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The Yale Golf Club

The Yale Golf Club

The Golf Club was organized in 1896 by Yale students, alumni & faculty. That is the same year that Charles Blair Macdonald won the first official U.S. Amateur championship at Newport Golf Club. The most prominent organizers were John Reid Jr., class of 1899, and law professor Theodore Woolsey. John Reid Jr. was the son of John Reid, a transplanted Scotsman, who had organized the “Apple Tree Gang” that founded the St. Andrews Golf Club in Westchester N.Y. in 1889. (see below) The Golf Club quickly attracted more than 100 members. A course known as the New Haven Golf Club was laid out by Robert D. Pryde near the campus and shared with townspeople. It was promoted to alumni as “easy to get to from NYC by train and trolley to the clubhouse & 1st tee” of the 1st hole called “trolley.”

By 1896 the NHGC was competing against other clubs and The Golf Club held tournaments to choose a team that would represent Yale in intercollegiate play. In 1897 Yale won the first of what would be 21 national intercollegiate championships sanctioned by the USGA/NCAA. John Reid Jr. won the first Yale individual national title in 1898. By 1900 the NHGC had 300 members, “mostly Yale students”. Harry Vardon visted the course and played exhibitions against members of the Club. The course become so crowded with “Yalies” that the New Haven Country Club [also designed by R.D. Pryde] was opened in 1899 and excluded Yale students from membership.

That was not the case in 1913 when land was purchased in Orange by the university and others, and the Racebrook Country Club laid out by Robert D. Pryde. Here 150 memberships were reserved for Yale students. Again, Harry Vardon paid a visit to RBCC and in 1922 played a match with Yale student and then U.S. Amateur champion, Jess Sweetser. Racebrook was expanded to 36 holes, but it was still not big enough for the The Golf Club and the non-Yale members. {We have copies of letters in 1922 from alumni and the golf team captain urging the university to build its own course}. By 1926 the Griest estate [known as “Marvelwood”] of 700 acres had been purchased by the widow of Ray Tompkins and given to the university. Two 18-hole layouts were designed by Seth Raynor, consulting with C.B. Macdonald, and one of the layouts was constructed under the supervision of Charles Banks and William Perkins. Once the Ray Tompkins Memorial/Yale Golf Course opened, the use of the name The Golf Club seems to have been dropped. Members were referred to as members of the Course, not the Club. From about 1955 to 1995 there was an “Eli Club” for competition among members of the course. Intercollegiate competition has of course been with the Yale golf teams.

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