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A History of Golf in America

A History of Golf in America

Although the origin of golf is a highly debated topic, the migration of Europeans probably brought the game to America. In America, the history of golf can be traced to Albany, New York, where the first recorded golf round was played in 1650 by some Dutch settlers.

A 1739 shipping record showed the arrival of golf equipment in Charleston, South Carolina. Also, there was a 1779 advert in the Royal Gazette of New York City for golf balls and clubs, with the founding of the South Carolina Golf Club in Charleston in 1787. But golf did not gain much popularity until the 19th century.

The Spread of Courses


Golf courses in America have not always been the posh types we have today. The earliest courses were makeshift constructions using public parks and pasture grounds whose topography dictated the location of the holes. For instance, the renowned St. Andrew’s course, started with 3 holes in an orchard close to Yonkers, New York.

The course was later replaced by larger and better pastures of 11 holes course, then 9 holes well-maintained course, and in 1897 it gave birth to the rounds of 18 holes which has remained the standard. The oldest 18-hole golf course in North America is the Chicago Golf Club. Other early courses include the Chicago Golf Club in Illinois, Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island, Shinnecock Hills in New York, and a course in Tacoma, Washington.

The Unification of American Golf


Several clubs were formed in the 1880s. The creation of the United States Golf Association (USGA) in 1894 saw the unification of Golf Clubs in the United States. Its membership grew from 267 clubs in 1910 to 1,100 clubs in 1932. Although the spread of the game was affected by great depression and the 2nd world war, the number of clubs affiliated with USGA grew to 5,908, reaching a staggering 10,600 in 2013.

The first official USGA U.S. Amateur Championship was won by Charles Macdonald in 1895. The next day, golfer Horace Rawlins emerged winner of the first U.S. Open for professionals, receiving the $150 prize. In 1895, Lucy Barnes emerged winner of the first U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Initially, golf was seen as a game of the elite until Ouimet won. The historical win of the 1913 U.S. Open by 20-year old Francis Ouimet lead to millions of Americans taking to golf.

Creation of the American PGA


Beginning in 1981, professional golf took on the name Tournament Players Association or TPA Tour and in 1916, became the American Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) which has 28,000 club professional members. It held its first PGA Championship tournament in 1916 with a $2,580 prize. It has since been responsible for organizing the Senior PGA Championship, PGA Tour, and establishing the Women’s PGA Championship in 2015. The PGA of America also co-organizes the Ryder Cup and PGA Cup.

Although there is no clear hierarchy in American golf, the main professional golf tours are the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour for women. There are regional tours and small “mini-tours”. Tour is the developmental tour for the PGA Tour while the Symetra Tour is the development tour for the LPGA Tour.