The History of the Newport Country Club

The finest golf club histories produced include The Story of Seminole, The Story of Golf at the Country Club, Crump’s Dream and the R & A’s club history. The History of the Newport Country Club by Frederick Waterman breaks into the ranks alongside these master works. This stylishly produced history was published in 2013, and along with Waterman’s elegant prose are the creative and artful designs of Larry Hasak.

Newport has as rich a history as any club in the United States and the book takes full advantage of such.

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A founding member club of the USGA, Newport hosted the first US Open and the first US Amateur. The last few decades have seen the emergence of high-end country clubs with exclusive memberships. Many of these clubs strive for the feel of a charming, old world club. Newport has something that today’s money can’t buy: it is the real deal and has an almost unequalled history dating back to the nineteenth-century. The book contains hundreds of illustrations and photographs sourced from the club’s historic archives and from private collections and the USGA. Both John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower are pictured in the book playing at the course.

How many courses can devote a chapter to the Guided Age and have a discussion of robber barons? Among the founding members of Newport were four of the wealthiest men in the country: John Jacob Astor IV, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Perry Belmont and James Stillman.

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An example of a double-page spread in The History of Newport Country Club

Of particular note in the book are the multiple, double-page (verso followed by recto) color illustrations which give the book an expansive feel. The book’s dust jacket explains how the history is rightly about more than just the golf club. It is a “contextual history,” which in the case of Newport, with its long history going back to the early days of the Republic, is more than appropriate, and helps to detail what gives the club such a special feel.

A chapter of the book is devoted to the history of the golf course itself. Willie Davis designed the original nine-hole Newport course in 1894. In 1897 Davis expanded the course to eighteen holes, although some of the holes, which were laying on low ground, proved unsatisfactory. A. W. Tillinghast was brought in in 1921 and designed seven new holes and rerouted the others, completing the work in 1923. The book also gives insights into the role that other architects played in the evolution of the course: Seth Raynor (a bit); Donald Ross (rumored, but no evidence of his doing anything.)

The club’s recent history is as rich as its early history. Tiger Woods’ second of three consecutive Amateur victories in 1995 was at Newport, the trophy of which is named after a club founder [Theodore] Havemeyer. Annika Sorenstam won the 2006 US Women’s Open at the club.

Good works of art have what the French call je ne sais quoi, a certain undefinable quality that makes them better than their peers. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, whether it is the subtle use of the color palates in the book, the use of white space to offset the pictures and the text, or just the overall design and layout, but there is something about it that makes the sum of its parts so much more than its 305 pages.

Waterman is a former journalist and sportswriter who serves as the historian at The Country Club in Brookline. Hasak is an award-winning art director and designer whose prior works include the aforementioned Country Club history as well as design for various golf magazines and publications. Kudos to the club, Waterman, and Hasak for such a fantastic quality product.

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Newport’s elegant clubhouse

                              — John Sabino

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Valuable Book Group specializes in rare, collectible and valuable golf books. We are avid collectors ourselves obsessed not only with playing the game, but also its history and the literature of the game.
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