant. By the time he had finished with the fairways and bunkers, the average width of the fairways was 35 yards, tighter than they had ever been at Baltusrol but not as tight as what Jones had produced for Oakland Hills. As Jones reported on the eve of the ’54 Open: “The fairway targets are not nearly as severe as those at Oakland Hills, whose double targets were a requirement in the play of the holes: one from the tee and one from the target area to the green. Nonetheless, Baltusrol’s target areas are well-protected, either in the form of traps (these, while fewer, are nonetheless effective) or in the form of rough which has been brought in to a just width.” (RTJ, “Playing Values at Baltusrol,” p. 16.) In the months prior to the championship Jones worked closely with greenskeeper Casey also to keep the first cut of rough—what Jones called the “marginal cut”—to two-and-half-inches but then to allow the more peripheral areas of rough—what Jones nicknamed “tiger country”—grow very thick and to a devilish height of five inches. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Jones had convinced the USGA to begin roping off spectators for the ’54 Open, both from the fairway and from the adjacent rough. At Baltusrol, workers unreeled nearly ten miles of rope, fixing it into place along the entire course with 2,100 stakes.
There was a lot less howling from the pros at Baltusrol. For example, Sam Snead, who had called Oakland Hills “just awful,” looked at Baltusrol’s more sweeping fairways and oversized greens where hot putting was less likely to make the winner and felt that those two conditions could be the combination for him finally to win an Open. “This baby is real tough,” Snead declared before the tournament, a remark a long way better than calling the course a “nightmare” as he had characterized Jones’s reinvention of Oakland Hills before the start of the ’51 tournament. Perhaps Snead was just in a better mood in June 1953, coming off a playoff victory over Hogan, his arch-rival, that April in the Masters. Unfortunately, Snead’s low-scoring did not carry over to Baltusrol in ‘54. He shot rounds of 72-73-72-73 (290 total), much of it because of bad putting, placing him at the end in a tie for 11th.
Going into the 1954 U.S. Open many pundits in the golfing world predicted Sam Snead would win the title, so well matched did his game seem to be to the long Lower Baltusrol golf course. Snead, a multi-time winner of PGA events, had a single glaring failure in his great career up to this point: in 13 tries he had not won an Open. In 1937, on his first start, Snead had blazed over the old Oakland Hills course with a record-breaking 283. “Laddie,” said Tommy Armour, “you’ve just won yourself a championship.” But another youngster, Ralph Guldahl, finished with an even more sensational 281. In 1947 Snead tied with Lew Worsham to win the Open, then lost the playoff by missing a 30 1/2-inch putt. In 1953 at Oakmont Snead was runner-up to Hogan, his long-time rival, but at a difference of six strokes (283 to 289). Still, going into the ’54 Open at Baltusrol, Snead seemed at peak form, but he shot four consecutive over-par rounds, finishing in a tie for 11th at 10-over 290. Snead would play in the Open fifteen more times but would never snare the title. On the life and career of Sam Snead, see Al Barkow, Sam: The One and Only Sam Snead (Boulder, CO: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2010), and James Dodson, American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and the Modern Age of Golf (NY: Vintage, 2013).]
The Baltusrol championship was the first golf tournament ever to be televised nationally. Millions of Americans in their living rooms got to see the grandmaster’s landscaping handiwork on their television screens, and the TV commentators that they were listening to more than once during the broadcasts credited Robert Trent Jones as the clever and ingenious mind behind the arrival of America’s new-style championship golf course. Not only that, Jones, both at Baltusrol and at Olympic the following year, Jones was himself interviewed during the TV broadcast. In San Francisco, Jones also appeared live on a local Bay Area television station to discuss how the pros would play his redesigned course in the ’55 Open. See Frank Albert, Roos Bros., Outfitters to Men, Women and Children, 798 Market Street, San Francisco 2, CA, to RTJ, 20 Vesey St. New York 7, NY, in Olympic Country Club Files, JP, CUA.
