Scottish lore tells us that golf originated in the 1100s, with shepherds, stones, and rabbit holes. Lake Forest lore tells us that, several centuries later, golf was ﬁrst transplanted to Chicago in a tomato can.
e Lore and Lure of Golf
Golf ’s arrival here over a century ago was a case of right place, right time. With its park-like setting of bluﬀ and knoll and shore, and its growing population of residents with inﬂuence and enterprise, the town provided a fertile landscape for promoting the new sport. In turn, golf has shaped our own landscape, and not just by adding a few sandy hillsides or extra ponds.
e lure of golf, and all it stood for, drew people to Lake Forest: it drew them out of the city and into the suburbs; it drew them out of the oﬃce and into the outdoors; it drew them to form clubs and build links. It drew female leaders and athletes, it drew immigrant professionals, it drew business magnates. And in so doing, golf changed the course of our community’s history.
e lore and lure of golf are still strong today on the North Shore, and each of the courses in Lake Forest and Lake Bluﬀ has a story to tell.
Country Life magazine, June 1928
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Golf Begins 1890â€“1895
Charles Blair Macdonald spent nearly two decades trying to incite Chicagoansâ€™ interest in golf before laying out the links at Fairlawn. He found in 1890sâ€™ Lake Forest a place ripe for the introduction of a new pastime. Across the country, ideals that shaped the previous generation were breaking down. New beliefs emphasizing health and happiness were replacing the Victorian overemphasis on work as virtuous. Leisure came to be valued rather than avoided. Lake Forest itself was changing, and a new generation, more cosmopolitan than the last, was emerging. Initially formed as a place to educate young Presbyterians far from the corrupting influence of the city, Chicago was increasingly drawing Lake Forest into its orbit. In the wake of the 1886 Haymarket Riots, suburban villas on the North Shore became more attractive to Chicago businessmen as a place to settle their families. Golf was the perfect sport to bridge the transition between the new and the old. With its deep tradition, honorable reputation, and character-testing format, golf was seen as instilling virtue rather than sapping it away like the wilder pursuits of racing and gambling. And it was a sport that could be enjoyed by men and women, old and young alike. Charles Blair Macdonald National Magazine, 1896. Courtesy Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections
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Fairlawn: e First Chicago Golf Links
Built in 1870 for Senator Charles B. Farwell and his family, Fairlawn evoked the style of the classic Tuscan villa.
e storied linkage between Lake Forest and the origins of Chicagoland golf begins at Fairlawn, the lakeside estate of Senator Charles B. Farwell. In 1892 Charles Blair Macdonald ﬁnally piqued the interest of his friend Hobart Chatﬁeld-Taylor, Senator Farwell’s son-in-law, in a sport that had been largely ignored by Americans. A catalyst was the upcoming World Columbian Exposition and the prospect of entertaining British representatives with time on their hands. Chatﬁeld-Taylor and his wife, Rose Farwell, invited Macdonald to set up a course on Fairlawn’s grounds. He laid out seven tomato cans over 20 acres, utilizing both the decorative pond and the lake bluﬀs as hazards. e resulting course was the ﬁrst in the Chicago area.
Macdonald himself did not ﬁnd this short course to be much of a challenge and soon departed to build a larger one in the western suburbs, leaving the Chatﬁeld-Taylors in charge of promoting golf on the north shore. e pair proved equal to the task. Although at ﬁrst, according to Hobart • Date: 1892 Chatﬁeld-Taylor, most “stared in amazement” or • Location: Fairlawn, estate of Senator Charles B. Farwell; block bounded by Deerpath, Lake, and “laughed derisively at the antics,” soon the game Mayﬂower roads and Spring Lane • Course designer: Charles Blair Macdonald began to grow in popularity among their friends • Clubhouse: Drinks in the dining room at Fairlawn and neighbors—with a few Scotch high-balls of• Notable events: First golf drive in Chicago hit oﬀ the bluﬀ into Lake Michigan by Macdonald in 1892 fered “as encouragement.”
e ﬁrst generation of Farwells came to prominence in Chicago through politics and dry goods. e second generation, pictured here, grew highly involved in cultural and recreation movements at the turn of the century. Fairlawn even featured its own tennis court.
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Lake Forest Golf Club Members of the Lake Forest Golf Club, summer 1895.
