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.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Members of The New York Athletic Club Were Duped Into Believing the Club Created a Small Nine-Hole Golf Course in Pelham Manor in 1897

In 1895, "golf fever" swept across Pelham. In response to the craze, two members of the Hazen family, Mrs. John Cunningham Hazen and Miss Edith Cunningham Hazen, organized "The Pelham Manor Golf Club". The founders laid out a small course on Prospect Hill. The course opened during the first week of November 1895.

It would seem that "The Pelham Manor Golf Club" never became thoroughly established. Its records appear to have disappeared. There is little said of it after the summer and fall of 1895.

At about the same time, however, members of the New York Athletic Club who frequented Travers Island began clamoring for a golf course of their own -- perhaps prompted by envy of the small course that had been laid out by The Pelham Manor Golf Club on nearby Prospect Hill. It seems that in the Spring of 1897, one or more members of the New York Athletic Club decided to rub salt in the wound by duping the New York Athletic Club Journal into announcing that a small nine-hole golf course had been opened by the Club for its members in an area behind the Priory.

According to the announcement printed in the Journal, two club members named C. Smyth and C. V. R. Radcliffe were principally responsible for the "course". Another club member named Cam Smith supposedly laid the course out on lands owned by E. C. Roosevelt, also a member of the Club. The brief entry in the New York Athletic Club Journal published in May 1897 described the developments as follows:


LADDIES who have been clamoring for a golf course in the vicinity of Travers Island are at last accomodated. The energy of C. Smyth and C. V. R. Radcliffe has resulted in the laying out of a nine-hole link on the property kindly loaned for the occasion by the well-known club member and frequenter of Travers Island, E. C. Roosevelt. The chappies who affect the latest form of sport will find the new links very difficult, as they have been discreetly laid over hills and bunkers on the ground back of the priory. Many interesting contests have already taken place over the links, and it appears that Cam Smith, who laid out the course did it with due regard for his own ability, as he at present solemnly affirms that he holds the record for the course of fifty-three strokes. The low record is held by the enthusiastic sportsman, Ernest Thorpe, who spent the greater portion of an afternoon making 427 drives at the ball in order to cover the nine holes.

The game has become popular with the oarsmen in training for the Decoration Day regatta, and ‘Count’ Giannini has to drive his crew away from the fascinating pastime with golf-sticks.”

Source: A Golf Course in New York Athletic Club Journal, Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 3.

In the very next issue of the Journal, the Club announced that it had been duped -- much to the disappointment of the Club's many golf enthusiasts. The subsequent announcement read:

"IT seems almost like sacrilege to jest on the subject of golf. Yet some one has so far ignored all the national associations of the game as to speak lightly and frivolously of such a hallowed subject as a golf course. So the JOURNAL is forced to confess that the golf links mentioned in last month's issue are not in existence, or if the holes do exist they are buried so deep beneath a plentiful crop of hay that even the most recently imported caddy could not discover them.

Since the JOURNAL'S announcement of the golf links, which seem harder to attain than the promised land, chairman of the Athletic Committee, Walter S. Baldwin, has worn a look of worry, now quickly changing to that of despair, as the task of dodging the golf fiends clamoring for the alleged couse becomes more hopeless.

The JOURNAL regrets that any members should have been put to inconvenience on account of the statement about the links, although from our knowledge of golf we opine that there would be just as much sport and exercise in looking for the links as in playing the game and looking for the ball. Hereafter all correspondents who are so impolitic as to joke on the subject of 'golf' will kindly label their communications appropriately."

Source: [Untitled], New York Athletic Club Journal, Vol. VI, No. 3, p. 3 (June 1897).

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