Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now




St. Andrews, the oldest Golf Course in the U.S. … Isn’t

Posted on July 09, 2014 by David Bryce
St. Andrews in Yonkers, New York is billed as the oldest golf club in the United States. But is it really?

St. Andrews in Yonkers, New York is billed as the first golf club in the United States. But is it really?

It’s commonly claimed that the oldest golf course to be founded in the United States is St. Andrews, in Yonkers, New York. It’s one of those little bits of trivia meant to show that you are a true aficionado of the sport rather than a mere schlub. Doubt it? Go visit their website. It’s the very first thing they say about themselves.

Except, it isn’t.

It’s not even true that it’s the oldest U.S. course to still be in use, or even in continuous use since it was built. First started as a three hole course in 1888, St. Andrews has been open every year since, providing 126 years of continuous play for golfers in the States. During that time it has expanded from three holes to the “standard” eighteen hole, par 71 course that is known and loved today, and lauded as the first and oldest golf course in the U.S.

Unfortunately, neither claim is true. Those titles were earned earlier, in 1884. There’s just one small problem with naming who holds them. Two courses were founded that year, and no one is quite certain which opened first. One is the Foxburg Golf Club in Pennsylvania. The other is Oakhurst Links in West Virginia.

Which came first? It’s hard to say. Both have a claim for that preeminence. But the exact date of the first game played on the course is uncertain. Without knowing that, it’s impossible to appoint a single winner. So let’s take a quick look at both.

This marker at the Foxburg Golf Club in Pennsylvania commemorates the continual playing of golf on the course since 1887.

This marker at the Foxburg Golf Club in Pennsylvania commemorates the continual playing of golf on the course since 1887.

The Foxburg Golf Club was built by Joseph Fox on his family estate in Foxburg, Pennsylvania. He had first been introduced to golf while in Britain on a cricket tournament in 1884. He took lessons from the golf pro at St. Andrews (Scotland, not New York) before his return to the States, then promptly began teaching golf to locals in Pennsylvania on the grounds of his home. This was soon followed by an 8 hole course. Technically, this should count as the first course, as this was in use soon after his return in 1884, but as it was a private course for Fox and his friends. By 1886 it was clear the course was too small to accommodate the demand from the public. The new, 9 hole course was also built on the estate and opened in 1887 and has been in use ever since. Today that second course is known as the Foxburg Golf Course & Country Club.

A more clear contender would be Oakhurst Links. Just like Joseph Fox, course founder Russell Montague learned the game in Scotland and built the course after his return to West Virginia. Unlike Fox, however, Montague’s course required no expansion in a new location and was available to the public from the start. Four years later, just as St. Andrews was opening, it held its first tournament. The course remained in use until 1912, at which point new courses were built nearby (Greenbrier and The Homestead). Oakhurst was abandoned at this point. The course would eventually be restored and re-open in 1994. After several additional restoration projects in the ‘00s, Oakhurst  is now open to play as it originally had been, complete with gutta percha balls and woods that are actually made of wood, shaft and all.

This marker recognizes Oakhurst as the first organized golf club in the United States.

This marker recognizes Oakhurst as the first organized golf club in the United States.

Which came first? Well, it’s really hard to say. Technically Foxburg is the oldest to have seen continuous play since its foundation. But since the modern course was built in 1887 (to St. Andrew’s 1888) that means that it could be argued as having to yield the title of first U.S. golf course to Oakhurst Links. But if you include the first, 8 hole private course built by Fox, then both Oakhurst and Foxburg were built and opened in the same year. Which had the first game played on its fairways? I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone does.

But it clearly wasn’t St. Andrews.

David Bryce is a golf enthusiast with a pension for history. When not out playing at Thousand Hills Golf Resort, he can be found making friends and family roll their eyes at the amount of useless trivia he has stored in his brain.


Leave a Reply


  • Current Poll

    Which Rookie Quarterback Will Start More Games in 2017?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Post Categories



↑ Top