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History

A BRIEF HISTORICAL NOTE

There is solid evidence that the ancient Scottish game of golf was played in America as early as the late 17th century. It was not, however, until after the Civil War that the game truly took hold. By the late 1880’s the firstprivate golf clubs still in existence were established in this country. The 1890’s, a time of substantial prosperity, a time indeed referred to as the “Gay ‘90’s,” saw the North Jersey Shore become one of America’s most important summer resorts. During the summer of 1898, a small but extremely successful group of men from New York City, long accustomed to spending summers with their families surrounded by the ocean breezes and affluence of Elberon and Deal, was taken by the game of golf. From the Hollywood Hotel on Cedar Avenue in the West End section of Long Branch, they leased a small tract of land; and, on October 15, 1898, Joseph J. O’Donohue, Jr., Maurice M. Sternberger, Thomas J. O’Donohue, William H. Rolston and Carl H. Randebrock organized the Hollywood Golf Club as a New Jersey stock corporation. The new Club hired Thomas M. Bendelow, one of America’s pioneer Scottish golf course architects, to lay out a nine-hole course. The West End location remained the site of the Club for three seasons and continued as an active golf course associated with the now defunct Hollywood Hotel until about 1950. Although described by The American Golfer as a “very admirable 3,108 yard nine-hole course over which a highly successful open tournament was once held,” the Club desired enough property for eighteen holes.

In 1902, the lands between Locust and Norwood Avenues near present day Hollywood Avenue in West Long Branch were open, flat farmland. Led by Harry Content, the Club leased three large adjoining tracts, probably again retained Bendelow, built an eighteen hole, 5,400 yard course, a small clubhouse and a polo field. The second golf course opened for play in 1902 and was used by the Club for eleven years. In 1906, it served as the site for the second Metropolitan Open won by George Low of Baltusrol, regarded as one of the greatest putters of all time. The strong field included two who would play a significant role in Hollywood’s history, Isaac Mackie of Fox Hills who was second after 36 holes, and Walter Travis, who withdrew after the first day. But the Club’s leadership was not satisfied with Hollywood’s second home notwithstanding that it was considered “well bunkered” and “a fair test of golf”. Indeed, after the 1912 season, Hollywood abandoned its second home which later became the site of the now defunct Norwood Country Club. Not to be outdone, Norwood hired the famous A.W. Tillinghast to improve upon what Hollywood left behind.

George W. Young, a prominent financier, around the turn of the century had assembled a large tract of land off Roseld Avenue in Ocean Township. In 1895, he was one of the organizers of the Deal Golf Club and between 1900 and 1906 served as its second president. In 1910, Young built a magnificent “bungalow” which he named Oakwood Hall. He took up residence with his second wife, Madame Lillian Nordica, a famous dramatic soprano. Young had heavily encumbered the estate and apparently was in need of funds. On January 12, 1912, he entered into a lease with Hollywood Golf Club for ten years with a ten year option. The site became the third and present home of Hollywood Golf Club. Some of the original buildings remain in current use including the winter clubhouse, the ladies locker room area of the main clubhouse and the gate house. The present main clubhouse was built in the early 1920’s and extensively rebuilt in 1956. The half way house was built sometime around World War I and bears a striking similarity in appearance to the former clubhouse in West Long Branch. Unfortunately for our next door neighbor, the Deal Golf and Country Club, the Young property also included what were then the 4th, 5th and 6th holes of the Deal course. These holes became, and are today, Hollywood’s 16th, 14th and 15th holes, respectively. Deal immediately rearranged its course on the property owned by it and Young and his son understandably both became Hollywood members.

The Club lost no time in developing the property which consisted of about 155 acres and rights to extensive bridle paths which ran throughout the surrounding area. Isaac Mackie, a Scottish professional and green keeper, who became a charter member of the PGA of America and later worked at Canoe Brook Country Club, was hired to lay out an eighteen hole course, On May 3, 1912, the Club entered into a contract with James and Edward Lloyd of Long Branch to construct the golf course for $5,000 and three tennis courts for $438. Mackie supervised the work of the Lloyds. When Young’s financial condition worsened, and Madame Nordica died leaving Young out of her will, Content, acting on behalf of the Club, obtained an option to purchase from Young and his mortgagees title to the lands, buildings and improvements for sum of $250,000. On January 21, 1914, the Club acquired title to its third and present home. Several of the members personally advanced $150,000 as a loan secured by a mortgage given by the Club. Over the years some minor additional land acquisitions were made including one in exchange for the surrender of the bridle path rights. The most significant of the minor land acquisitions occurred on July 10, 1953 when the Club acquired the site of the present practice range and an easement which today is Stevens Road, a dedicated public street. Presently, the Club occupies approximately 175 acres.

