Playing Old Time Golf on an Historic Course
Western Pennsylvania is loaded with sports history. In fact, one of the nation's most historic golf courses is located less than two hours from Erie. Foxburg Country Club, in Clarion County, is the oldest golf course in continuous use in the United States.
It was founded by Joseph Mickle Fox, whose family made their money in land speculation and oil. While traveling with his cricket club in 1874, Fox stopped in Scotland to learn how to play golf at the legendary Old Course at St. Andrew's. He brought back a set of clubs, built a small course on his family's land, and the game of golf was introduced to the United States. In 1887, he built another course on his property and it still exists today.
"Other than the age of the golf course, one of the things that's unique for me is a lot of the holes are still here. There's only been a few changes,” says Tom Johnson.
Johnson is a member of the Foxburg Country Club. He joined a few others on the course earlier this week to play the game the same way it was played there in the 1880's. It's called "Gutty Golf" because the balls used at that time were made of a tree sap resin called ‘gutta percha.’ The group walked the course with their hickory clubs, they made their own tees with sand and water. And yes, they all wore knickers or a kilt. The Foxburg Hickory Championships have been held there for the past 14 years. Johnson is the tournament director.
"It's customary to dress in that period. It's very much like the Civil War reenactors or a Revolutionary War reenactor. We're into golf history and enjoy playing that type of golf,” he said.
This year the esteemed course is honored to host the National Hickory Championship on June 2 through June 4. The best Gutty Golf players in the country will be there including Jason Kronenberger, of Dayton, Ohio. He's the defending champ and can't wait to compete at Foxburg.
"This is our St. Andrews. This is the purest Gutty Golf you can get in the United States. So that's why I love it. I hope more people come out here to enjoy the hickory experience,” he said.
The Foxburg Country Club is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. The public is invited to come to the course to watch the national tournament next week. Admission is free.
Bruce Whitehair, of Erie, is directing a campaign to raise $2 million to ensure the course maintains its 1887 roots. The campaign is halfway to its goal.