Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

An Early Description of Construction of the First Nine Holes of the Pelham Bay Golf Course

Golf has been played in and around Pelham since at least 1895 and, likely, before that time. For those interested in learning more about the history of golf in Pelham, see Bell, Blake A., The Early Days of Golf in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 36, Sept. 10, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.

Today's Pelham Split Rock Golf Club, consisting of the Pelham Bay Golf Course and the Split Rock Golf Course, sits on land that once was part of the Town of Pelham before annexation by New York City in 1896. The narrow, tree-lined Split Rock Golf Course opened in 1934 and was designed by John van Kleek. Pelham Bay Golf Course opened in 1905.

There is an interesting early account of the early, slow efforts to build the first nine holes of the Pelham Bay Golf Course (which was redesigned by John van Kleek in 1937). The account, published in 1900, indicates that Val Flood, New York City's "golf professional" was overseeing construction of the course. Although the first nine holes of the course were scheduled to open in August, 1900, its condition in September of that year -- a full month later -- was described as "chaotic". The New York Times said:

"Not a green is yet ready. Just now they present bare, dirt surfaces, reminding one somewhat of the 'browns,' as facetious golfers term the dirt greens of Florida. . . . [I]n many instances it looks as though the old sod had simply been scraped from the surface, for, although well rolled - the only thing that seems to have been done effectually thus far - the old roots and new shoots of coarse grass are cropping out in many places. . . . [I]t is apparent to the simplest golfer that no putting can be done there until another season. The rank grass has been but sparsely cut, the tees are in a very primitive condition, and the excessive roughness of a large part of the ground will require weeks of persistent rolling before the old ploughed ruts can be partially eliminated. Golfers who expect to find such fine turf as Van Cortlandt can boast, will be grievously disappointed, and even with hard work, it will take at least a year to bring the Pelham Bay Park links into comfortable playing condition. Every one in the immediate vicinity who is at all golfy admits that the work has been very slow. Foreman See himself confesses that he has been handicapped by lack of men, although he has a dozen at work now and a seven-ton roller, which made its appearance last week. Statements are still being made that a portion of the course may be opened this Fall, but the present condition renders that decidedly unlikely, and, indeed, a golfer would find no enjoyment in playing a second time." Pelham Links' Chaotic State, N.Y. Times, Sep. 10, 1900, p. 3.

The same article contains a very interesting piece of information about the clubhouse then planned for the golf course. It notes that that the old Delancey Mansion near Plum Cove where today's Shore Road periodically floods just south of the Pelham Manor border likely would be used as the clubhouse once the course opened. For many years thereafter, Hunter's Island Inn served as a popular roadhouse and, during Prohibition, speakeasy until it was razed in the 1930s. The article notes:

"When the course does get in shape the golfers will have an admirable headquarters for luncheon and lockers in the Hunter's Island Inn. This is a commodious stone building, being the old Delancey house, and is upon the Park property. It is but a step from the front door to the first tee. When the golf links become well established the facilities for all conveniences will be superior to those at Van Cortlandt. There are over 200 members of the New York Athletic Club who play golf, and as the Pelham course is only a short distance from Travers Island, they are all anxious for a chance to play." Id.

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At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent history about hunters island being a proposed site for the course.


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