North America has many famed golf clubs dating back to the 19th century, including the Chicago Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and the Royal Montreal Golf Club. However, these famous courses all remain exclusively private clubs, closed to the majority to the golfing world. Many golfers might wonder if any of golf’s historic courses in North America remain open to the public. Well fear not, because GolfLink has tracked down North America’s oldest courses open to the public.
Wawashkamo Golf Club
photo courtesy Mission Point Resort
One of America’s most unique courses, Wawashkamo Golf Club is located on the remote Mackinac Island between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The course was built by Scottish professional and 2-time U.S. Open champion Alex Smith. It is seen as one of the few examples of a “true” or Scottish-style links course in North America. It is prized today precisely because so little has changed in the course over the past century. The layout is treeless with short holes by today’s standards, with rolling terrain, strategic bunkering and very high rough. The course was also home to what is believed to be the first Native American professional golfer, Frank Dufina, of the Mackinac Bands of Chippewa and Ottawa Indians. Dufina served as club professional from 1898 to 1968, making him the longest serving club pro in U.S. golfing history.
The distinction of oldest surviving golf course in continuous operation in North America belongs to the humble Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course, located a short drive from the falls at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. The course dates back to the 1870s, generally credited as 1875. The first definitive surviving reference to the course is a mention of an 1878 match at the “Mississauga Links”, the former name of the course. One of the golfers taking part in that game was John Geale Dickson, the man credited with bringing golf to the region and founder of the Niagara Golf Club. The course is 9-holes with the original fairways and borders Lake Ontario, offering beautiful views of the lake throughout the round.
photo courtesy the Greenbrier Resort
From the oldest course on the continent to the oldest course in America, the Greenbrier Resort-owned Oakhurst Links is a one-of-a-kind golfing experience located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The course was originally built in 1884 by Russell Montague on his own property so that he and his Scottish neighbors could get a game of golf. The course was later reverted back into pasture land before being revived using historic documents in 1994 at the behest of golfing legend Sam Snead. The course lets golfers experience the history of the game firsthand: only 19th century wooden shafted clubs and gutta percha balls are allowed on the course, and the dress code also matches the era. Wet sand tees await your drive and greens with grass the same length as that found on a modern fairway look to be conquered. And yes, clubs and balls are available for rent.