How The Old Course Influenced American Golf in Foxburg, PA.
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Golf has a rich history in America. Historians say that the first records of a game similar to golf being played in the America’s was in 1650 near Fort Orange, which is near today’s Albany, NY.
According to Tommy Braswell, of the Charleston Post and Courier, evidence of early golf in what is now the United States includes a 1739 record for a shipment of golf equipment to a William Wallace in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1779, in an advertisement published in the Royal Gazette of New York City, golf clubs and golf balls were shown for sale. Despite those pieces of evidence, and records of the South Carolina Golf Club being established in Charleston, SC in 1787, golf really did not take hold in America until the 1880’s.
There are a handful of clubs that are known for being among the oldest in the country still in existence…The Country Club (1882), The Saint Andrew's Golf Club of Yonkers, NY (1888), Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (1891), Newport Country Club (1893), and The Chicago Golf Club (1892). These five historic venues were the clubs that established what eventually became the United States Golf Association (USGA).
Less widely known in the annals of American golf history is that of Foxburg Country Club in Foxburg, PA. This nine-hole gem stakes the claim as being the oldest golf course in continuous use in the United States. The club was established in 1887 and is still in use today, some 135 years after the first shots were struck from its first tee box.
Joseph Mickle Fox traveled to England in 1874 with the All-American Cricket Team to participate in a series of cricket matches. One of the matches was scheduled in Edinburgh, Scotland. Following that match, Fox went to St. Andrews to see the game of golf being played at the Home of Golf.
While at St. Andrews, Fox was befriended by Old Tom Morris. Old Tom taught Fox the fundamentals of the game and sold him a set of golf clubs and gutta-percha balls to take back to America.
In his return to America, Fox laid out eight holes around his summer estate. He invited other local people to play the makeshift course, but it soon became apparent that the small layout could not accommodate everyone who wanted to play. In 1887, he was provided land for a more spacious course consisting of five holes. The course opened on the ground which currently is now the Foxburg Country Club and golf has been played there ever since. The Foxburg golf course was granted status by the Department of the Interior’s National Registry of Historic Places in 2007.
Foxburg Country Club was officially recognized as the oldest golf course in continuous operation in 1965. It’s important to note that oldest golf course is different than oldest country club. "In continuous use" is also to be noted, as other "older" courses shut down for many years only to be restored later.
Local legend has it that Fox tried to design the course in Foxburg after the Old Course at St. Andrews. The lay of the land prevented that duplication from happening, but the architecture has provided a unique challenge to those who play it. The course is short with narrow fairways and extremely small, undulating greens. Long hitters will always have an advantage in the game of golf, but at Foxburg that advantage is only realized if they hit straight and are able to read the greens.
Foxburg Country Club is also home to the American Golf Hall of Fame. The two-story exhibit houses countless golf artifacts that celebrate the game of golf and its rich history. The American Golf Hall of Fame is open from April through October and offers free admission.