Yes, In The Bronx! Oldest Public Golf Course
Erin Hills Golf Course is the 17th public golf course in America to host a Major and 6th in the U.S. Open Championship. But none of those open-access venues predate Van Cortlandt Park, the country’s oldest public golf course.
Wedged between two elevated subway lines in the north Bronx, the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course opened in 1895 as a nine-hole links; four years later it expanded to 18 holes and a clubhouse followed.
The brainchild of local businessmen who needed political backing to run an urban golf course, “Vannie” was an experimental idea that would be followed in other cities if successful.
Caddies cost 15 cents a round and 25 cents for two. Not surprisingly, large crowds with poor golf etiquette overwhelmed the grounds in the early years, which saw as many as 700 golfers complete the course on a weekend day, or holiday.
The Bronx fairways held the nation’s first Open Tournament on a public course in 1905. Isaac Mackie walked away with the honors, firing 152 to hold off runners-up Willie Anderson and Bernard Nicholls who jointly finished at 157. All three golfers were professional competitors in their day.
Scottish-born Willie Anderson was the first to claim four U.S. Opens, placing him in the pantheon of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and remains the only golfer with three consecutive U.S. Open titles from 1903-05.
Over the years, Vannie hosted sports and show business celebrities that included Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis. The Three Stooges were familiar swinging yak-yaks on the golf course.
The clubhouse locker room with its original wooden lockers (photo above) also served as backdrop to a scene in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film “Wall Street”, starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen.
Renovated from 2007-14 at a cost of $5 million, the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course continues to draw players from downtown and the surrounding communities.
For yester-year's well heeled golf patrons, North America’s oldest surviving private golf club was not even laid out in the U.S.
The Royal Montreal Golf Club was formed in 1873 as a nine-hole course on the outskirts of its namesake city. The club has since moved twice with its final resting place in the current Ile-Bizard. The Royal Montreal hosted the Presidents Cup in 2007 and the RBC Canadian Open in 2014.
Surprisingly, even the second and third oldest greens in the continent fall within the borders of the maple leaf nation- the Royal Quebec Golf Club (1874) and the Toronto Golf Club (1876).
Golf clubs as serious playing facilities in America didn’t get going until the 1880’s, often designed or constructed by UK immigrants or by Americans returning from trips overseas.
Some of the earlier locations that vie for historic “first” designations include the Edgewood Club of Tivoli in Tivoli, NY (1884), Oakhurst Links in White Sulphur Springs, WV (1884), Foxburg Country Club in Foxburg, PA (1887) and St. Andrews Golf Club in Yonkers, NY (1888).
Each club has its own unique story but few can match the Three Stooges’ favorite playground, Vannie in the Bronx.
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