The First Golf Course in the United States
When we think of historic golf courses on the east side of the Atlantic, we tend to gravitate more towards the ones with a lot of media pop.
For example, if you were to think of classic links in the states, you probably imagine Amen Corner in Augusta, or perhaps Pinehurst in North Carolina.
These are established American golf course icons, to be sure, but they are not the oldest.
Back in 1884, golf was not really heard of in the United States.
Anyone who witnessed it or knew of it in other countries considered it a strange sport.
When Russell Montague of West Virginia learned of the sport that was so popular in Scotland and where he studied in Great Britain, he was intrigued and with the help of some local friends and neighbors, he built the first golf course in the United States on his Sulphur Springs property.
Golf’s Oldest Prize
His colonial style house, which was built four years prior to the golf course, served as the clubhouse and the simple course boasted nine holes.
Montague and his friends enjoyed playing on the course, which was known as Oakhurst Links, for many years.
Montague hosted its first competition in 1888 in Scottish match play tradition.
Their annual competition became the first golf tournament known to be played in the United States, and the medal given to the winner was known as the oldest golf prize in America.
Back and Forth
In 1912, Oakhurst Links was reverted back into pasture after Montague moved to Virginia and other friends who used the course moved away.
The thirty acres stayed in the Montague family for many decades and was sold to Lewis Keller in 1959.
Keller knew the land’s history and being a golf fan, was very interested when his friend and golfer Sam Snead told him about the property being for sale.
Keller lived in New York but would come to play golf with Snead in West Virginia frequently.
After seeing the property, he knew he had to make the purchase.
Keller used the land as a summer home and horse farm until the early 1990’s when he made the move to return the land back to the Oakhurst Links golf course.
With the help of a golf course architect, Keller renovated the golf course back to its original state.
Using Montague’s family documents, they were able to locate the original tees, greens, and the course’s routings.
The course is exactly as Russell Montague and his friends played it in 1884.
Building the course back to its original state took two years but Keller was extremely pleased with the end result.
Keller owned and operated the course for many years until he recently sold it to Greenbrier Resort, which is located just a few miles up the road.
The course, museum, and clubhouse are listed with the National Register of Historic Places.
Keeping It Old School
Anyone who visits this historic golf course today knows that modern golf conveniences are not allowed.
Some visitors even wear period clothing and all golfers are required to use reproductions of the clubs and balls which were used in 1884 when the course was first built.
It seems appropriate when visiting the first golf course in the United States.
If you would like to become a part of American golfing history, contact the College of Golf today.
Our team of professional trainers pride themselves on bringing your golf game to where it needs to be.