The first golf tournament to be televised was the 1947 U.S. Open when Lew Worsham defeated Sam Snead in a playoff at the St. Louis Country Club. Station KSD-TV broadcasted it locally to the St. Louis area. The first tournament of any kind to be televised nationally was in 1953 and featured George S. May’s “World Championship of Golf” at the Tam O’Shanter Country Club, just north of Chicago, a club which May owned. (Tam O’Shanter, a course no loinger in existence, was originally designed by C. D. Wagstaff in 1925. William B. Langford, an ASGCA charter member and future ASGCA president, put the course through a major renovation in 1948. Both Wagstaff and Langford were Illinois-based.)
No history of American golf is complete without noting the contributions to the sport, and to professional golf in particular, made by George May (1890-1962). May staged—and paid for—a number of tournaments in the 1940s and 1950s, not just the World Championship but also the All American Open (including a women’s amateur division); he, in fact, even paid handsomely for ABC’s coverage of his 1953 World Championship. Most golfers know how the rise of a young and charismatic professional named Arnold Palmer in the late 1950s boosted the early history of golf coverage on American TV. But few remember, or ever heard of, George May, who well before Palmer, personally made it possible for the new medium of television to showcase golf, thereby popularizing the game and turning it into a mass spectator sport. As George B. Hirsch explains in his book Golf in America, a “spectacular finishing shot,” shown over national television at May’s 1953 World Championship, mesmerized viewers across the country and left them asking more of the exceptional drama that was golf on TV. Ironically, the action again centered on pro Lew Worsham. Needing a birdie three on Tom O’Shanter’s final hole to tie leader, Chandler Harper, Warsham kocked a 120-yard wedge shot into the hole for an eagle and the victory. Amazingly, as Hirsch explained, “The ABC network had provided only one camera to televise the event, but it was perfectly placed at the eighteenth green. It beamed the climactic shot live to about 646,000 homes, coast to coast, and nearly one million viewers…. It is likely Worsham’s fantastic feat played a key role in convincing television network executives that they could sell time for advertisements to sponsors for future events.” Hirsch, Golf in America, p. 137. It was the following year, 1954, that the USGA authorized the national television broadcast of its U.S. Open at Baltusrol. Another significant fact about George May’s 1953 World Championship: the owner of Tam O’Shanter paid the champion, Lew Worsham, a first prize of $25,000 first prize, which was then a world record. For comparison, the winner of the 1952 U.S. Open won $5,000. The entire purse for the ’52 Open was $20,400, almost $5,000 less than the World Championship’s first prize; in fact, the first prize won by Worsham was larger than the total prize money offered at any other Tour event that season. Unabashed, George May doubled his purse to $100,000 for the next year, with the winner (Bob Toski) receiving $50,000. As was the case also for his 1953 winner, May paid his 1954 champion to do 50 exhibitions at $1,000 each, with the idea that such golf events held around the country would promote his company, the George S. May International Company, a management consulting firm with headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Although George May paid ABC and broadcasters to cover his events, he foresaw the day, very soon to come, when broadcasters would pay the tournament organizers for the rights to broadcast the event. His World Championships were played from 1946 to 1958, when May ended the event following a dispute with the PGA over player entrance fees. He has been called the Bill Veeck of golf, appropriately so as Veeck, a Chicago native and owner of a number of a number of professional baseball teams including the Chicago White Sox, was also an innovative promoter of his sport, best known for his “exploding scoreboard” at Chicago’s old Comiskey Park. Similarly, May, besides being the first to offer big-money tournaments, was first to provide grandstands for tournament spectators and first to use radios so that spectators could keep up to date about what was happening elsewhere on the golf course. Like Veeck, May also kept his admission prices low, allowed families to attend, and allowed picnics to be held in the rough bordering golf holes even while tournaments were being played. It is likely, in fact, that Veeck modeled some of his own “firsts” on May’s innovations. There is more than one biography of Bill Veeck, as well as Veeck autobiographies, whereas there is not a single published biography of George S, May.]
215 “county assumed control of the property” The fascinating history of Nassau County’s Salisbury Country Club is beautifully told in William Quirin and L. C. Lambrecht, America’s Linksland: A Century of Long Island Golf (NY: Wiley, 2002), pp. 150-163.
215 “This was never done before” RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 24.
215 “Raymond Memorial Golf Course” As a graduate student at The Ohio State University, I played Raymond Memorial on a regular basis and remember it fondly. It is one of the few Columbus’s municipal courses that in recent years has been operating at a profit. As many as 65,000 rounds a year are played over the golf course.
