History of Golf in the USA

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Golf was in existence quite some time before the United States was a country and also before it became popular on American soil. The sport is believed to originate in Scotland sometime during the Middle Ages, but its precise origins are widely debated. After Golf spread into the United Kingdom it then traveled to the British Empire and of course the United States.

The earliest common evidence of Golf being played in the United States—or, rather, the future United States—are records dating back to 1657. A couple of drunk, reckless fellows in Albany, New York, were arrested after they had used their clubs to hit balls into some windows. There was one shipment of golf equipment which was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1739. The equipment was delivered to a man named William Wallace. In 1744 there were was a similar shipment of some golf clubs sent to Savannah, Georgia, from Scotland. This shipment was significant because it was for 432 golf clubs and 96 golf balls, which means that it was likely meant for a group of golfers, not one solitary individual with a hobby. The Company of Gentlemen Golfers also started up around the same time, but this was in Britain.

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The Savannah Golf Club has claims to being the oldest American Golf Club. The club may have been founded around 1786, but it was definitely established in either 1794 or 1795. Aside from the Savannah Golf Club there are a few others which claim to be among the oldest in the country. The Royal Montreal Golf Club is said to be the oldest golf club which is in continuous existence in North America. It was founded in 1773. The golf course had the royal title given to it by Queen Victoria in 1884. A few golf clubs of the 19th century include Oakhurst Links, Quoque Field Club, St. Andrews Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and the Chicago Golf Club.

Many of these earliest golf courses were made to be very basic and crude. St. Andrews golf course was little more than several holes placed in a cattle pasture. The more manicured, sophisticated courses didn’t really begin to take shape until late in the 19th century. At this time the courses were upgraded to 9-hole courses and the layouts were more intelligent. By then even St. Andrews golf course was much more respectable. Although golf courses had spread out all over the country by the late 1800s the most elite and classy courses generally resided in the east.

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In 1894 a question had to be resolved in a national amateur championship and the United States Golf Association, or USGA, came into existence. As time went on the sport continued to grow and thrive. The roaring twenties greatly boosted the popularity of golf and by the early 1930s there were over 1,000 golf clubs which were affiliated with the USGA. Although the Great Depression and World War II slowed down the growth of golf in the United States it certainly didn’t stop it. By the year 1980 there were more than 5,908 clubs affiliated with the USGA. Click here to find out more about the history of golf in the USA.