Within a mere three years of Charles Blair Macdonald’s ﬁrst swing over the bluﬀs of Fairlawn, the Chicago Tribune reported that “Golf is now the all-absorbing topic at Lake Forest.” Local golfers outgrew the little course on Senator Farwell’s lawn and by 1895 set their sights on something bigger. Seeing the success of Macdonald’s Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, the North Shore golfers organized themselves into the Lake Forest Golf Club, scouring the area for a better location. e former Leander McCormick farm served the purpose, and Macdonald helped lay out a nine-hole course. Scotch golf professional Robert Foulis was engaged as teacher and club maker. By mid-1895 over 150 players had enrolled as members, including 60 ladies following the lead of Rose Chatﬁeld-Taylor. is course, while longer than the ﬁrst, also had its shortcomings. It featured no bunkers, although the treacherous water hole in front of the ﬁrst tee • Date: 1895 • Location: Leander McCormick farm, near proved hazardous. Other interference could be met the present corner of Green Bay and Onwentsia roads at the hands of either the McCormick sheep or • Course designers: Charles Blair Macdonald noise from the bordering railroad tracks. As the and Robert Foulis • Clubhouse: Converted outbuilding from farm 1895 season drew to a close, the Lake Forest Golf • Notable events: First Lake Forest “tournament for a silver cup,” summer 1895 Club was looking to expand.
e Lake Forest Golf Club converted one of Leander McCormick’s outbuildings, alternately a “sheep shed” or “chicken coop” depending on the account, for its single-chamber locker room. Annals of Onwentsia, 1893-1928
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Onwentsia Club Onwentsia’s early history features some of the most noted names in golf. Its quintet of famed course designers connects Onwentsia with storied American and Scottish golf tradition. Founder Hobart Chatfield-Taylor was not just Onwentsia’s first president, but also the Western Golf Association’s. Later members John Ames, George W. Blossom, and F. Morgan Taylor Jr. presided over the U.S.G.A. Early champions (Robert Gardner, H.J. Whigham, Edith Cummings, Mason Phelps) and championships (the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, Western Amateur) dot the Onwentsia annals. By the mid-1920s, it grew apparent that Onwentsia needed a new clubhouse. Architect Harrie T. Lindeberg, who had designed homes for several club members, built the new structure in the French style. It was completed in 1928.
Following the 1895 season, increased enthusiasm led Lake Forest golfers to look west, beyond Leander McCormick’s property to the farm belonging to Henry Ives Cobb so that a proper 18-hole course could be built. In early reporting on the new club, the Tribune noted that “It is the wish of the organizers to form one of the finest country clubs in the United States” and to “outclass all the Eastern clubs.” A suitable name was sought, which Chatfield-Taylor finally supplied from his Iroquois dictionary: Onwentsia, meaning country, or alternately, “a meeting place for sporting braves and their squaws.” Onwentsia quickly grew into a social center for both Lake Forest and Chicago elite, as well as a model for future area clubs. Top Scottish pros taught golf to members who could also exert themselves on the polo field, in the hunt, on the grass tennis courts, and at the horse shows.
For over 25 years, Henry Ives Cobb’s Shingle-style summer home served Onwentsia members as their first clubhouse, bolstered by additions such as a basement pool and locker room. For increased weekend lodging capacity, cottages were added to the grounds, which had been originally designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. e Golfer’s Magazine, 1902. Courtesy of the Western Golf Association.
• Date: 1895 • Location: Former Henry Ives Cobb farm appended to Lake Forest Golf Club, west of Green Bay Road • Course designers: Charles Blair Macdonald, Robert and James Foulis, Henry James Whigham, Herbert James Tweedie • Clubhouse: Henry Ives Cobb home; replaced 1927, designed by Harrie T. Lindeberg • Notable events: 1899 U.S. Amateur, 1900 Western Amateur, 1901 Western Women’s Amateur, 1906 U.S. Open, 1915 U.S. Women’s Amateur, 1973 U.S. Senior Amateur, PowWow, Children’s Memorial Pro-Am
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Golf Grows 1895–1915 Onwentsia’s horse-drawn livery service would meet the afternoon trains at the Lake Forest station, ferrying commuting members out to the clubhouse. One of the drivers of the “busses,” Charlie Grimes, was known for generously giving rides to schoolchildren when he had no passengers.
