August 18, 2009

For Sale: One of America's First Golf Clubs

The site of one of the first golf club in the United States -- Oakhurst Links, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia -- has been put up for sale. Asking price? $4.5 million. Although it is often overlooked in the accounts of the history of golf in the United States, Oakhurst Links was established at least four years earlier than the St. Andrews Golf Club in New York, making it America's first organized golf club with a dedicated course to call its own.

The course opened in 1884, and was built by Bostonian Russell Montague, who came to the White Sulphur Springs area at the recommendation of his doctor. At the urging of his neighbors, Montague built the course and established the club prior to the arrival of founding member George Grant's cousin, who was a noted English player who was coming to the area after serving in India. Grant didn't want to disappoint his cousin, and thus Oakhurst Links was born.

The club may have been largely lost to history because it fell apart in 1910 when most of the members moved or passed away. In 1992, however, Lewis Keller, working with course architect Bob Cupp (who also c0-designed my home course, Eagle Ridge) began to restore the property. Fortunate in that the site had remained undeveloped and untouched since the decline of the original Oakhurst Links, Cupp and Keller were able to locate the orginal tees, greens and by using records of the course, its fairways as well.

The course was restored as closely as possible to its original form, and given that it was a site designed for the game as it was played in the late 19th century, Keller decided to also restore the experience of playing golf as it was played during that time. He worked closely with clubmakers in St. Andrews, Scotland, obtained period-replicas of the the hickory-shafted wooden clubs along with the gutta-percha balls that were played back then as well. The course opened in 1994 with Ping's founder Karsten Solheim and golfing legend Sam Snead hitting the first shots.

Now 86 years old, Mr. Keller says that it's time to pass along the custodial and operations duties of Oakhurst to someone else. Working with a local realtor and a Florida broker, he is looking to do just that, and to preserve the history of America's game at the same time.


  1. 1884 and claiming to be the first golf course built in the US ? Is that a typo ? There must be a hundred courses older than that. There are two courses that also claim to be the oldest US courses - one in South Carolina and one in the northeast somewhere, and they are at least a hundred years older than this one.

  2. Oldest organized golf "club" in the U.S.


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