old school golf
The game of golf has been an integral part of North Shore life since the late 1800s, as the eager gents who posed for the above photo show. Photo courtesy of Tedesco Country Club. 

Historians, even those who never struck a guttie or a liquid core ball with a niblick or a persimmon wood, have long been enamored with the North Shore and its rich golf legacy. The intrepid snow-bound crew of investigative journalists at North Shore Golf magazine decided to put their off-season to good use: Since we couldn’t dig up divots on frozen ground we opted to dig up little known facts, trivia and even best kept secrets about our courses, clubs and the people who helped make our region such a hotbed for golf.

It all began at Essex County Club in Manchester in 1893. So, without further ado, let’s start by shining the spotlight on the North Shore’s first golf club and course, still regarded as one of the finest in the country.

Essex CC, which celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2018, has just been recognized as one of the top 100 courses in the United States by Golf Magazine (#67), Golf Digest (#91) and Golfweek (#49).

The green on Essex’s 3rd hole is considered to be the oldest continuously used putting surface in North America. The green was part of the club’s original nine-hole layout before Donald Ross redesigned the course into an 18- hole treasure. The third green is called “the bathtub” because of the deep depression in the left-center portion of the 625-yard, par-5 hole. The hole has only been lengthened by eight yards since Ross designed it. It’s doubtful that even John Daly in his prime or Dustin Johnson today could reach it in two from the back tees.

Hungry sheep did the

Hungry sheep did the “mowing” when Essex CC opened. | Photo courtesy of Gary Larrabee, from his book “The Green and Gold Coast: The History of Golf on Boston’s North Shore, 1893-2001.”

Living in beautiful Manchester by-the-Sea has many benefits. This might be the best of all: Thanks to an arrangement between the town and the club, residents (homeowners and renters) can pay a small annual fee and receive golfing privileges at ECC. Here’s why: Parts of the 7th and 8th holes use land owned by the town. ECC perpetually leases a small part of town land in exchange for making the course available for “townies,” who can play nine holes after 5 p.m. every day except Friday and Saturday. Either the front or back nine is designated for town golf; members play the other nine.

For 22 years, Salem CC has hosted Peabody Day, open to all residents and employees of the city. All greens fees go to the Salem Country Club Scholarship Fund.

Likewise, Kernwood CC hosts Salem Day, open to Salem residents and city employees. All greens fees go to the Kernwood Day Scholarship Fund.

• • • •

Thomson CC was founded on Oct. 4, 1910 by a group of GE engineers as a social club. Named in honor of Elihu Thomson, a co-founder of General Electric Co., its mission was to provide its young engineers flocking to Lynn with a chance to meet new people (translation: future wives).

Its first home was a rented room at the West Lynn Odd Fellows Hall; meetings were also held at 70 Moulton St. in Lynn, where some members lived. The first permanent home was the Ashcroft Estate at 24 Baker St, Lynn. The estate was purchased in 1913 and renovated into a clubhouse that provided meeting rooms and sleeping quarters for up to 19 men.

Ray Moeller, who lived at the club for more than 25 years, recalled “Living at the Thomson Club is much like having a bed in the center of a nightclub — a party practically every night. The men who have moved in and out of the club number in the hundreds. Some left to get married and found happiness in that state; others found it intolerable and returned to the Thomson Club wondering why they ever gave up such a carefree existence.”

Thomson incorporated in 1945 and purchased the Nahant Tennis Club the next year. On June 19, 1938, Nahant Tennis had hosted the wedding reception for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s son John and Anne Lindsay Clark. (The couple was married at Union Church, also in Nahant.)

Anyhoo, TCC moved to North Reading in 1961. The club had been looking at land in Middleton but settled on two parcels (combined 196 acres) on Route 62. On Aug. 29, 1961, TCC purchased the two parcels – the larger one (180 acres) from Huntington Realty Trust.