Unlike her sisters Anna and Rose, Grace Farwell was not taken with Lake Forest’s new sporting pastime. To the contrary, she thought that golf and its new local haven, the Onwentsia Club, attracted the wrong set to the community, “fashionable” summer people whose presence spelled “the knell of dear, delightful, distinguished, exclusive Lake Forest.” While clubs like Onwentsia began with golf as the outward catalyst, beneath this was a desire of Grace’s “fashionable” set for a new form of community. Some new commuters or “summer people” wanted to replicate the recreation venues they were used to in the city. Other families were turning increasingly to secular institutions rather than churches for their social organizing. In the face of cultural change and urban unrest, many sought a return to the stable, community-oriented atmosphere of the country villages of their forefathers. All of this was at the root of the Onwentsia Club. And the Onwentsia Club was at the root of a transformation in Lake Forest social life. It expanded Lake Forest’s boundaries both physically, with the boom in estate building west of the original town plan on Green Bay Road, and culturally, in bringing together a new circle of wealthy and influential residents. Grace Farwell was right in viewing the founding of Onwentsia as a seminal event in Lake Forest. It sounded the knell of the old “dear, exclusive” Lake Forest and heralded the arrival of the new.
By 1901, Onwentsia was one of 30 local golf organizations in Chicago, spurred by the area’s abundant land and accessible rail network.
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Old Elm Club No further testament to the growing appeal of golf in the 1910s is needed than the formation of Old Elm Club in 1913. William A. Alexander and R. Harvey McElwee took their inspiration for a new kind of club from a long wait on a crowded afternoon at Onwentsia. As the Chicago Tribune noted, these were “men whose minutes are reckoned in hundreds of dollars. Time with them is precious, and there can be none wasted even when they take a few hours of recreation.” is image appeared on the cover of a 1932 edition of Chicago Golfer and Country Club Review, which sought to cater to its readers’ curiosity about the “little known and much discussed” Old Elm Club. Pictured here is Old Elm’s Spanish-style clubhouse, which included a patio with a retractable roof. Chicago Golfer and Country Club Review, September 1932. Courtesy of the Western Golf Association.
• Date: 1914 • Location: e old Birch Farm near Fort Sheridan, in what is now Highland Park • Course designers: Donald Ross and H. S. Colt • Clubhouse: Designed by architect Benjamin Marshall, an early club vice-president .
e founding roster for Old Elm was comprised of business leaders of the day, with the names Armour, Sprague, Schweppe, Dick, Swift, Shedd, Palmer, Field, and McCormick peppering the list. ese men solved the problem of overcrowded links by structuring their new club as a complement, not competitor, to Onwentsia. at club was for their families, for community; Old Elm would be for themselves, for peaceful recreation. To bring this about, the founders of Old Elm “caused a great sensation,” according to the Chicago Tribune. eir new club, which opened in June, 1914, was limited to 150 male members, with no Sunday golﬁng restrictions like those at other area courses. It was the latter provision that caused a great uproar in Presbyterian Lake Forest, a town which only a year later would vote down Sunday movies by a 495–452 tally.
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Chicago Tribune, February 6, 1921.
During the booming years of the 1920s, Lake Forest nearly doubled in population, growing to 6,500 residents. Chicago also witnessed a surge in golf course construction, with over 120 new courses in that decade alone—an average of one per month. Shoreacres, Knollwood, Deerpath, and Mill Road Farm all opened for play in that period. e Chicago Golf and Country Club Review forecast in 1930 that at such a rate, Chicago would soon be “the center of golf in the United States.” Golf ’s 1920s growth paralleled increases in prosperity and leisure time throughout the economic spectrum. Daily fee clubs and municipal courses like Deerpath provided venues for expanded participation. e Log of Knollwood took note of this in 1928, just a year after Deerpath opened to the public: is photo accompanied a fashion article in Country Life magazine entitled, “Clothes for the Sportswoman.” Its caption indicated that the model wore “a white knitted golf suit with bands of yellow and blue,” a “French blue sweater coat,” and a “white stitched felt” hat, all from Abercrombie & Fitch. Country Life, May 1928.
