The club-house is one of. the largest and best-appointed club buildings in the United States, and contains sleeping-rooms, a large swimming tank, concert hall, grill rooms, and every other possible convenience. The club has its own railway station, and also a private dock on the river front.
Members must be the owners of at least ten shares of the capital stock, or in lieu of that pay an initiation fee of $1,000. Associate members pay $100 initiation and $75 annual dues. Subscribers pay $60 in yearly subscriptions. There are about 200 regular members and 150 subscribers.
The original course of the Philadelphia County Club at Bala, Penn., was one of nine holes, and the following newspaper description of its peculiarities will sound oddly in the ears of the golfer whose idea of what a links should be are founded upon the classic conditions of St. Andrews and Westward Ho! -
"A player who has done a round at the County Club will have passed over various points of avenue, steeple-chase course, race track, polo field, and pigeon-shooting grounds; he will have come triumphantly through a purgatorial stone-wall jump and bastion, a water-jump, and finally a vast gravel-pit or crater. . . . Stone walls, ploughed fields, quarries, fences, and chasms are among the other excellent sporting requirements of the course." Magnificent indeed, but hardly golf, seeing that a golfer is neither a jockey nor a quarryman.
But we have changed all that, and the club has now a really fine course of eighteen holes, measuring some 5,600 yards in playing distance. The club owns nearly 100 acres of land, and the club-house possesses every possible comfort and convenience. Racing, polo, and pigeon shooting still figures as fixtures upon the calendar, but golf, as is eminently proper, continues to lead them all in point of popularity.
The well-known players include Louis Biddle, J. Wilmer Biddle, G. T. Newhall, Charles and Francis Bohlen, and Mahlon Hutchinson.
The club has over 600 names upon its membership list, divided into three classes of resident, non-resident, and army and navy. Resident members pay $50 in annual dues, and the other classes $25.
The club at Newport, Rhode Island, was organised in 1893, and its magnificent clubhouse was erected in 1895. The latter is probably the handsomest and most luxuriously appointed club-house in all the world of golf, and it is the social centre of Newport's well-known Summer Colony. The polo field and the tennis courts of the Casino are almost deserted, and the World and his wife think only of their daily pilgrimage to the links.
The latter, although almost overshadowed by the magnificence of the club-house, are yet very good golf, and were the scene of the first national amateur meeting in 1895. The original course was one of nine holes, but it has since been extended to eighteen. The "Reef," the "Quarry," and the "Orchard," are the most interesting of the holes, but all are good, and the new part of the course is rapidly coming into condition. Following is the playing distance for the separate holes: - 1st, 185; 2nd, 375; 3rd, 360; 4th, no; 5th, 420; 6th, 350; 7th, 400; 8th, 375; 9th, 150; 10th, 215; nth, 365; 12th, 172; 13th, 188; 14th, 340; 15th, 485; 16th, 300; 17th, 330; 18th, 325; total, 5,445 yards.
The club is a stock company, but the house is owned by a separate corporation, the Newport County Club. The golf club is therefore the lessee of the County Club. The membership of the club is limited to 250, and the list now stands at 122. The entrance fee is $100, and the annual subscription is $40. In addition to the active members, there are associate members who subscribe for the season, month, week, and day. The leading players include : R. Terry, jun., W. Rutherfurd, Victor Sorchan, L. Waterbury, and Foxhall Keene.
The best of the nine-hole courses is undoubtedly that of the Meadowbrook Hunt Club, of Long Island. The links are laid out over the breezy and treeless Hempstead plains. The soil and putting greens are of excellent golfing quality, but perhaps the chief merit of the course is the good judgment shown in the playing distances of the separate holes. There are no stones or break-clubs on the course, and one may use his play-club without fear that some unseen obstacle may work it irretrievable damage. The playing distance is 2,756 yards, divided as follows : - 1st, 308; 2nd, no; 3rd, 387; 4th, 160; 5th, 266; 6th, 296; 7th, 414; 8th, 529; 9th, 288. The improvements now being made upon the course will bring the playing length up to 2,873 yards.
