Friday, February 16, 2007

An accomplished amateur player and a gifted golf writer as well, Arthur Warren Tillinghast - "Tillie" to the those who knew him - was a crucial figure in the "Golden Age of Architecture" between the world wars. He was also influential in the field of turf maintenance, having played a founding role in the USGA's Green Section.

The only child of a wealthy Philadelphia family, he got into the design business quite by accident upon the request of a family friend, Charles Worthington, who called upon Tillie to design and build Shawnee CC (1908). Within twenty years, he was a millionaire, living the flamboyant life, being chauffeured to jobs and completing a succession of stunning golf courses. Not the most disciplined of sorts, he eventually overspent himself during the Depression and lost everything - but not before completing a monumental four-course WPA project at Bethpage State Park on Long Island under the commission of master builder Robert Moses. Ironically, he also worked for the PGA of America as an itinerant consultant, the major effect of which was to oversee removal of hundreds of bunkers on American golf courses - including some of his own - in an effort to save labor costs. The names of the courses Tillinghast built within a twenty years span read like an ode to the best American can offer: San Francisco GC (1915); Somerset Hills (1917), next door to the USGA's Golf House in western New Jersey; Brook Hollow (1921) in Dallas, the country's first fully irrigated course; Baltusrol (1922) in New Jersey; Winged Foot (1923) and Quaker Ridge (1926) in New York; and what may well be his most natural routing of all, Baltimore CC's Five Farms Course (1926) north of Baltimore.

Tillinghast had a flair for bold, powerful looking bunkers. Some of the fairway traps at San Francisco GC have an interior wall of eight feet. At Bethpage-Black (1936), he created a fearsome collection of diagonal fairway bunkers. Nor did Tillinghast shy away from dramatic green contours, often with diagonal ridges creating swales so that the putting surface was subdivided. His greenside bunkers tended to be fitted in at the 4 o'clock and 7 o'clock positions, leaving a wider bulge in the back half of the green that resulted in a "pear-shaped" putting surface.

Tillinghast also had a keen eye for enhancement and redesign. His renovation/addition work on Inverness in Toledo, Newport in Rhode Island, and both CC of Fairfield and Brooklawn in Connecticut considerably enhanced these layouts.

A.W. Tillinghast's best:
San Francisco GC, San Francisco, CA (1915)
Somerset Hills, Bernardston, NJ (1917)
Brook Hollow, Dallas, TX (1921)
Baltusrol-Upper, Springfield, NJ (1922)
Baltusrol-Lower, Springfield, NJ (1922)
Philadelphia Cricket C., Flourtown, PA (1922)
Winged Foot-East, Mamaroneck, NY (1923)
Winged Foot-West, Mamaroneck, NY (1923)
Quaker Ridge, Scarsdale, NY (1926)
Baltimore-Five Farms, Timonium, MD (1926)
Bethpage State Park-Black, Farmingdale, NY (1936)

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