“Golf is becoming more democratic every day. Witness the S.R.O. [standing room only] sign daily at all the public courses. Clerks and employees in all kinds of business are standing in line at sunrise to tee oﬀ ﬁrst, enjoy nine holes before breakfast and go to their work refreshed by just enough exercise to act as a tonic for their daily tasks. e average citizen no longer sneers or speaks slightingly of the fellow carrying a golf bag. More frequently, acting upon the power of suggestion, he hurries home and gets his own clubs in shape to play a few holes with some good pal.”
Although Lake Forest opened Deerpath in 1926, it was new private clubs like Knollwood that fueled most of the golf course construction boom in Chicago in the 1920s; the explosion in municipal courses would come later, in the 1960s. is photo appeared in the Log of Knollwood in August, 1928. Courtesy of the Knollwood Club
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Shoreacres Golf Club • Date: Founded 1916, formally opened 1923 • Location: Along Lake Michigan near the northern edge of Lake Bluﬀ • Course designer: Seth Raynor • Clubhouse: Designed by David Adler, completed 1924; rebuilt 1984 after ﬁre, designed by Laurence Booth (based on original) • Notable events: 2009 Senior Match Play Championship
Given its location near the Great Lakes naval base, it is ﬁtting that Shoreacres, more than any other local club, had its early history framed by the two world wars. First, World War I delayed its construction, and the postwar recession scaled back its plans; ideas for both an ornate Georgian clubhouse and a full oﬀering of aquatic sports were abandoned. No skimping was done on noted architect Seth Raynor’s golf links, however, which continues today to be ranked among the top 100 courses in the U.S. (42nd). Shoreacres’ new clubhouse, designed in 1984 by Laurence Booth, was closely modeled on the original, a 1924 David Adler design that was destroyed by ﬁre. e intimate Tidewater Colonial style of Adler’s original building diﬀered greatly from pre-World War I conceptions of the clubhouse, which was to feature imposing Georgian architecture. After the war intervened in the construction process, the club purchased two surplus barracks from the naval base to serve as locker rooms, and Adler’s clubhouse sought to mimick their understated elegance. Courtesy of Shoreacres Club.
Twenty years after the club’s oﬃcial opening in 1923, war again made its mark on the annals of Shoreacres. In April 1943, the Tribune reported an announcement from Captain R.R.M. Emmet, commanding oﬃcer of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Shoreacres had agreed to loan the clubhouse and course to the naval base, and “patients at the naval hospital, many of them wounded in action, get free use of the facilities.” Oﬃcers and other enlistees paid a modest greens fee. In turn, Onwentsia oﬀered to harbor Shoreacres members for the duration of the war.
e eleventh hole at Shoreacres revealed course architect Seth Raynor’s skill and imagination. As a “double-barrel” hole, it had two different routes to the green. Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1920.
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“Out of the rolling hills of northern Illinois, just over the Lake County line from Chicago, there is taking shape now a country club that has no counterpart for charm and character. Its name is Knollwood. Its beauty is the quiet loveliness of open country and wooded heights; a quaint, plain, comfortable farm home for its clubhouse; and bordering its reaches of smiling land, the country homes of gentlemen.”
is paragraph from a 1925 pamphlet captures the essence of the beginnings of Knollwood Club. Formed at the height of estate and club culture in 1924, Knollwood encompassed all the trappings of the 1920s boom as well as an escape from them. No expense was spared in the creation of a top-notch golf course (architect Captain Alison’s budget of $10,000 per hole doubled the average of the period). e neighborhood of country homes was summarized by the Chicago Herald as “Rich Men to Build Village.”
Chicago Evening Post, February 9, 1924.
Yet Knollwood took its name from Granger Farwell’s dairy farm, and Howard Van Doren Shaw formed its ﬁrst clubhouse by cobbling together two farmhouses. A “desire to substitute simplicity for the rather ornate things that have come to surfeit a country club life” was cited as its purpose. And Knollwood’s founders—among them Samuel Insull— managed ﬁnancial prudence uncommon for clubs of the decade by selling surrounding residential lots and beginning as a club without debt. • Date: 1924 • Location: Former Granger Farwell and A.C. McCord farms; west of Waukegan (Telegraph) Road, south of Route 176 • Course designers: “Captain” Charles Hugh Alison, of Colt, Alison, & Morrison • Clubhouse: Two farmhouses combined by Howard Van Doren Shaw, replaced by a new clubhouse in 2000 • Notable events: 1956 U.S. Amateur, 1982 U.S. Mid-Amateur, 1986 13th International PGA Cup Matches, annual Governor’s Cup
Knollwood’s ﬁrst clubhouse consisted of two farmhouses cobbled together. e Granger Farwell farmhouse was moved and adjoined to the A.C. McCord house, which remained in its original location. Howard Van Doren Shaw then added porches and a large reception room.