There is only a small locker building and workshop on the links, but the handsome house of the Hunt Club is not far away, and within its hospitable walls the weary golfer may find every creature comfort. O. W. Bird, Richard Peters, T. O. Beach, and J. A. Stillman, are the leading players in the club.
The nine-hole course of the Essex County Club at Manchester, Mass., was the scene of the third annual woman's championship (1897). The length of the course is 2,565 yards, divided as follows : - 1st, 370; 2nd, 250; 3rd, 400; 4th, 210; 5th, 260; 6th, 240; 7th, 286; 8th, 264; 9th, 285. Of the course in general it may be said that it is difficult, not so much from its actual length as the fact that every hole is guarded by an obstacle of some sort that prevents a half-taken shot being as good as a properly lofted one. Most of the artificial bunkers are filled with clean, white sand, from which a ball may be played with one good stroke. The putting greens are good and true, and big enough to allow for a long pitch from a mashie up to the hole. The course is now being extended to eighteen holes.
George McSargent is champion of the club, and other scratch players are : Quincy A. Shaw, R. F. Tucker, C. A. Pierce, Francis J. Amory, and Nicholas Longworth. Miss N. C. Sargent is the lady champion of the club, and was the silver medallist in the woman's championship meeting for 1897. Members must be stockholders in the organisation, and the yearly subscription is $100. There are about 250 members on the list.
The foregoing rank as the leading clubs of the country, although there are perhaps a dozen others that might deserve notice. Baltusrol is a good eighteen-hole course, and Lakewood, Washington, Myopia, Philadelphia Cricket, Westchester County, Fairfield County, Lenox, Oakland, Richmond County, Rockaway Hunt, Seabright, and Essex County (New Jersey), may be ranked among the leading clubs that have nine-hole courses. There are 89 clubs in the U.S. Golf Association, 17 associate, and 72 allied members. But this numerical statement gives no idea of the real spread of the game, since only about one-tenth of the total number of links throughout the country are listed by the Association. The latter's influence, however, is paramount in all matters of legislation and interpretation, and it is universally regarded as the governing body.
The Association was organised December 22, 1894, five clubs - St. Andrews, Brookline, Shinne-cock Hills, Newport, and Chicago - being the original and charter members. The associated clubs pay annual dues of $100, and have two votes each at the annual and special meetings. The allied clubs pay $25 yearly, and may send a delegate to the meetings, but their representatives have no vote. The general direction of affairs is vested in an executive committee, made up of the officers of the Association. The late Theodore Stavemeyer was the first president of the Association, and was succeeded by Lawrence Curtis, of Brookline. R. Bage Kerr, of Lakewood, is the secretary, and Samuel L. Parrish, of Shinnecock Hills, is the treasurer of the Association.
The combination of match and medal play introduced last year at the amateur championship meeting, has been entirely successful in practice, and has been adopted at all the minor tournaments held by the individual clubs. The entire field play a preliminary medal round of thirty-six holes, and the sixteen players making the best scores are paired in match games of eighteen holes until but two contestants remain. The final match is one of thirty-six holes. The championship trophy is awarded to the custody of the winner's club, and medals of gold, silver, bronze (2), are given to the four leaders. The amateur champions: 1894, Mr. L. B. Stoddart; 1895, Mr.Chas. B. Macdonald; 1896, Mr. H.J. Whigham; 1897, Mr. H. J. Whigham.
The open championship is conducted under medal rules, and consists of thirty-six holes. The winner receives a gold medal, $150 in money (or in plate if won by an amateur), and the custody of the championship cup. The second, third, fourth, and fifth men receive $100, $50, $25, and $10 respectively. The open champions : 1894, Willie Dunn; 1895, Horace Rawlins; 1896, James Foulis; 1897, Joseph Lloyd.
The colleges have also taken up the game, and the Inter-collegiate Association, composed of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania held its first championship meeting on the Ardsley course last July, L. P. Bayard, of Princeton, winning the individual championship, and Yale the team honours.