Savannah Golf Club
The Savannah Golf Club is a private club located near downtown Savannah, Georgia. Established in 1794, Club historians contend that the club was the first American golf club. Evidence suggests that the course was viewed by George and Martha Washington, John Adams and French general Lafayette.
A Civil War embankment bisects the course. Bunkers and other hazards originally were constructed from breastworks used by Confederate forces defending Savannah in the Civil War. It is also rumored that Teddy Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders" used the site for training exercises.
"The Official Golf Guide for 1900" by Josiah Newman of Garden City, New York reported that a nine hole links was laid out by S.W. Stewart in December of 1899 on part of the present site. Stewart was also listed as the greenkeeper. The club had a membership of 100 people with an "entrance fee" of $20 and annual dues of $10. The USGA Library has a copy of this publication and a PDF version is available for viewing on their web site. By 1917, the course had been expanded to 18 holes on the same site.
In 1927, Donald Ross reportedly performed a renovation of the course in preparation for the Georgia Open Championship that was to be played on the course in 1930, according to a letter from Daniel L. Hall, Jr. The extent of the renovation is hard to document as no notes or plans exist at the Club or the Tufts Archives. Hall's letter also addressed George Cobb's renovations when the Clubhouse was relocated and 3 new holes were designed and built. Hall's letter is available from the Tufts Archives in Pinehurst, NC.
In 1963, George Cobb added three new holes and the practice range on top of an old landfill when the Board of Education of the City of Savannah purchased a portion of the club's land that contained the original clubhouse and holes 1 & 18. A third hole, a par 3, was also lost when the new clubhouse and parking lots were constructed.. Cobb also reportedly softened the contours of the greens at that same time. Cobb and John LaFoy also made renovation suggestions in 1977 to the 3 holes (holes 16-18 on today's routing) on top of the landfill when settling caused some drainage problems.
Current day renovation efforts have taken place two times in the last decade by Clyde Johnston, ASGCA. First in 1991, a renovation master plan was prepared which resulted in six greens complexes including greenside bunkers (holes 3, 11, 12, 13, 15 & 17) being completely rebuilt and the other 12 greens cored out and new greensmix added in 1992. A tree planting design was also prepared for long range planning to replace the aging cherry laurel trees.
In 2000, a major renovation took place that involved the rebuilding of 3 complete holes (16-18) and the driving range facility which were located on top of the old landfill, rebuilding of 2 additional greens (9th & 15th), excavation of 3 new ponds, concrete cart paths and a new irrigation system. With new regulations restricting the use of well and ground water, the Club agreed to accept effluent water from a nearby treatment facility. This dictated the construction of new ponds to serve as a holding and distribution basin for the effluent water.
The major part of the reconstruction work involved the finishing holes and the range, which were built back in the 1960's by George Cobb over an old landfill. These holes settled about three feet over the last 40 years and became unplayable after minor rain events. There were also issues with groundwater contamination from the landfill. The engineering firm of Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung worked closely with EPA and the City of Savannah to solve the landfill settling problem. The solution was an eighteen inch thick layer of heavy compactable clay over the landfill, followed by good, clean soil from which to build the golf holes. Soil for the top layer of soil came from the on-site ponds plus off-site materials.
The result is three well drained finishing holes and a practice facility that was slightly enlarged to accommodate the volume of play at the Club. The new holes were rebuilt using George Cobb's same routing at the Board of Director's request in order to keep the course par of 72.