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Deerpath Golf Course Building a golf course sometimes involved reshaping the landscape. Key in the process at Deerpath were Ed and Joe Lindenmeyer, whose Caterpillar bulldozer and P&H scoop shovel bulldozed earth for tees and fairway bunkers, dug holes for greenside bunkers, and piled and graded loose earth for greens. Here someone pitched in by moving a large tree. Image courtesy of Craig Joscelyn.
• Date: 1926 • Location: Deerpath Road to Laurel Avenue on the north, the Skokie slough to the Northwestern railroad tracks on the west • Course designer: Alex Pirie • Clubhouse: Designed by Stanley Anderson and James Ticknor, 1932
With golf at local private clubs booming and the twenties • Notable events: Home course for Lake Forest Academy starting to roar, in 1922 Lake Foresters began to clamor for a public course. Mayor Henry Rumsey heeded their call, seeing in it a project that might promote unity among his burgeoning population of citizens. A number of local families, led by A. B. Dick, Noble Judah, and realtor John Griﬃth, donated large tracts of land to the city to be used for recreational purposes only—any other use would cause it to revert back to the donors. By 1926, funds were appropriated and land was readied for Alex Pirie to lay out the ﬁrst nine holes. (e second nine were added in 1931.) Upon its opening, players dubbed the new course “e Bumps” due to its early lack of trees and foliage, although the Lake Forest Garden Club set to work right away to remedy that lack. In oﬀering golﬁng opportunities to a wider audience, Deerpath proved to be a great draw, with initial membership fees set at $18. Early on, Lake Forest businesses even closed at noon every Wednesday so all the employees could get in a round of golf.
Deerpath’s first clubhouse, in the 1960s.
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Golf and the Gentleman Farm, 1920–1940
Albert Lasker’s estate house was designed by architect David Adler, who also did a number of the outbuildings, and landscape architect James Greenleaf shaped much of the grounds. In total, Lasker’s gentleman farm cost about $3.5 million.
By 1930, sprawling residences, experimental farms, grand gardens, and golf courses pervaded the Lake Forest landscape—and Albert Lasker presided over the only area estate to combine all four. More than any other residence, Mill Road Farm epitomized the zenith of Lake Forest estate culture in the 1920s. Lasker’s 480-acre gentleman farm included a 55-room mansion, 26 outbuildings, a staﬀ of 150—including two gardeners assigned solely to trimming six miles of hedges—and perhaps the only private 18-hole golf course in the country. Built for lavish entertaining, Mill Road Farm embodied the decade’s culture of leisure and extravagance, a fact which Lasker understood very well. An employee recalled him ruminating, “Mill Road is the kind of place that is going to be surrounded by an angry mob someday. ey’ll say, ‘Let’s get the so and so that built this place.’ When that happens, I intend to be a member of the mob.”
During the golﬁng season at Mill Road Farm, one man swept the dew oﬀ the lawn and greens every morning with a bamboo pole. Lasker and his course superintendent Cyril Tregillus put a lot of eﬀort into those greens as well, experimenting with diﬀerent varieties of turfgrass. Tregillus even ran a laboratory in conjunction with the USGA Green Section. John Gunther, Taken at the Flood: e Story of Albert D. Lasker.
ough Lasker’s observation was apt in essence, the ultimate breakup of Mill Road Farm took place not at the hands of an angry mob but rather the increasing anachronism of such a grandiose lifestyle. Like other extensive estate holdings in Lake Forest, it was sold oﬀ and subdivided after World War II.
