Early American Golf Resorts
The Griswold Hotel

 

The Griswold Hotel, built in 1906 by Morton F. Plant with its 400 rooms was  the largest and most visited luxury hotel in the Northeast.  Upon completion it soon became home each spring to the Harvard -Yale Regatta, and its adjoining Shennecossett Golf Club, also Plant owned,  hosted each summer The Shennecossett Invitational Golf Tournament. Both "musts" for America's eastern elite.

Included among the noted guests you will find many of  the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, Presidents Taft and Franklin D. Roosevelt and later Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President Kennedy.

The Hotel

Considered "The Finest Summer Resort in America" presented itself as such advertising things like "over looking Long Island Sound, The Yachting Playground of America." Making it appealing to both the yacht owner and the yacht owner "wanna' be'.

The lavishly appointed guest rooms, each with mahogany furnishings, were "electrified" and offered long distance telephone service. Plant himself wanted and assured that it was "the most modern, most luxurious and best place for glamorous sports...."

The list of amenities, beyond golf and yachting,  almost overwhelming for the time included;

  • A drug store
  • Barber shop
  • Hair and nail salon
  • News stand
  • A resident physician
  • Four tennis courts
  • Private bath house for sea bathing
  • Western Union office in the hotel
  • Its own farm 

The Golf Course

In 1898, having been bitten by the golf bug, Groton Connecticut's Thomas Avery designed and constructed a four hole golf course on land he had acquired from his father. With fairways running both sides of his barn and farm house the course soon became inadequate. First expanded to 6 holes, and then 9 holes in 1906, the golf course caught the fancy of  The Griswold's guests and "golf at The Griswold" became for many a summer passion. In 1911 two more holes were added. 

Morton Plant the Griswold owner soon took a hand and began acquiring the surrounding property including Avery's and in 1914 Plant investing in excess of 3 million dollars expanded the course to 18 holes. 


Plant and The Griswold thought that though The Shennecossett Country Club was now a delightful place for a round of golf, a couple things were still needed to put it into the higher echelon of golf.........

 

The first thing they did is what so many in golf clubs were doing at the time, in 1916 they commissioned Donald Ross to redesign the golf course, one through eighteen. 

And although it would take until 1919 to complete due to World War I, the course by 1918 was considered one of golf's better courses, hosting the original "Dixie Kids" Red Cross Exhibition even before Ross's completion of this classic seaside resort's golf course.

Their second step, was to hire 1906 and 1910 United States Open Golfing Champion Alex Smith as the club's golf professional. 

A fine teacher he had among his students 1926 United States Amateur Golfing Champion Max Marston and six time U.S. Women's Champion, golfing legend Glenna Collet Vare.

Smith also was able to attract golf's greatest players to Shennecossett as well. In 1923 Smith managed to attract  "Four of the Nations Most Brilliant Women Golfers" to his Shennecossett Invitational. 

Glenna Collett Vare emerged victorious in the finals defeating 1923 US Women's Champion Edith Cummings, "The Fairway Flapper". The semi-finals included Anita Lihme  a golfer of note from Watch Hill, Rhode Island and future St. Louis District Champion Audrey Faust.

In July 1920, Smith also brought in perhaps one of the times greatest exhibition matches when Shennecossett hosted Harry Vardon and Ted Ray vs Walter Hagen and Jim Barnes. Vardon and Ray were victorious in what is often referred to as the most "interacting golf" ever played. Spectators filled the golf course for a day on "golfing thrills".

In 1968 The Griswold fell victim to the demolition ball and in April 1969 Shennecossett Golf Club was purchase by the Town of Groton. 

The only public Donald Ross designed course in the state, Shennecossett is considered by many as the "Best Muni" in the country.

It surely one of the most historic as over the years, many famous golfers, like Vardon. Jones and Vare have walked the fairways at Shennecossett; Arnold Palmer, Francis Ouimet, Babe Didrikson, Marion Hollins,  Harry Cooper and Tommy Armour, whose name you will find on the Club Champions board in the Mission Style clubhouse still used to day.

 



The Shennecossett Cup



The Golf Course circa 1919

The Dixie Kids raised over $160,000
 on their Red Cross exhibition tour.

Perry Adair, Miss Elaine Rosenthal, Bobby Jones and Miss Alexa Stirling

Bobby Jones, Perry Adair, 2-time Southern Amateur Champion ( a/k/a "The Boy Wonder of Dixie" ), Alexa Stirling, 1916 US Women's Amateur Champion and Elaine Rosenthal Women's North South Golfing Champion. 

Jones, Adair and Stirling were all members of Atlanta Georgia's East Lake Country Club. All were proteges of the Carnoutie golf professional Stewart Maiden. East Lake was designed by Thomas Bendelow, who was hired by George Adair, Perry's father, Elaine Rosenthal compiled an impressive amateur record while playing out of Ravisloe Country Club.

 

To learn more about Early American Golf Resorts, continue your search here....

 

 

1913 US Open

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