Castine Golf Club

History of the Course

  • An early golfer in Castine.
    (from the Bates Album)
  • Willie Park, Jr. with his famous putter.
  • Aiming at 9th hole, then inside Fort George.
    (Castine Historical Society)
  • The first tee at Fort George bastion.
    (Castine Historical Society)
  • The first fairway, viewed from Fort George.
    (Castine Historical Society)
  • The Clubhouse, approx. 1936.
    (from the Bates Album)
  • The Castine Yacht Club clubhouse.
    (Castine Golf Club archives)

The Castine Golf Club has integrated history and historic golf course architecture in the signature course of Willie Park, Jr.

Grateful appreciation and acknowledgment is given to James Elliott Lindsley for the use of his book Breaking A Hundred to prepare this summary. Special thanks to the Castine Historical Society for the use of the photographs.

Willie Park Jr. was fifty-eight years old when he came to Castine in September of 1921 to stake out a new course for the Castine Golf Club. Golf had been played from at least 1896 in Castine, and probably earlier.

A notation in the "Grandview Register" made in July of 1896 states, "The golfers have grown swell and employ a caddie."  Grandview is the name of the Bates-Tenney family home on Battle Avenue, just below Fort George. The earliest photograph of a golf course in Castine (a portion of which is shown in the photo banner above) is from the Bates family album and dated 1899. The photo shows "The Madockawando Golf links showing part of Fort George and Miss Baldwin's."

It is important to note that the land is quite barren of trees and may have resembled links land to the Scottish born Park. Prior to Parks' visionary changes, the "golf course" was just open land, and in fact passed through (with permission) the private property of several landowners. The first tee was located on the ramparts of Fort George and the drive carried over the Backshore Road.

As the photo in the slideshow depicts, there were houses down the first fairway and in the surrounding fields. The person standing furthest to the right would be in the vicinity of the first tee or cart path of the current course.

Tennis courts were also located in Fort George and on the Bates and Blake's properties. Winners of tennis matches played in 1895 are recorded as "Miss Burr and Mr. Underwood" in mixed doubles and Mr. Hooker as the men's singles winner.

As the 19th century drew to a close and the 20th century dawned, the historic beginnings of the golf and tennis sections of the Castine Golf Club would be firmly established.

Interest was generated in formalizing 'the club' at a meeting in Emerson Hall in 1914. Early records, surely recorded after the fact, indicated that thirty to forty people intended to "help defray the expense of the upkeep of the links by yearly subscription for a period of five years."

By 1916 the club was incorporated. By 1917 the Club was prepared to pay $3,500 for the Steven's house and ten acres to use as its clubhouse. Perhaps typical of Castine, Stevens deferred at first, holding out until 1918.

Through gifts, bequeaths and purchase, the Club acquired enough land and in 1921 they appointed Bertrand Clerque, a new Castine landowner but long-time visitor, and Godfrey Brinley as a committee of two "to secure advice as to the best means of laying out a course on the property now in control of the Club".

Bertrand Clerque was a member at the time of the Mount Bruno Club near Montreal, "where the celebrated golf course designer Willie Park, Jr. had just completed building the links." Clerque was not at the meeting at the time of his appointment, but the club must have felt good about literally hitting a blind shot stiff to the pin.

Born in Musselburgh, Scotland, Willie Park, Jr. won the British Open in 1887 and 1889. Park was a renaissance man; at turns champion golfer, a club maker with a patent, groundbreaking author and renowned golf course designer. Park's father was the champion of the first British Open played.

The younger Park spent his youth golfing and devising new golf clubs, becoming well know for ingenious designs by the age of 12. For over a decade Willie was the best known club maker in Britain. His Open victories in 1887 and 1889 set the stage for the marketing of his newly designed clubs. Perhaps his golf club design fame peaked when he brought a new "lofter" to market.

The club was at the forefront of a new strategic development in the game, high approach shots, instead of the more traditional "bump and run" shot to the green. Willie received even more attention when he was granted a patent for his new club in 1889.

In 1896, the first golf instruction book written by a professional was published. Willie Park's The Game of Golf was a thorough treatise on all aspects of golf; the equipment, swing, and method of play (strategy). It was complete with posed sequential photographs and drawings, including overhead perspective. A section was devoted to planning courses, handicapping and running competitions. That early success was followed by The Art of Putting. Published in 1920, the book came out shortly before he boarded a steamer from Boston to Castine to "tramp over" the club grounds. Willie had a reputation as a highly skilled putter. His stance, fairly open to the hole, was common for the day. It was Willie Park who said, "The man who can putt is a match for any man."

With the advent of mass manufacturing of clubs, he devoted his latter years to course design and construction, working in Britain, Europe and intensively in North America. Park lived in the United States and Canada for seven years, first setting up a retail outlet in New York City and then course design offices in New York and Toronto. Park's expertise was in conceiving playable golf courses using, as much as possible, the natural contours of the land. Park had a hand in the design or construction of 95 courses in the British Isles, 49 courses in the USA, 20 courses in Canada, and 11 courses in Austria and Switzerland.

As a result of these activities Park's golfing skills declined, but he took part in some famous matches, notably with the Astor's and Vanderbilt's. He is regarded as the first great golf course architect, with Sunningdale Old being his masterpiece.

The current 9-hole par 35 layout was designed by Willie Park, Jr. in 1921. Considered "one of the greatest golf architects of all time;" Park said the Castine course was one of his best. Park's design presets nine holes on Windmill Hill across from the Revolutionary War era Fort George and overlooking Castine Harbor and Blue Hill in the distance. Not only was Willie a deft putter, but he was the man to beat in golf club and course design.

James Eliott Lindsley's book, Breaking A Hundred; A Centennial History of the Castine Golf Club, can be purchased at the Castine Golf Club Pro shop.


Castine Golf Club
200 Battle Avenue, PO Box 34, Castine, Maine 04421

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