The course opened for play in 1913; but, again, the membership was not satisfied that it had one of the best courses in the country. Walter J. Travis, an Australian, a three-time winner of the United States Amateur (1900,1901,1903), the 1904 British Amateur Champion and famous golf writer, publisher and editor, was hired to design a truly outstanding course. Working with Frank B. Barrett, Chairman of the Green Committee, Travis totally reworked the layout, put in the existing greens, bunkering and hazards with an eye to challenge the good player without discouraging the medium player. Wrote Barrett, in a printed report to the membership, “The main point aimed at has been the endeavor of fairness to all classes of players, and putting a premium on straightness and accuracy, as against length.”

The Travis designed course (completed probably in about 1915) quickly established its reputation as one of the best in the nation according to Metropolitan Golfer by hosting a national championship, the USGA Women’s Amateur in 1921. The tournament was heavily covered by the national press, and Marian HoIlins who went on to develop famed Cypress Point, Pasatiempo and the Women’s National, was the winner over an international field. Both Johnny Farrell, 1928 U.S. Open winner, and Willie Reekie, 1921 Met Amateur title holder from Upper Montclair, rated Hollywood the second best course in America, according to a survey taken by the magazine Metropolitan Golfer in 1926. In an era when Pine Valley, Lido, and the National Golf Links were by consensus the top three courses in the country, Reekie put the former atop his list, while Farrell, never having played Pine Valley, chose Quaker Ridge. Reekie was quite flattering in his comments about Hollywood:

“Hollywood is another course where the landscaping has had great attention. Hollywood in a sense is a monument to Frank Barrett as Pine Valley is to George Crump. It is significant that Pine Valley and Hollywood, the two best courses in this country, in my estimation, are also the most beautiful.”

THE REEKIE AND FARRELL RANKINGS FROM 1926

Bill Reekie       Johnny Farrell 
1. Pine Valley      1. Quaker Ridge 
2. Hollywood      2. Hollywood 
3. Oakmont      3. Lido 
4. Inwood      4. Oakmont 
5. National     5. Oakland Hills 
6. Lido      6. Whitemarsh 
7. Garden City      7. Inwood 
8. North Shore       8. Merion Cricket 
9. Mayfield       9. Fresh Meadow 
10. Knickerbocker      10. Burning Tree 

 

The Club has been host to many notable matches and tournaments since, including the 1925 Met Amateur won by Jess W. Sweetser, the 1956, 1986 and 2002 New Jersey State Amateurs, the inaugural 1962 and 1986 Compher Cup Matches, several United States Open qualifiers, the 1929 Inter-Championship, the 1991 Met Open, the 1999 Met Ike, the 1987 1998 New Jersey PGA, the 2006 New Jersey State Open and the 2014 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.

In 1956, the course was remodeled by L.S. “Dick” Wilson, a noted golf architect of that period. Many bunkers close to the teeing areas and obsolete cross bunkers were removed. During the 1980’s, additional refinements have been made under the direction of Geoffrey S. Cornish, a well respected golf architect, to update the course, correct the ravages of time and enhance the original shot values of the holes. In 1998 famed architect Rees Jones finished a complete restoration of the course in the original Walter Travis design. The course has been consistently selected by Golf Digest as one of the top ten courses in New Jersey, a tribute to its various architects, its current staff and, of course, the membership.

Speaking of its membership, with Harry Content serving for thirty one years as president and Frank B. Barrett as Green Chairman from 1915 to 1930, the Club attracted many prominent families from the New York area’s financial, mercantile, legal, real estate and manufacturing communities. Over the years, illustrious names like Bamberger, Baruch, Bloomingdale, Gimbel, Guggenheim, Hammer, Kempner, Lehman, Rosenwald, Rothschild, Sachs, Salomon, Seligman, Tishman, Untermeyer, Wertheim and Wimpfheimer have graced the membership rolls of HoIlywood. After World War II as many equally well known current and recent members have enjoyed the magnificence of Hollywood’s trees, flowers, lawns, the vibrancy of each other and the unending attentions of the staff.