The trustees of Huntington Realty Trust? Jerry Angiulo, Michele Angiulo, Frank Angiulo, Donato F. Angiulo and Nicolo Angiulo. All lived steps away from the church where FDR’s son was married. Whatever became of those Angiulo boys?

• • • •

The Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund honored Nick Price, winner of three major championships, twice-leading money winner, three-time captain of the Presidents Cup International team and a Golf Hall of Fame member, Monday March 13 at its 66th annual banquet.

It seems just like yesterday that the late Buddy Young, a real character and low-handicap golfer at the United Shoe/Beverly Golf & Tennis Club, and Price had a run-in at 1992’s Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City, South Africa.

Young was official scorer, then tournament director for the NEPGA for many years. He was a stickler for the rules. He served as tournament director for the South African PGA Tour for two years and made a well-publicized ruling against Price that might have cost the golfer a huge payday.

Playing for a million dollar first prize at the Sun City event, local hero Price and David Frost were battling for the third round lead when Price found an advertising billboard in his line on the 11th fairway. The week before in a skins event Price was competing in, also in South Africa, that type of billboard had been ruled a temporary movable obstruction. He assumed the same rule would apply in the Million Dollar Challenge, so he had it removed.

Big mistake. The Challenge rules committee had declared such billboards unmovable. So, at the end of the round, with Price and Frost apparently tied for the lead with one round remaining, Young was obligated to assess Price a two-stroke penalty. Price, one of the finest, best-liked gentlemen in professional golf, lost it. He erupted, erased his signature and departed. Young had no recourse but to disqualify Price who had not signed or returned his scorecard after the round.

Frost shot a 3-under 69 that final day to take home the million bucks.

An early (1914) look at United Shoe Country Club's 15th hole (then the 6th hole), known as "The Wedding Cake." | Photo courtesy of Gary Larrabee, from his book "The Green and Gold Coast: The History of Golf on Boston's North Shore, 1893-2001."

An early (1914) look at United Shoe Country Club’s 15th hole (then the 6th hole), known as “The Wedding Cake.”

• • • •

Patty Berg played an exhibition match at Thomson and gave an instructional clinic in the early ‘70s. Her playing partners were head pro Bill Flynn, Alice Berry of Wakefield and another woman. Berg and Flynn both represented Wilson Staff. “Tee it high and let it fly,” one longtime member remembered Berg saying over and over. Berg is in the World Golf Hall of Fame and won 63 pro tournaments. No woman has won more majors than Berg (15).

• • • •

Exhibitions were fairly common back in the day. Bart Brown opened the 18-hole par-3 Middleton Golf Course in 1966 and practically from day one he sponsored free Saturday clinics that were extremely popular. Renowned teaching pros Bob Toski and Peter Kostis were among those who hosted such clinics, with hundreds attending.

The legendary Walter Hagen shot 83 in the ceremonial opening match when Kernwood CC opened in 1913.

Francis Ouimet, Jesse Guilford, Fred Wright and Larry Gannon played an exhibition when Happy Valley in Lynn celebrated the opening of its new clubhouse and second nine in 1934.

In 1963, Jack Nicklaus defeated Gary Player, 67-71, in an August exhibition at Essex CC.

Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in 1967.

In 1963, Jack Nicklaus defeated Gary Player, 67-71, in an August exhibition at Essex CC.

• • • •

Mike Busfield, Haverhill native and graduate of Slippery Rock College where he played on the golf team, quit his job at the family business (Busfield Oil) shortly after the first Boston Five Classic at Ferncroft to caddie on the LPGA Tour. In 1985, he was Andy North’s caddie when he won his second US Open at Oakland Hills. Busfield was a lefty who played at Far Corner and other Merrimack Valley area courses.

• • • •

Colonial Country Club in Lynnfield became the first championship course in the country to offer night golf. But the idea was abandoned after one year, due to the pesky swarms of insects attracted by the night lights.

• • • •

Myopia golf members are used to seeing fox hunts roar past as they are playing the par-5 second hole. Members are on horses, of course, but there is no actual fox.The hounds follow a laid scent. Of course, polo and other equestrian pursuits predated golf, which arrived at Myopia in 1894.

