James Gamble Rogers III
1968 team captain, clubhouse architect, and Yale Golf Association president
Jim Rogers (Class of 1968) arrived at Yale in the fall of 1963, and encountered a campus whose overall plan and most of whose Gothic revival buildings had been designed by his grandfather, James Gamble Rogers, Class of 1889 — one of the most important architects of his generation. Indeed, architecture runs through the Rogers clan. There have been six family members named James Gamble Rogers. All have been architects except Jim’s father and son.
Beginning with the Yale Club of New York in 1915 and over the next twenty years, his grandfather designed most of Yale’s central campus: Harkness Memorial Tower, Sterling Memorial Library, the Law School, the Graduate School, the University Theater and Drama School, and eight residential colleges. He was also the architect for five houses on fraternity row and the Bob Cook Boathouse.
The Rogers family was part of the Connecticut shoreline community of Old Black Point, and his grandfather had been a good friend of Edward Harkness, the great philanthropist who underwrote much of the Yale building program. It was a short ride from the Rogers home to the Harkness’s summer estate in New London and his private golf course. Rogers’s grandfather was an enthusiastic but poor golfer. He had such difficulty with sand traps that he putted out of those at the Harkness course until they were all remodeled with lips to prevent that style of exit.
Jim Rogers learned to play golf as a teenager from his father, who was not an architect but a Yale graduate. He entered Exeter in the tenth grade, where he played golf and hockey. Dan Hogan was the senior captain of the golf team when Rogers was a sophomore. In his first year at Yale Jim was a member of the undefeated freshman hockey team, but he didn’t play golf. He might have avoided golf altogether had he not received a call in February of his sophomore year from Dan Hogan. Hogan had preceded him to Yale and was the 1965 golf team captain and an honorable mention All-American. Hogan suggested that he join the team for its spring trip to Hilton Head Island and Florida. Charles Fraser, Yale Law 1953, was just beginning the development of Sea Pines Plantation at Hilton Head and had invited Al Wilson to bring the team to try out the two courses that had been built. Jim Rogers turned in the lowest total score and returned to Yale as a member of the team, which went undefeated that season.
Rogers decided to leave Yale at the end of his sophomore year, frustrated that he wasn’t getting from it what he thought he should. Given the Vietnam draft, he wished to remain in school and spent a year at the University of London in its School of Oriental and African Studies. Six weeks in West Africa as a teenager with his father and the Reverend Jim Robinson, founder of Operation Crossroads Africa, had stirred his interest, and he spent the year in London in the company of many of the African students at the university.
Rogers returned to Yale in 1966 and to the golf team. He played the number two position as a junior and the number one as a senior. In his senior year he was the runner up to Mike Porter of Princeton (now a Harvard Business School professor) in the 1968 ECAC tournament. He finished in the top twenty-five in the ncaa tournament. He followed the eventual winner, Hale Irwin, for nine holes and saw him make four birdies, four pars, and a hole-in-one. The team remained very successful, contributing to Al Wilson’s remarkable coaching record. Rogers went on to the Columbia University School of Architecture in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War protests there, again surrounded by James Gamble Rogers design work.
Rogers joined the architectural firm of Rogers and Butler in 1975, a firm founded by his uncle. In 1979 he left to form his own firm of Butler Rogers Baskett. His early work was not golf-related, but in 1985 he was asked to recommend some improvements to the women’s locker room at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. What he found was an entire clubhouse suffering from longstanding neglect and ad hoc changes. He recommended a complete restoration of the original 1892 Stanford White design. This was accepted, and the renovated clubhouse met with wide attention and acclaim, especially when the club hosted the 1995 US Open.
Since then Rogers’s firm has directed thirteen more renovation and restoration projects of historically significant clubhouses, including such masterpieces as the St. Andrews Golf Club (first organized in 1888 and from which came several of Yale’s first golf team members), the Sleepy Hollow Country Club (another Stanford White design), Brooklawn Country Club, Wee Burn Country Club (an Addison Mizner design), Wykagyl Country Club, Piping Rock Club (the course designed by C. B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor in 1911) and the Woodway Country Club. The firm is now also designing new clubhouses, including one for the Yale Farms Golf Club, planned by Roland Betts in northwestern Connecticut.
Jim Rogers has remained involved with the Yale Golf Association and served as president from 2003 to 2006. He was especially successful in the Association’s fund raising for the restoration of the course. When asked to compare the Yale golf course today with what it was forty years ago, Rogers believes “it seems a lot harder now.” He notes that no other course may be as different as Yale’s from the regular and long tees.