Caddy Shea waits for a customer | history Bass Rocks Golf Club ca.1910

Shea is perched on the rock. He told me it was worth the wait–eventually he made $40.

 I was happy to see the dramatic fog burn off to a spectacular Father’s Day. Bass Rocks Golf Club filled up by mid day. IMG_20170618_055704

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Bass Rocks Golf Club ca.1910

bass rocks golf club loc detroit publishing co ca1910 on license plate small size

photo caption: Bass Rocks Golf Club, ca. 1910 (note the date on the license plate), Library of Congress collection. Scroll down to see detail zooms  from the left and right sides of the photograph.

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My folks loved Bass Rocks  and Cape Ann Golf Clubs  two breathtaking linkslands. The Bass Rocks Golf Club was started in 1896, two years after the US Golf Association was formed. Yale and Princeton bought land and began organizing golf clubs in 1895. 

some background from the Bass Rocks Golf Club website:

The club was founded “by a group of Bass Rocks summer residents who rented the land in the area surrounded by Beach Road, Moorland Road, Souther Road, and Nautilus Road. This area is known as “The Meadows” and is currently used for our 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th holes. The rental fee was based on the value of the hay crop that would normally have grown there.

The first six-hole course was laid out by Alex Findlay, a Scottish golfer who worked as a salesman for a sporting goods company. This job entailed the planning of golf courses to increase the sales of golf equipment.

The original course was known as the Intervale Links. Subsequently Madison Mott Cannon, Gloucester’s City Engineer, designed a new nine-hole course. At a dedication of the new nine-hole course in June of 1904, a flag was raised proclaiming it to be the Bass Rocks Golf Links. The membership was about 250. In 1905, with increasing membership and more golf and social functions, it became evident that a more structured organization was in order and the Bass Rocks Golf Club was incorporated for the “purpose of encouraging athletic exercises and the establishment and maintenance of places for social meetings.” A formal lease was entered into with the landowners, The Souther Estate*. In 1909 the clubhouse was built and the rent increased.

More land was leased from the Souther Estate and the course was increased to 18 holes in 1913. Designed by Herbert Corey Leeds, who also designed the original Essex County Club (since redone by Donald Ross and modified by E.F. Wogan), a new 18-hole course began to take shape at Bass Rocks. Leeds also designed and maintained the Myopia Hunt Club course until his death in 1930.”

ed. note *Here’s a picture of Henry J Souther (1810-1892) who was married to Gloucester gals Eliza Phipps Souther (1814-1863) and Mary Wheeler Souther (b.1832-d.1914). His father John Souther Sr, owned Souther Tide Mills and Souther Shipyards.  Henry rebuilt the mills after a devastating fire. Later in his career he opened a brewery. He also owned Bass Rocks Hotel (twice!) in Gloucester MA. Henry and Mary’s son Henry Souther (1865-1917) was an MIT grad specializing in mining and metallurgical subjects who spent his early professional career in PA and consulted for the automobile industry eventually founding his own firm. He married Edgar Jay Sherman’s daughter Elizabeth Louisa. Sherman’s point and Sherman’s home on bass rocks are famous Good Habor Beach motifs. 

Henry Souther

photo caption below: Scottish golfer Alexander “Alex” H. Findlay. Findlay designed hundreds of courses. Findlay’s younger brother, Fred, also designed golf courses in the US. 

alex findlay scottish golfer american golf evangelist

Richard B. Findlay and his older brother Ronald A. Findlay, grandsons of Alex Findlay, did tremendous research and writing for a website devoted to this “Father of American Golf.” Bass Rocks was among Findlay’s first if not his first course. Bass Rocks was founded in 1896 though the Findlay family site lists 1899 for the year he worked on it. There were more than 20 Findlay golf courses in Massachusetts, a veritable “Golf Coast”, including several close enough to seek out a Findlay golf trail: Andover, Salem, Reading, Stoneham, Belmont, Haverhill, Weston, Wellesley, and West Newton.

I love this design excerpt from their blog:

The process of finding and authenticating golf courses designed by Alex is an ongoing thing. According to Alex’s list there may well be close to 500. About 200 so far have been found. Interestingly, throughout the ages new golf course architects take an older course and do some tinkering or even a major renovation on that course and it then becomes their design. A good example of that is with the renowned golf course architect, Donald Ross. He moved to the United States in late 1899, but many courses are attributed to him that have a stamp of origin earlier then 1899. Actually over 600 courses are acclaimed as a Donald Ross creation. In many cases he never set foot on the property but merely drew up a layout from his distant office. So it goes with the business of golf course architecture. Alex Findlay visited every single course that he designed, walking off each yard of the layout and in many cases actually was involved in the construction process with his youngest son, Norman, who developed a construction business for the purpose of constructing golf courses. As I visit Alex’s golf courses I learn so many valuable tidbits that I think you will find fascinating.

For instance, when he was building golf courses in the Northeast he would always face the green to the south in order to get at least 6 more weeks of play in the late fall into early winter, before the greens would take a hard freeze. Did you know that not one of his greens are alike. No two fingerprints are alike, no two snowflakes are alike and no two clouds are alike. You see, every green he designed he did so by laying down on his back and looking up at the clouds. He would then sketch the clouds on his design sheets, and presto every green is a unique masterpiece. Clouds of Green!”

 And this interview with Richard Findlay from Golf Club Atlas, 2012:

“In the early 1900’s the Prince of Wales, a childhood friend of Alex Findlay and soon to be King of England, wrote a letter to Alex. He did not have his address so he just simply put my grandfather’s name on the envelope and mailed it. In a short while the letter was delivered to Alex’s home in Boston, MA. This will give you an idea of how well known Alexander Hamburg Findlay was during his life in the United States as well as Scotland and England. Imagine putting the name Tiger Woods on an envelope and dropping it in the mail. Would it be delivered? Would people recognize the name? Of course they would…Move the clock back 100 years and who do you have? Alex Findlay, one of the most written about athletes in the world at that time…

What have you gleaned from studying your grandfather’s golf courses?

“Alex protected par.”

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