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Mill Road Farm Golf Club
“e private course of Mr. Al Lasker has more than its share of thrillers when it comes to meeting par on equal terms.” —Grantland Rice
In 1925, noted golf architect William Flynn designed a course for Albert Lasker’s new estate that looms large in the lore of Chicago golf. Its diﬃculty was legendary. Length ranged between 6,557 and 7,100 yards, with several killer par 4’s. At 76.32, its rating exceeded all area courses. Few golfers even approached par, which for a time was listed at 70. Over 110 bunkers dotted its greens and fairways, with trees encroaching on every hole. On the ninth, golfers faced an excruciating tee shot with a window through the woods of less than 20 yards. Its price tag for design and construction ran over $1 million. In 1939, National Golf Review ranked it twenty-third out of the top 100 courses in the world.
Mill Road Farm Golf Club clubhouse (above) and caddy shack (left). ese two buildings have since been connected to form one residence, and marks from the cleats of golfers can still be seen on the ﬂoor.
e mystery surrounding Mill Road Farm only mounts due to its exclusivity and short history. Played on by invitation only, during the summer the links were sprinkled with celebrities, golf and otherwise: Johnny Farrell, Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Tommy Armour, Gene Tunney, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Vice President Charles Curtis all fought the bunkers at Mill Road Farm on one occasion or another. e only tournament ever played at Mill Road Farm came after Albert Lasker’s tenure. Upon receiving the estate from Lasker, the University of Chicago attempted to operate the golf course, opening it up for the 1940 Western Junior championship. e attempt was forestalled, though, by World War II. Several subdivisions later, Mill Road Farm now lives on as a memory.
• Date: 1927–1942 • Location: Albert Lasker estate, Mill Road Farm; between the Tri-State Tollway and Telegraph Road west to east, between Everett and Old Mill roads north to south • Course designer: William Flynn • Clubhouse: Farmhouse remodeled by David Adler, 1926 e sixth green at Mill Road Farm Golf Club. According to one account, this was a 485-yard par 5, and the course’s only realistic potential birdie hole. It still featured several hazards, including a narrow fairway and large crossbunkers 75 yards short of the green.
• Notable events: 1940 Western Junior, 1934 Tommy Armour round below par
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Golf Hits a Rough Patch 1930–1950
In 1931, Chicago had over 200 local courses; by 1951, only 160 remained. is 20 percent decline was golf ’s ﬁrst since Fairlawn’s tomato cans. Following the stock market crash, area clubs grasped at a variety of strategies to stem the tide of both their own and their members’ ﬁnancial losses. Initiation fees, for example, dropped from an average of $1,800 to $500 between 1927 and 1932. Despite portents like the downfall of Samuel Insull’s Mellody Farms country club or the 1929 cancellation of Lake Forest Day, Lake Forest itself was better equipped to cope with the crisis than most towns. Polo players at Onwentsia could aﬀord to joke about eating their horses to survive. Clubs like Knollwood were noted in golf publications for suﬀering only “respectable” membership drops (14 percent compared to an average of 25 percent at other Chicago private clubs).
Courtesy of Shoreacres Club.
e community’s resilience and comparative aﬄuence during the Depression years were advertised in new building projects like the Lake Forest Library and Lake Forest High School, pictured here.
World War II presented further challenges, from which Lake Forest and Lake Bluﬀ were not exempt. Knollwood’s membership plummeted to below 100, and the club’s existence was saved only through a Knollwood Bond program initiated by club member “Bud” Petit and others. Knollwood was not alone in its dire straits. Mill Road Farm did not survive as a daily-fee course and was shut down. e absence of the young and the apparent frivolity of golf at a time of war took a toll all over Chicago. Just as problematic were gasoline and rubber shortages, which made it hard to drive out to the clubs and still more diﬃcult to locate rubber golf balls to hit. Although the period of depression and sacriﬁce in the 1930s and 1940s came to an end, it contributed to permanent changes in personal lifestyles in Lake Forest and elsewhere. e country estate culture so essential to the rise of Lake Forest’s golf clubs was at its twilight. To survive, golf would have to adapt to a new era.
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Mellody Farms Country Club • Date: 1928–1929 • Location: Former J. Ogden Armour estate and current site of Lake Forest Academy • Course designer: Root & Hollister • Clubhouse: Wing designed by Hermann von Holst intended to be added to the estate house
Cartoonist (and Lake Forest resident) John T. McCutcheon aptly portrayed the extent of Samuel Insull’s various business interests in 1927. Chicago Tribune.