The “twin-hole” concept was a prime example of Jones’s thinking “outside the box,” one that he would employ on several of his future golf courses. For his design of Raymond Memorial Golf Club, an 18-hole layout in the western suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, just across from the Scioto River, Trent concocted two parallel par-3s, each complete with tees, fairways, and greens. (Given that when Jones started designing the course in 1949, it included the twins, Raymond Memorial can, in fact, make the argument—which it does in its publicity material—that it, rather than Eisenhower Park, was first course in the United States to have such a feature.) But the Central Ohio golf course had more than a gimmick going for it. Playing up to 6,812 yards and a par of 72, the layout challenged its players with elevated greens, some of them sloped steeply from back to front and most of them large and severely contoured. All eighteen of the holes were well protected on the front side by sand traps. Most holes at Raymond Memorial also had at least two fairway bunkers strategically placed. Over the ensuing decades, no course in the Columbus municipal park system would host more golfers per annum than Raymond Memorial.
215 “Remodeling jobs” Two courses that Jones built in 1952 were excellent designs later demolished due to urban growth and land development. The first was Wayne Country Club in Wayne Township, New Jersey, just west of Patterson. The second was a beautiful layout around a lake for The Standard Club, one of the most prestigious and historic private clubs in Georgia and the oldest golf club in Atlanta. The club, which started in 1866 as the Concordia Association in downtown Atlanta, ended up moving its location many times to accommodate the rapid growth of Georgia’s largest city. The course that Jones built was located near Brookhaven in what is now the Lenox Park business park. In 1983, The Standard Club sold that property and moved to its present location in Johns Creek in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Today, the five buildings that form the headquarters of AT&T Mobility overlook what was once Jones’s golf course. (At Johns Creek the club engaged Ohio-based golf architect Arthur Hills to build a new 18-hole golf course, also called The Standard Club.) The third eighteen-hole course that Jones built in the early 1950s was Winding Hollow Country Club on the northeast side of Columbus, Ohio. Playing to 6,555 yards and par 70, Winding Hollow was a splendid design with rolling fairways, mature trees, demanding doglegs, undulating greens, and generally hilly terrain. In 1991 the city of Columbus bought the 208-acre private club and began operating it as a municipal facility. Under a new name, Champions of Columbus, the layout, one of the few high-end courses in the region, became one of the most highly regarded public courses in Central Ohio. (The Champions of Columbus golf course, formerly Winding Hollow Country Club, in recent years has been a victim of the economic downturn adversely affecting many public golf courses around the country. In the 1990s several additional upper-echelonn public courses were built in the Great Columbus area (such as Longaberger Golf Club, the Players Club at Foxfire, New Albany Links, Cumberland Trail, and Cooks Creek) that have made it difficult for Champions of Columbus to operate profitably, despite the fact that Business First Magazine has consistently rated Champions as one of Central Ohio’s best public courses. See Jeff Bell, “Columbus to retry selling Champions Golf,” Columbus Business First, 6 Sept. 2010, accessed on 9 May 2013 at http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/stories/2010/09/06/story2.html. The opening to this article reads: “Columbus is taking another shot at trying to sell the Champions Golf Course, an 18-hole layout with an admired pedigree but a record as a consistent money-loser for the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.” After selling the original golf course to the city, the club that owned Winding Hollow built a new 18-hole private course in nearby New Albany, Ohio. The designer of that course was designed by Toledo-based Arthur Hills. The course is semi-private, meaning that it is also open to daily-fee public play.)
Jones also produced three new nine-hole layouts to add to existing golf courses. For Fort Benning outside of the city of Columbus, Georgia, in Chattahoochee County, in 1950 he built the 3,197-yard “Bradley” nine, named for Omar Bradley, the senior U.S. field commander in North Africa and Europe during the Second World War. (The Fort Benning Golf Course came to have three distinct nine-hole courses: The Marshall, The Patton, and the Trent Jones’ designed Bradley. Coupled with a 9-hole course designed for Fort Benning by an obscure architect whose name was Lester Lawrence, the Bradley nine came to be known as the Pineside course. Its overall length is 6,606 yards from the back tees.
