Thursday, June 14, 2012

Florida History: Golf "fad" begins in 1897

Para-sailing off Fort Lauderdale
By Jane Feehan

Florida's affinity for golf began at the close of the 19th century and continues today.

The first golf course in the state of Florida was designed for the Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach in 1897 by the “father of American golf,” Alexander H. Findley.  Hotel owner and railway magnate Henry M. Flagler hired the golfer, who was also a close associate, to build only nine holes because he thought golf was just a fad.

The same year, Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railway to Miami and established the Royal Palm Hotel, the site of the first course in Miami. It was built by Jack Hagan with sand greens and rough fairways. This early course was a six-hole layout.

In 1898, Henry M. Flagler built the first nine holes of the Miami Country Club at the Miami River and NW 11th Street.  The club was accessible only by boat or coach and horses (a tally-ho) on a trip that took two hours from the Royal Palm over rough, primitive roads, but players continued to make the trek in pursuit of their sport.

Golf proved to be more than a passing fancy in South Florida; it was wildly popular by 1915. Other courses sprang up, including the Miami-Hialeah Club, which was organized in 1915 and sold three years later to the city of Miami. It became the first municipal golf course in South Florida. Then Fort Lauderdale got into the swing, opening its first club in 1921.

By 1925, golf was firmly woven into the South Florida social scene. The cities of Miami and Miami Beach posted $11,000 for the Miami Open, the Miami Beach Open and the International Four-Ball matches making it the first resort area to put that amount of money into golf tournaments on the winter trail.

Today, Florida has about 1,250 golf courses  - more than any other state. So much for that fad ...   Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

For golf history Fort Lauderdale, see:

Miami News, Dec. 2, 1951
Miami News, Aug. 28, 1927
The Breakers Hotel:

Tags: Golf history, golfing in South Florida, Golf Miami, Fort Lauderdale history, South Florida history, Miami history, Palm Beach history, film researcher

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