Samuel Insull was an idea man, and an expert at combining two good ideas into one great one. One thus might have assumed that his notion of pairing two of the great passions of the 1920s— golf and ﬂying—into one venture would be similarly successful. But one would have been wrong. In 1928, Insull and a syndicate of 26 Chicago businessmen purchased 846 acres from Mrs. J. Ogden Armour for $2.6 million. ey planned to turn the site of Armour’s former estate, Mellody Farms—which, forebodingly, had already witnessed one devastating ﬁnancial reversal—into an aviation country club, an executive ﬂy-in golf club with a national membership of millionaires. According to newspaper accounts, in autumn 1929 the course and its accompanying airﬁeld had been partially laid out, and “a locker house, to cost $100,000 and to connect with the mansion by pergola, was partly constructed.” But, in one of Lake Forest’s ﬁrst signals of a Depression-era economy, by late 1929 workmen had abandoned the half-ﬁnished locker wing, never to return. Mellody Farms was designed by Arthur Heun between 1904 and 1908 for J. Ogden Armour, son of meatpacking baron Philip Danforth Armour. He purchased 1,000 acres from Patrick Melody, one of the area’s original Irish settlers, and added an extra ‘l’ to form the name. Financial setbacks for the Armours following World War I led to Samuel Insull acquiring the estate in 1928.
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Golf Goes Public 1950–1980
It was in Chicagoland in 1953 that golf ﬁrst appeared on national television. Prominent business consultant and golf promoter George S. May actually paid ABC to broadcast his World Championship at Tam O’Shanter in Niles. is, along with May’s unheard-of $50,000 tournament prizes, combined to transform professional golf in the 1950s, making it more accessible to the masses. Arnold Palmer became the sport’s ﬁrst nationally marketed star. is turned out to be the postwar jolt that golf needed. In 1951, less than two percent of Americans played; by 1960, that number had doubled. Such an increase in participation soon played out across the landscape all over the coun-
Jane Clark, Ana Mae Sanberg, and Faye Holm enjoyed the ﬁrst Ladies’ Day of 1969 on the Lake Bluﬀ Golf Course. Lake Forester, May 14, 1969
try through a boom in municipal course construction. By 1981, the number of public courses had doubled from its 1961 level. During that period, Des Plaines (Lake Park), Palatine (Palatine Hills), Deerﬁeld, and Villa Park (Sugar Creek), just to name a few, all joined Lake Bluﬀ in building municipal courses. For many of these communities, golf course construction satisﬁed a trio of objectives: oﬀering public recreation in an increasingly popular sport, boosting real estate values, and preventing overdevelopment.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower played a vital role in popularizing golf in the 1950s. Average golfers could identify with his scores in the upper double digits. In this telegram he sent good wishes to the Knollwood Club, host of the 1956 U.S. Amateur. Courtesy of the Knollwood Club.
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Lake Bluﬀ Golf Club • Date: 1968 • Location: North of Route 176 and west of Green Bay Road, formerly known as Rockland Park • Course designer: Winnetka recreation ﬁrm McFadzean and Everly (their ﬁrst and only golf course) • Clubhouse: Built 1981, designed by Hal Steed, replaced the former “bunker” clubhouse, an underground structure built into the side of the ﬁrst tee • Notable events: Annual Lake County Amateur; home course for Lake Forest High School
Over 200 golfers waited up to half an hour to try out the new golf course, then called the Rockland Park, on its Preview Day, August 30, 1968. e course opened eight months ahead of schedule and cost $2,400 less than expected. Lake Forester, September 5, 1968
Lake Forester, September 5, 1968
ree 1960s’ themes—suburban sprawl, public recreation, and government projects—all came to the fore in the development of the Lake Bluﬀ Golf Club. In the early part of the decade, plans surfaced for a low-cost housing development on an area ﬂoodplain. Dissenting Lake Bluﬀ residents tried a variety of strategies to stop this scheme. Finally, in 1962, the Lake Bluﬀ Park Board passed a referendum to purchase the 120 acres and thus prevent any new home construction. But what to do with the land, and how to fund it? With increased availability of federal loans and grants for municipal projects, and the popularity of initiatives centering on public recreation or the preservation of open land, Lake Bluﬀ saw a chance to kill three birds with one stone. Following Herculean eﬀorts by local oﬃcials, in 1965 Lake Bluﬀ became one of three golf courses in the nation to be funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the only one to successfully pay oﬀ its loan, which it did in 2005.