In 1952 he built a second nine for the Country Club of Fairfax. In combination with an earlier nine designed by fellow ASGCA charter member William Gordon, the Fairfax eighteen played over rolling hills flanked by stately maples and oaks to a par-71 at 6,617 yards. For the past half century, the Country Club of Fairfax has been known as one of the premier country club golf courses in Northern Virginia.
The nine-hole addition that meant the most to Trent Jones was the one he produced for Cornell University. As covered in Chapter Five, Jones had laid out a complete 18-hole course for his alma mater in the mid-1930s. But the school’s athletic department did not have the money to build more than a single nine, one that opened for play in April 1941; Jones’s plans for the second nine rested in abeyance until more funds became available. “During the years since I left my schooling at Cornell I made many visits to my alma mater, and also contributed generously to their fund raising efforts. Now, in 1953, they had acquired more land and wanted to add another nine holes to the course I built for them in ’37. I designed and built the other 9-hole course, contributing my time plus another $100,000.” (RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 27.)
When the new nine premiered, it opened as the front nine with the 1937 circuit serving as the back nine. With the modern ball golf traveling significantly farther, Jones made sure that the new nine at Cornell measured over 200 yards longer than the old nine: 3,367 to 3,147 yards—a total of 6,514 yards, playing to a par 72. (Today, playing from the “Big Red” tees—“Big Red” is the informal name of the Cornell sports teams—the course plays 3,567 yards over the front nine and 3,323 over the back nine, for a total of 6,890 yards. The university’s expanded recreational facility also benefitted from an attractive new clubhouse, the Moakley House, in honor of the late John F. Moakley, who had been head track and cross country coach at Cornell from 1899 through 1949. As for the 18-hole course, it became the site of several prestigious tournaments, including the Eastern Intercollegiate Golf Association Tournament, New York State High School Championships, Ivy League Championships, and the 1961 USGA National Junior Championship. In September 1991, the university renamed the facility “The Robert Trent Jones Golf Course at Cornell University.” In 2011 Golfweek ranked the course as the 26th Best College Golf Course in America. In the minds of many golfers who have played the course, that ranking seems too low; certainly, when the first nine opened in 1941, Jones’s layout at was rightfully considered to be one of the very best campus golf courses in the country.
216 “allowed the players to hit the ball farther” RTJ, Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, p. 27.
216 “working to modernize courses” Jones’s remodeling of the Country Club of Detroit was done in preparation for the 1954 U.S. Amateur Championship, won by 24-year-old Arnold Palmer. The substance of the changes that Jones made to the golf course were typical of his modernization approach and can be seen well in what he did to the 365-yard par-4 4th hole. Jones lengthened the back tee; eliminated fairway traps over which the better players would have no trouble carrying their drives; narrowed the landing area by adding flanking bunkers and or remodeling existing bunkers at the distances to which the players would be driving their tee shots; created a new contoured putting surface; and reoriented the green-side sand traps to create tougher pin positions.
Jones’s other remodeling jobs in the period 1950-1954 involved courses laid out by lesser known but still estimable designers, such as George Turnbull (Portland Golf Course in Portland, Jones’s first-ever Oregon job), Jones’s old friend from the late 1920s Herbert C.C. Tippetts (La Gorce Country Club in Miami), and Jack Pirie (Woodmere Club in the state of New York). Jones also returned to Sands Point, New York, to make some refinements to the IBM Country Club.
217 “Pebble Beach and Cypress Point” After playing Pebble Beach and Cypress Point for the first time, Jones composed an essay in tribute to the two extraordinary ocean-side links containing the following:
Golf courses have their natural settings. That throughout America’s six thousand golf courses there are no duplicates is to its everlasting blessing. Consider then these great American clubs: The National, Pine Valley, Pinehurst, Augusta, the Broadmoor, and Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. All of them are blessed with nature’s beauty, all of them soul-fulfilling, but none more so than those two famous links on the Monterey Peninsula, Cypress Point and Pebble Beach. There nature outdid itself, and Sam Morse, the potentate of Pebble Beach, was quick to see this. The game of golf in America is indeed indebted to the nest of courses on the Monterey Peninsula. To say that one is more beautiful than the other is like choosing between two beautiful Monet masterpieces.
