Golf….In the Beginning in the United States

We hear of many places claiming priority in the game of Golf. The first recognized Golf Club was at St. Andrews-on-the-Hudson, New York, fathered by Robert Lockhart and John Reid, two sturdy Scots late in the year 1888. Mr. Reid was a staunch friend of mine; he has passed on to the Elysian Heights. Many times and oft we have discussed the theme of Golf; he was proud to know of my game in Nebraska very early in the spring of 1887. To know him was to love him; he has left two worthy sons in John and Archie to carry on the good work. May the green sod rest lightly over his brow, as lightly, at least, as he dealt with it. He was a man.

We have abundant evidence of Golf Clubs being formed in 1790, in America, but no trace of any course. Some folk say one was laid out at White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. in 1882, and subsequently four holes laid out by another party in 1883 at Burlington, Iowa. I went out on the Western Plains in February 1887 to study farming and cattle raising, and became the rough rider of Merchiston Ranch, Nebraska.

Prior to my trip west, I spent sometime in New York City and looked for golf paraphernalia. No one in any sporting goods store had heard of golf and gave "yours truly" the merry "Ha! Ha!"; however, I packed my goods and chattels and boarded a train for Chicago, feeling sure that someone would comfort my weary heart anent golf, but instead of that, their answers to my queries were in the negative.

No one had heard of golf in Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming or Colorado. I have not yet found any trace of any man or any golf course in this country prior and I have wandered over every state in the Union, not once, but many, many times.

Nothing would afford one greater pleasure than to shake the hand of any pioneer of American Golf. I trust there are two or three still in the quick; there is glory for all.

Many of those associated with early Golf in the United States knew as much about the game as a hog knows about snipe catching. I had six holes laid out on the Ranch, could have had 108, as we had prairie land galore.

William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) thought I was crazy, as did Sitting Bull, the Sioux Indian Chief. We granted the Indians permission to pitch their tents on our land and usually gave them a few pigs in exchange for beaver hides, arrow-heads, etc. They certainly looked on in wonderment at the Golf ball flying in the air, and appreciated the shots, more so than many of the plainsmen.

Very few cared to play, but lis¬tened attentively to what one had to say about the game. Having heard that our Cavalry officers stationed at Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming played golf, I went out with my clubs, only to find that they were trying the game of polo, and had a very hard time persuading me to try a shot. I visited Denver, became desperate, much more of this miserable exis¬tence would have killed me, as no one would play.

I found a few nice places in Omaha and played a few shots in fields there. When thru with Ranch life, I settled in Omaha for a few years and talked to many, and finally got them going. So the game has grown up nicely. We have over one million golf nuts at play and millions more to follow in a short time.

(The above was to be the lead-in story to a book on the history of golf in America by Alexander H. Findlay. These paragraphs are from his original typewritten notes started about 1922. The original manuscript remains only in parts - the bulk of which was destroyed by fire.)

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  1. Picture of Dan Norwood

    Dan Norwood

    Jun, 5th

    Wow! Alexander Findlay hitting golf balls while Sitting Bull (arguably the greatest chief of the Sioux Nation) watched in wonderment.

    I think it’s fantastic what you are doing. I hope to drive traffic from my site to yours. All should hear about Mr. Findlay.

    Dan Norwood

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