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Golf Goes Residential 1980–1995
Conway Farms was typical of a surge in residential golf course construction that swept the nation in the 1980s and 1990s. is, of course, was not a new idea. In the Chicago area one ﬁnds such projects dating all the way back to 1900, when the community that became known as “Golf ” grew up around the Glen View Club. And Lake Forest’s own Knollwood Club was planned as a joint golf club and real estate venture in the 1920s. But these were exceptions; by the 1980s, planned golf course communities like Conway Farms were becoming the norm. Increasingly active retirees created the demand, and a booming housing market attracted developers. Built at the latter end of the trend, Conway Farms was designed in response to some of the excesses of earlier golf course developments. Architect and land planner Laurence Booth purposely created modest-sized homes and set them at a distance from the course, attempting to preserve the landscape and the feel of open space for both golfers and homeowners. Architect and local resident Laurence Booth organized the homes in the Conway Farms residential development around open space, seeking to preserve the country atmosphere by clustering buildings together. Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1991
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Conway Farms Golf Club
e 11th hole at Conway Farms. Chicago District Golfer, Spring 1992. Courtesy of Conway Farms Golf Club.
• Date: 1991 • Location: East of the Tri-State Tollway, between Route 60 and Everett Road • Course designer: omas Fazio • Clubhouse: Built 1993, altered 2003 • Notable events: 1995 Women’s Western Junior, 1997 NCAA Division I Men’s Championship, 1999 U.S. Junior Amateur, 2002 and 2006 Canon Cup, 2006 Big Ten Championship, 2009 Western Amateur, 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur
ough the Conway Farms Golf Club was built in 1991, the idea to put a course on early Lake County settler John Conway’s former dairy farm had been germinating for a long time. When three area families, led by Gordon H. Smith, Augustin S. Hart and Robert D. Stuart Jr., ﬁrst acquired the land surrounding Conway Road in 1956, they did not necessarily envision a 35-year plan. In the early 1960s, they even commissioned designer Robert Trent Jones to do several diﬀerent course layouts on the property, which at that time totaled nearly 1,000 acres.
e partners encountered a roadblock in 1959, however, when I-94 was constructed through part of their landscape, altering its character. e idea arose to add residential development to the project, and ﬁnally, nearly thirty years later, the timing was right. Course architect omas Fazio took inspiration from the Old Course at St. Andrews and from New York’s famed Shinnecock Hills in designing Conway Farms. In 1992 his product was named one of the top ﬁve new private courses in the country by Golf Digest. e founders of Conway Farms pictured with the course’s designers. From left to right, Gordon Smith, Dennis Wise, Margaret Hart, Tom Fazio, and Robert Stuart, Jr. Courtesy of Conway Farms Golf Club.
GolfToday:16x20 4/12/09 9:08 PM Page 1
Golf Today Today, Lake Forest and Lake Bluﬀ have between them six golf courses, as well as the memories of a few others. Golﬁng tradition remains strong as legendary links and clubhouses are restored and annual matches and inter-course rivalries live on. New champions have been crowned: the Lake Forest High School boys’ and girls’ golf teams have won two state titles apiece in the last ﬁfteen years. Lake Forest College is becoming involved with a new club team. And in 2009, the Western Amateur returns to Lake Forest after a 109-year hiatus, providing a signiﬁcant link to the past.
Deerpath’s new clubhouse opened in 1992.
Lake Foresters continue to follow the lead of their own golf pioneers, teacher Charles Blair Macdonald and student Hobart Chatﬁeld-Taylor, who recalled his very ﬁrst golf swing in a way that connects him to golfers throughout history: “After a series of contortions which would have done honor to the rubber man in Barnum’s side show, [I] tore up a foot of turf without disturbing the equanimity of the little white object I had striven so viciously to hit. Macdonald laughed and I said damn. at was in April of 1892—and I have been saying it ever since.”
Charity golf events, like that held annually by the Lake Forest/Lake Bluﬀ Chamber of Commerce, have grown increasingly popular.
Country Lifemagazine, June 1928 Golf was the perfect sport to bridge the transition between the new and the old. With its deep tradition, ho...
Published on Mar 3, 2012
Country Lifemagazine, June 1928 Golf was the perfect sport to bridge the transition between the new and the old. With its deep tradition, ho...