RTJ, “Pebble Beach,” typescript, n.d, likely sometime during Feb. 1953, p. 1, in Pebble Beach Files, JP, CUA.
217 “to the point of knocking those pros down” See Robert A. Roos, Jr., General Chairman, USGA 1955 Open Championship, Roos Bros. Inc., San Francisco, 22 July 1954. For the preliminary list of items that The Olympic Club felt it needed to accomplish in time for the ’55 Open, ranging from building new tees to widening access roads and repairing damaged water pipes, see N. Elmore Huntchinson, Punnett, Parks & Hutchinson, to Robert McGahie, Chairman, Country Club Properties Committee, The Olympic Club, 1 June 1954. Both documents can be found in The Olympic Club Files, JP, CUA.
The ’55 Open would be played over Olympic’s Lake Course. In 1921 the club had purchased the property of the old Lakeside Country Club, whose golf course had been designed in 1917 by Englishman Wilfrid Reid. By 1924 Scotsman Willie Watson, with the help of greenskeeper Sam Whiting, had given what became the Lake Course a major remodeling; with the club having acquired enough acreage for a second course, Watson and Whiting also built a second eighteen called the Ocean Course. Situated right on the cliffs of the ocean, the second course was exposed to storms that regularly battered the course to the point that Sam Whiting, in 1927, had to reform both courses. Still, for many years, the club’s flagship eighteen remained the Ocean Course, but a series of landslides eliminated a number of holes on the ocean side of Skyline Boulevard, forcing the club to relocate some holes of the Ocean Course around the Lakeside, which itself was only a few hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean. Doak, Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, p. 212.
217 “Nelson shot 283 and won by nine strokes” The previous playing of the U.S. Open on the West Coast had been 1948, when Ben Hogan tore up Los Angeles’s par-71 Riviera Country Club with rounds of 67, 72, 68, and 69, setting what was then a record total of 276, or eight-under par. Jimmy Demaret finished only two strokes behind Hogan, also with a very low score. From just the top ten finishers, there were 24 rounds of par or better at Riviera. The members at Olympic were well aware of how the pros had scored so low both at their own club in 1946 and at Riviera in 1948.
217 “Jones faced such a challenge” Jones visited Olympic for the first time in August 1954. Anxious to get moving on the remodeling, the club grew antsy that Jones was slow to visit. “I am writing to you to inquire as to when you plan to visit our part of the country,” wrote Robert Roos, Olympic member and general chairman of the USGA’s 1955 Open committee. “When I saw you at the Open you indicated that you probably would be here in two or three weeks. The newspapers out here published the fact that you were planning to visit out in this area and as a result I have had several calls which I am sure will be of interest to you” (Robert A. Roos, Jr., General Chairman, USGA 1955 Open Championship, Roos Bros. Inc., San Francisco, to RTJ, 20 Vesey St., New York, NY, 22 July 1954, The Olympic Club Files, JP, CUA.) It took until mid-September 1954 before Jones wrote to Robert J. McGahie, the chairman of Olympic’s “Properties Committee.” In that letter Jones reported that his final cost estimate for revamping the Lakeside Course stood at $86,130, or over $725,000 in 2014 dollars. (RTJ to Robert J. McGahie, Chairman, Country Club Properties Committee, The Olympic Club, 524 Post St., San Francisco 2, CA, 14 Sept. 1954, The Olympic Club Files, JP, CUA.)
It is worth noting that the slope from the Olympic clubhouse to Lake Merced was so very steep that it had a huge influence on the golf course’s design. The first tee of the Ocean Course sits at an elevation of about 185 feet above the lake, yet the first hole plays uphill. By the time the golfer gets to holes #13 and #14, he has dropped in elevation some 150 feet.
For a fine essay on the 1955 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club, see Robert Sommers, “From the Golf Journal Archives—A Figure from History: Ben Hogan came to San Francisco with an awesome record; Jack Fleck was all but unknown. The ingredients were so mixed for a memorable U.S. Open, in 1955,” 27 Apr. 2012, accessed on 9 May 2013 at www.usgamuseum.com/about_museum/news_events/news_article.aspx?newsid=298. This article originally appeared in the May/June 1985 issue of the USGA Golf Journal.