Cover image for Oakhurst : the birth and rebirth of America's first golf course
Oakhurst : the birth and rebirth of America's first golf course
DiPerna, Paula.
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Publication Information:
New York : Walker & Company, 2002.
Physical Description:
xii, 194 pages : illustrations, map ; 20 cm
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Material Type
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Item Holds
GV969.O29 D57 C2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Golf formally came to America in 1884. Russell Montague--a thirty-two-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer--had moved to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, to improve his health. His Scottish neighbors, George Grant and Alexander and Roderick MacLeod, were also men of leisure. When Grant's golf-obsessed nephew Lionel Torin arrived from Ceylon, these five built, purely for their own pleasure, a nine-hole course on Montague's land--unaware that it was the first course in the United States, and tenuously launching what has arguably become America's most popular sport.

Oakhurst tells the memorable story of this historic course, from its birth and brief first life of fifteen years to its miraculous restoration 110 years later. Weaving the lives of the founders through a fascinating history of golf, the evolution of its equipment, and the genesis of course design, Paula DiPerna and Vikki Keller recount colorful stories of early matches that astonished local residents, who thought the founders mad: "It may be a fine game for a canny Scotchman, but no American will ever play it except Montague," one opined. Some sixty years after Oakhurst had fallen into neglect, legendary local golfer Sam Snead gave it new life, convincing his friend Lewis Keller to buy the land. Their dream of restoring the course was realized in 1994, when Keller and noted golf architect Bob Cupp--relying on scant clues, and intuition--unearthed the dormant holes one by one.

As Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, and many others who have played the course discovered, only period equipment (hickory-shafted clubs, gutta-percha balls) is allowed, and nineteenth-century rules prevail--making Oakhurst the only place in America where anyone can experience the game as it was first played. It is an important chapter in sports history, a nostalgic piece of Americana, and Oakhurst brings its magic alive.

Author Notes

Paula DiPerna took her first golf swing at the age of four, and has played golf on every continent except Antarctica. She has written about golf for every major golf magazine and for the New York Times travel section, where her article on Oakhurst appeared. One of the few women members of the Golf Writers Association, she lives in New York City.

Vikki Keller , daughter of Lewis Keller, helps manage Oakhurst today.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Golf books have been appearing at a record pace this season, but this one definitely stands out from the crowd. The authors begin by describing the founding and initial life, from 1884 until about 1900, of America's first golf course, Oakhurst in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; they then recount the equally fascinating tale of the course's restoration, begun when Sam Snead convinced his friend Lewis Keller (father of coauthor Keller) to buy the land in the 1950s. The project wasn't completed until 1992, but Oakhurst Links is fully operational today, with a couple of interesting idiosyncrasies: sheep wander across the nine-hole layout, as they did in the 1880s, and players may only use period equipment (wood-shafted clubs and gutta-percha balls). This is a story not only about golf history but also about the spirit of the game, as it was first experienced by Oakhurst owner Russell Montague and four fellow Scots and as it can be shared today by players willing to leave their titanium-fueled "metal woods" at home. Inspirational without being sappy. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

At Oakhurst Links, a golf course in Sulphur Springs, W.Va., golfers are required to use hickory shafted clubs and sheep are allowed to graze on the grounds. That's because the course is America's oldest and it's still run according to 19th-century rules. In Oakhurst: The Birth and Rebirth of America's First Golf Course, golf magazine writer Paula DiPerna and Vikki Keller, who helps manage Oakhurst, tell the story of the course's initial creation by an American and four Scottish immigrants in 1884, when golf was still largely unknown in the U.S., and of its painstaking reconstruction over a century later. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved