Golf as an organized sport, was barely 25 years old before it was first played on Oregon coast in 1888 in Gearhart a small vacation village just a few miles from the Astoria seaport. The first British Open to crown a Champion was played in 1860 organized and eventually won by the Ol' Tom Morris. The US Open would not begin for another 7 years in 1895. Oregon's first golf links was set up by Scotsman who owned a few clubs and directed his children to bury some tomato cans out in the fields and mark with a stick and rag. To say that many thought him a fool or worse is an understatement. Yet, the grandkids complied with grandfather's request and together they created a 3-hole course along the seaside meadows and dunes of Gearhart Resort, a short train ride from downtown Portland near the towns of Astoria and Seaside. We can only imagine the sound of that first crack of the hickory sticks, undoubtedly imported directly from Scotland brushing the sandy grass of the Oregon dunes.
His inspiration? Why the nature of the rugged seaside meadows of grassy dunes that “links” the land to the sea. The sandy underfoot of the dunes proved not suitable for building or farming, and in ancient Scotland to the present was reserved for recreation and enjoyment of the people. With all the land essentially owned by the King, or otherwise leased by fee to certain families through the generations, the “links” represented the few public open spaces where anyone could enjoy. The links were characterized as ill-suited for economic exploitation, no crops could grow in the sandy salt, save for the natural dune grasses. Constructing building were ill advised as the footing would shift. The very most it would benefit was the occasional shepherds allowing sheep to graze on the grasses and gatherings of townsfolk and lovers enjoying romantic walks along the ocean, and secluded places to place a blanket and lounge together.
To put these 3-hole pioneers into perspective the oldest continual Golf Club in the United States was John Reid and his “Apple Tree Gang” who in 1888, broke ground for the St. Andrews GC (New York) the first 18-hole golf course continuously operated in the U.S.
A few years later, the “The Founder’s Club” went ahead with the construction of a original 9-hole tract at Gearheart in 1892, in the traditional loop - where the 1st tee start at the sea facing inland and loop back around with 9th green by the sea. Like the dunes on which they are build continually shifted in location and management, so the “The Founder’s Club” never fully established a USGA club to complete and maintain the full 18-holes layout. Gerhart remained a tourist amenity and summer destination for many years, continuing to this day.
It begins... the seaside game is brought home so the game can continue
Just 6 years later in 1894, the very same year the USGA was founded, the Tacoma Golf & Country Club formed and started building a complete 18-hole course up the coast a few hundred miles in Washington. Just a few years later, the founding members of Waverley Country Club, the oldest club in Oregon, came together in 1896 to construct the 18-hole course in Oregon along the banks of the Willamette River. While these river banks both clubs chose are not exactly traditional “links” locations, and certainly struggled with issues like mud, drainage and fast growing natural grasses, these properties are the closest approximation to the links by the sea. Waverley original location was in close proximity to the where Powell Boulevard bridge was a close approximation for the residents of Portland.
It should be added however that both clubs were were equally, if not more, passionate about horsemanship and polo teams as they were about the new fledgeling game of golf.
The second oldest club Eugene Country Club started in 1899, was the first to create a course layout based on what was available, rather than on the more traditional links, using the unsold lots of housing developments to map out a series of holes right through the heart of the subdivisions of what would become downtown Eugene. The Eugene Country Club more than any other club a way for the members to have a rollicking good time on the weekends and toil away at hitting golf balls through the neighborhood. One can only imagine the flustered frustration of homeowners on the right side of the fairway with sliced golf balls careening into the wood siding and roofs. It's a fair bet to say at least a window or two may have come crashing down on a marionberry pie cooling in the windowsill with a dollop of golf ball on top.
Organized golf continued to grow and more and more people began to populate the Northwest. The Clubs which started out with people that had disposable income to use towards recreation and building social status. Golf as a game was, by default, limited to the club players and their caddies. However the caddies were not scions club members, rather the boys who lived in the adjacent neighborhoods and towns and knew that a decent wage could be made by tending to the clubs and ball of the club members. Caddies at Waverley, along with most clubs, were given special training and had to learn the game so as to provide solid advice to the member of guest, or at the very least not get in the way.
In 1912, Waverley acquired new land for the development of a new golf course on it's present location. By this time golf was becoming a greater part of the American sport consciousness. The American golfers, lead by Chandler Egan had won the 1904 Olympic Gold Medal in St. Louis, the first and only year golf was played in the Olympics, until 2016.
That same year of 1912, Chandler Egan was hired to help develop land for the new Tualatin Country Club first established in 1912. "Tualatin Country Club was established in 1912 in response to the exclusionary nature of other recreation retreats." see Tualatin Celebrates Centennial Specifically the club was formed by many prominent Jewish families who were an equal part in building key businesses, such as Meier & Frank, early cornerstones of fledgling city. As will be described later, the cafe in Meier & Frank downtown would be a center meeting place in the origin of Eastmoreland Golf Course!
As described in the post "The Greatest Game Ever Played..." 1913 was the turning point where golf captured the attention of all Americans. The young 19 year old Amartuer caddy had defeated the greatest professional golfer of his era (and arguably all time) Harry Vardon.
As we will detail in future post... Harry Vardon and Ted Ray had been touring the U.S. before and after the U.S. Open as ambassadors of golf. For the professional circuit was more a function of "celebrity matches" where the pros would come to match up against the best players in the area. In October 2013 after the U.s. Open Harry Vardon and Ted Ray come to play Chandler Egan at Waverley Country club and Portland officially caught golf fever.
Within a month the charter for the new Portland Golf Club was filed in 1913 and in 1914 construction began with the first 9 holes opening on May 13, 1914. According to the club's history
I'd love to have seen these early members out there working in overalls. It's likely there were a fair amount of actual laborers hired for the effort, yet I'm quite certain that part of the appeal for many members, and perhaps prospective members that would contribute additional labor (in lieu of cash?) to be out there moving stumps and preparing greens. Yard work is often a source of pride and solace for many professionals. Portland Golf Club would become leader of golf in the 1940's hosting the 1948 Ryder Cup as detailed in my blog post from last year.
1914 the city hosts golf courses for members only but no play available for the public citizens of Portland!!