Founded as a stock corporation, membership expanded during the prosperous 1920’s; however, the original Certificate of Incorporation, amended in 1914 to provide for two classes of stock, no longer served the needs of the members. On January 28, 1926, the Club reorganized as a non-profit membership corporation. Its 1926 Certificate of Incorporation continues to govern without amendment. Title to the Club properties, real and personal, was transferred by the old to the new corporation. All members were, and still are, given the opportunity to purchase voting membership certificates.

Over the years several Hollywood members have distinguished themselves and the Club in competition, but none more so than Robert J. Jacobson, twice a winner of the New Jersey Amateur (1955 and 1956 at Hollywood), the New Jersey Junior (1934 and 1935), and the 1936 MGA Junior, who at the age of 16 defeated the reigning United States Open Champion Johnny Goodman in the 1934 U.S. Amateur. Jacobson, who also won the 1952 Hochster Memorial at Quaker Ridge, served as Club President and distinguished Hollywood by serving as President of the New Jersey State Golf Association and as a Trustee of the Metropolitan Golf Association from October, 1959 to October, 1961. Jacobson won the Club Championship twenty five times, a national record, before withdrawing from competition at age forty two. On the distaff side, two women have had substantial success in Club Championships and in carrying the Club’s colors in regional competition. Bobbie Doubilet had been Ladies Club Champion fifteen timesand Sophie Untermeyer eleven times.

The professional staff has also represented the Club well in competition and in their respective associations. Craig Wood (1932 to 1935) went on to win both the United States Open and the Masters in 1941. While headprofessional at Hollywood, Wood won a state PGA (1932), a state Open (1934), finished second in the U.S. Open (1935) and was victimized by Gene Sarazen’s unbelievable double eagle in the 1935 Masters. The beloved Lou Barbaro (1947 to 1976), a member of the New Jersey Golf Hall of Fame and pro tour winner, won the New Jersey Open (1953,1959) and the state PGA (1952). Jack Forrester, Harold Sanderson, George Fotheringham, and Larry Mullen have also held the position of head professional at Hollywood. Mike Killian (1991 to 2000) played in four U.S. Amateurs and was named to the Walker Cup team in 1973. He later played in both the Masters and U.S. Open. Ron McDougal, head professional from 2001-2006, has won the National Club Pro Championship once and finished in the top three four times. Ron has also played on three PGA Cup Teams and won the New York State Open. Kevin Weyeneth became our Head Golf Professional in 2006. He had prolific training in the golf business before coming to Hollywood, working at both Forsgate Country Club and Baltusrol Golf Club. He learned the game under six-time Ryder Cup team member, Peter Oosterhuis. Kevin kept the winning tradition alive at Hollywood by capturing the 2007 PGA Head Professional Championship, his first tournament entered as our Head Golf Professional. In addition, Kevin won the 2011 NJPGA Match Play Championship and the 2012 NJPGA Pro-Pro Championship.

The list of assistants is also impressive. Jack Burke, Jr., a Masters and U.S. Open winner, served in 1948. Dick Metz preceded him under Fotheringham. Paul Moran, a senior tour player, also was a Hollywood assistant. The legendary Babe Lichardus won two of his state PGA titles (1965 and 1966) while an assistant under Barbaro with whom he shares the competitive course record of 63.

From its beginnings the Club has been blessed by several golf course superintendents who have nurtured Hollywood’s enviable reputation for its meticulous condition, including the much heralded Sherwood Moore, winner of the 1989 Old Tom Morris Award, who left in 1957 for Winged Foot and U.S. Open glory and the much loved and respected Bruce Cadenelli (1980 to 1989). Finally, no record of staff would be complete without mention of Gus Fisher, the never failing general manager from 1917 to 1973. With its traditions proud and strong, in 1998 Hollywood Golf Club completed its first one hundred years with vigor and strength supported by its appreciative membership and fine loyal staff, every one as skilled as their famous predecessors.

The Club has since been host for many notable matches and tournaments.  Click here to view a list of Championships held at Hollywood.

Learn more about championship events hosted at Hollywood Golf Club.
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