• • • •

President William Howard Taft chose Beverly’s Evans Point (now Lynch Park) as his summer White House, spending three seasons as a regular at Myopia and Essex.

The deep bunker about 50 yards short of the green on Myopia’s 10th hole is known as the “Taft Bunker.” It seems the plump 27th president had to be helped from it with ropes during rounds there in 1915, and reportedly his thank-you note could be seen in the pro shop. (Thankfully, there are now stairs to help players escape from the bunker.)

• • • •

The North Shore is home to many “lost courses.” For example:

Baker Island Club was a 60-acre island in Salem Harbor that housed the Winne-Egan Hotel, which opened in 1888. It had 50 guest rooms and catered to seekers of “health, pleasure and needed rest.” Hotel guests could sail, fish, swim, play tennis or take a quick trip around the hotel’s six-hole golf course.

Danvers CC, founded in 1900, later called Homestead was off Ferncroft Road on the west side of Route 1. In 1901, the club moved to the current site of the Danvers Reservoir where it operated until the mid 1940s, at which time the land became part of Wethersfield Dairy. In 1952, the land was flooded for the reservoir.

Delphine Golf Club was short-lived, setting up shop on the Patch Farm in Gloucester. Eastern Point GC was a nine-hole course open to the East Gloucester summer colony patrons. It opened for play in 1900.

Labor-in-Vain CC was the brainchild of Richard Crane Jr., who built Castle Hill high above Ipswich Bay. World War II led to the demise of the 2701-yard, par-35 Skip Wogan-designed course.

Misery Island G&CC, visible from Beverly Farms’ West Beach and Manchester Harbor, was accessible only by a boat launch. There was a casino on the island from 1913-17, and golf seemed at the time to be a simpatico pursuit. The course was described as being of “rough, rugged contour along the shore line, with hard, closely-knit pasture turf inland. Its hills and dales combine to make a course at once difficult and fascinating.”

Montserrat Golf Club’s was a nine-hole course whose clubhouse address was 67 Boyles St. in Beverly, bordering the B&M Railroad’s Rockport Line tracks.

New Ocean View House Course was a short nine-hole course the Swampscott resort hotel built for its guests. The longest hole was 137 yards. It opened in 1912 and closed in 1969, when the hotel burned down. Hotel guests included Helen Keller, Babe Ruth, Harpo Marx and President John F. Kennedy.

South Fields GC was a nine-hole course in South Salem that was founded in 1900. The land eventually was used to construct Forest River Park in 1907.

Sunbeam GC resulted from Tedesco C C’s decision to add a second 18 holes in the late 1920s. The third nine was built, and turned over to Lillian Little who ran it for 20 years as a public course.

The groundbreaking at Rowley CC with, from left, town selectmen Milburn Keen Jr. and Leonard Cook, founders Alton and Mary Newton, and selectman Warren C. Grover.

The groundbreaking at Rowley CC with, from left, town selectmen Milburn Keen Jr. and Leonard Cook, founders Alton and Mary Newton, and selectman Warren C. Grover.

• • • •

Golf courses are great during winter too. There used to be a pull rope on Gannon’s 10th hole for skiing. And “Hill 16” at Tedesco might be the North Shore’s top sledding spot.

• • • •

Author John Updike loved to play picturesque Cape Ann Golf Course on Route 133 in Essex, and was especially taken by the fourth hole with its elevated tee and spectacular view of miles of salt marsh and oceanic inlets. He also marveled at the par 3 seventh hole which is on a natural island and is difficult to reach, both figuratively and literally, when the tide is high. Updike, who lived in Ipswich before moving to Beverly Farms, played Far Corner and was a Myopia member but wrote often about his admiration for this course and its owner James Stavros.

Photos courtesy of Gary Larrabee, from his book “The Green and Gold Coast: The History of Golf on Boston’s North Shore, 1893-2001.”

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