Hop onto an expressway anywhere in New York's Tri-state area and you will run into a legendary golf club somewhere. From the eastern tip of Long Island to the New Jersey Turnpike farther west, the landscape is dotted with courses that tell the story of American golf.
But only one American golf club can be the first American golf club. On Friday, the Saint Andrew's Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., will turn 120 years old, and I can vouch that the old man looks good for his age.
In April, the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association held its opening tournament of the season at Saint Andrew's. As usual, my golf was less than stellar and I finished way back in the pack. But the golf course, tucked into the rolling hills of Westchester County, blessed with views of the Hudson River and New York City, had me at hello.
The routing was superb, holes bending this way and that, testing every part of a golfer's game. But there was also the knowledge of walking onto a golf course steeped in history. Saint Andrew's was born when a Scottish sportsman named John Reid, his arms full of clubs and balls, laid out a three-hole course in February of 1888. I wasn't there to mark the occassion, but a historic moment had come.
Saint Andrew's hosted the first unofficial U.S. Amateur and first "open" championship. In 1894, the club became a founding member of the United States Golf Association. In 1983, Jack Nicklaus re-designed the course, adding flourishes to what is now a tough par-71 layout with everything you want. In short, the club is handsome. It's a throwback to older times, even with a new pro shop and a restored clubhouse. But I'll leave the last word to Bobby Jones.
"The finest thing the Saint Andrew's Golf Club did in starting the game of golf was that they started it right, with the right traditions," Jones said.