Chicago Golf Club
|Operated by||John Guyton|
|Tournaments hosted||U.S. Open:
(1897, 1900, 1911)
|Designed by||Charles B. Macdonald|
|Length||6,574 yards (6,011 m)|
Layout of Chicago Golf Club, as seen from space
Chicago Golf Club is a private golf club in Wheaton, Illinois, in the United States. It is the oldest 18-hole course in North America and was one of the five clubs which founded the United States Golf Association in 1894. Its founder, Charles B. Macdonald, won the first official U.S. Amateur Championship in 1895.
Macdonald, known as the Father of Golf in Chicago, went to college in Scotland, where he learned to play the game. He brought back a set of clubs, and in early 1892, on the Lake Forest estate of a friend, C.B. Farwell, and his son-in-law, Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, laid out seven informal golf holes on an interesting piece of lakefront property known as "Bluff's Edge." His group of friends were fascinated by the new game and demanded a course be built on a dedicated site. In late spring of 1892, Macdonald passed around a hat with his friends, who contributed $10 each for a total of two or three hundred dollars. Macdonald spent that money in laying out a nine hole course, about 23 miles (37 km) west of Chicago's Union Station, on the stock farm of A. Haddow Smith at Belmont, located one block north of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad line. This was to become the first golf course built west of the Alleghenies, and second to Shinnecock Hills in Long Island, New York, which opened 12 holes in 1891.
Macdonald, who still had contacts in Scotland, next cabled the Royal Liverpool Golf Club and ordered six sets of clubs. As soon as they arrived, his newfound associates were soon bitten by the golf bug.
In the spring of 1893, Macdonald wrote in his c.1925 book Scotland's Gift -- Golf, that he increased the number of holes at Belmont to 18, creating the first 18-hole golf course in North America. On July 18, 1893, the charter was granted for the Chicago Golf Club.
The club became so popular that, in 1894, the members bought a piece of property to build an improved 18-hole course. They purchased a 200-acre (0.81 km2) parcel of the Patrick farm in Wheaton, for a then-considerable sum of $28,000, which became "a first class 18-hole course of 6,500 yards." The site was chosen for its rolling hills covered with native grasses, which reminded Macdonald of Scotland.
Macdonald designed the links-style layout himself; since he was a chronic slicer, he routed the holes so that both nines would play in clockwise fashion so that he would stay out of trouble. Once the private land adjacent to the course became developed, a new rule was needed for errant golf balls leaving the premises. The United States Golf Association Rule of Golf for "Out Of Bounds" (27-1) had its origin at Chicago Golf Club.
Jarvis Hunt designed the Chicago clubhouse.
Around 1902, the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad constructed an electrified third-rail railroad between the far western terminus of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad at 52nd Avenue (now Laramie Avenue) in Chicago, and the Fox River towns of Aurora and Elgin. The branch line splitting to Aurora from downtown Wheaton traveled just past the main entrance to Chicago Golf Club, where was built a splendid brick station. A large majority of the club members commuted from downtown Chicago, and on weekends and special occasions a luxuriously-appointed wood-paneled club car with a well-stocked bar and linen-tablecloth dinner service was employed to ferry golfers out to the Chicago Golf Club. At the club's station was a siding, where the club car was parked until it was needed for the evening return trip.
Macdonald also brought the Foulis brothers to Chicago from St Andrews, Scotland, to help grow the new game. The Foulis' father, James Foulis, Sr., worked as a foreman in the clubmaking shop of the legendary Old Tom Morris -- which was located across the street from the Old Course at St Andrews. Macdonald originally invited Robert Foulis to be the first club professional at Chicago Golf, but he was already under contract and passed the offer to his brother, Jim. Thus James Foulis became the golf professional at Chicago Golf in 1895; he had worked for both Old Tom and clubmaker Robert Forgan.
In 1905, Jim was succeeded by his brother David Foulis, who stayed at the Wheaton course until 1916. In addition to their skills as golf professionals, clubmakers and players, they were responsible for many innovations to the game of golf. They were first to apply the bramble (reverse-dimple) pattern on the cover of Coburn Haskell's new rubber-cored wound golf ball, and in response to the demands of the new ball developed the "mashie-niblick", the modern 7-iron, which fell between the traditional mashie (5-iron) and niblick (9-iron). Jim and Dave also designed many golf courses, most of which still exist today. While at Chicago Golf, Dave brought the metal hole-liner to the U.S.A. from Scotland and improved the design to hold the flagstick upright, even in the wind. Another brother, John, was ballmaker and bookkeeper at Chicago Golf until his death in 1907.
After the Chicago Golf Club vacated the Belmont location, Herbert J. Tweedie, a one-time member of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, formed the Belmont Golf Club, of which the charter was granted in 1899. By that time, however, the course was back to nine holes. The original site has remained a golf course through the years, passing through several owners, and now is owned and operated as a public facility by the Downers Grove Park District.
Chicago Golf Club is ranked the 5th most exclusive in the world. There are only 120 members and it will never exceed this amount, the only way to get in is by invitation from a member.
Current members include Cleveland Golf founder Roger Cleveland, former ServiceMaster chief executive Jonathan P. Ward, Actor Chris O'Donnell, former ServiceMaster vice chairman Charles Stair and former Amoco chairman H. Laurence Fuller. Golfer Ben Crenshaw is a non-resident member, and recently deceased members include radio great Paul Harvey and International Harvester scion Brooks McCormick. Club President, Bob King (1990-1991), allowed African Americans and women to be members of the club. Chicago Golf Club admitted its first African-American member, Charles Thurston, in 1993. The club admitted its first female full member, Judith Whinfrey, in 2001; she died in January 2010, now the only female member is Connie Keller.
(History collected from Chicagoland Golf magazine, April 1992, by Phil Kosin)
Important tournaments played at Chicago Golf Club:
- 1903 Bessie Anthony
- 1979 William C. Campbell
- 1928 United States 11, Great Britain & Ireland 1
- 2005 United States 12½, Great Britain & Ireland 11½
- 1992 John Curley
- Detailed look at Chicago and Mid-Ocean courses
- Original Chicago Golf Club
- Rated #5 most exclusive by Golf.com