OUR STORY

THE BEGINNING 

On April 16, 1915, St. George’s “founding father”, Devereux Emmet, convened a meeting of ten wealthy gentlemen in NYC to consider the acquisition of property for a golf course.  It was agreed that a course should be built in the links style.  Thereafter, Emmet conducted a study of various parcels of property and determined the present site, approximately three miles from his sprawling estate, would allow for the design of a superior golf course.  140 acres of land were purchased at $300 per acre.  Emmet then designed and oversaw the building of St. George's.  He charged no fee for his services.  Emmet was the Green Chairman for the first ten years and Club Champion three times.  As profiled in Golf Club Atlas, Ran Morrissett wrote "This was going to be his (Emmet's) course for his friends & relatives and he spent his time getting it right.  St. George's defining characteristic is startlingly unique holes on American soil".

On June 23, 1917, with America having just entered World War I two months earlier, St. George's formally opened with an exhibition amateur-professional match for the benefit of the Red Cross.  Among the participants was the President of the USGA. 

And here we are today, some 100 years later, with St. George's having the same basic design.  Emmet's home course has truly withstood the test of time.  In his profile, acclaimed golf course architecture writer Bradley Klein of Golfweek states, "It's like a round of golf at the end of a time machine.  Why can't more courses be as elegant and uncluttered?  The place is simply charming and unlike anything I have seen on Long Island.  It's a museum piece with timeless appeal".
 

WHO WAS DEVEREUX EMMET?

Devereux Emmet was born on December 11, 1861 in Pelham, N.Y.  His father, William Emmet, was a prominent judge.  His great-grandfather, Thomas Emmet, was a famous Irish patriot who led the Irish Rebellion of 1789.  After emigrating to America, Thomas Emmet was a founder of Tammany Hall and served as Attorney General of New York State from 1812-1813.  For many years, the Emmet family was listed in the foremost social registry of the times - Ward McAllister's First Forty Families in America.

Devereux attended Columbia College and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1885.  He practiced law for a few years but found it uninspiring.  "If I did not learn anything else at law school, I learned to avoid litigation", he once wrote.  After his short stint as a lawyer, he was involved in many other endeavors, most notably golf course architecture.

Although his family was quite well off financially, he had the good fortune to marry into even greater wealth.  On January 6, 1889, he married Ella Batavia Smith, daughter of Judge John Smith, a descendant of Richard "Bull" Smith, the historical founder of Smithtown.  Moreover, Ella was the niece of Alexander Stewart.  Among many businesses, Alexander Stewart owned the largest department store in the U.S. and was the founder/developer of Garden City.  Ella inherited a vast fortune from the Stewart branch of the family, insuring financial security for years to come.  Devereux became a director and vice president of the Garden City Company.  The company sold land and houses in the "Garden City Estates" project, which was the beginning of suburban development on Long Island.  As the most knowledgeable golfer in the family, Devereux designed the original Garden City Golf Club which opened in 1899.  The U.S. Amateur was played at Garden City Golf Club in 1900 and the U.S. Open followed in 1902.

Devereux and his wife lived at Sherrewogue, the ancestral home (circa 1688) of Adam Smith, son of Richard "Bull" Smith (Smythe).  The home (which still exists today) was located on 200 magnificent acres at Harbor Road in St. James.  It had stunning views overlooking the Sound and Stony Brook Harbor.
With the success of Garden City Golf Club to his credit, Emmet thereafter designed over 150 courses in the ensuing 34 years before his death.

Six of Emmet's courses have hosted national championships, the most recent being the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional CC.  The other national championship courses include: Garden City Golf Club, Salisbury Golf Club, Wee Burn, Pelham CC and Pomonok CC.

Noted local courses he designed include: Bethpage State Park (Green), Cherry Valley, Eisenhower Park (Red), Engineers, Huntington CC, Huntington Crescent, Leatherstocking (Cooperstown), Nassau CC, Rockville Links, Seawane, and Wheatley Hills.  In addition, he designed four courses in Bermuda and one in Santiago Cuba.

While many of Emmet's other courses have been reworked over time, St. George's has changed little from the original 1917 design.  This makes St. George’s quite unique. A few tee boxes have been moved to add length and the 11th hole has been redesigned. However, few other significant changes have been made since 1917.  This became quite evident during the recent golf course restoration project guided by Gil Hanse, which is discussed below.  
 

OTHER PROMINENT FOUNDERS OF ST. GEORGE’S

Beyond Devereux Emmet, the founders of St. George’s were a group of highly influential and successful individuals. Below are brief biographies of just a few of these fascinating individuals.

William Thornton - St. George's first president (1917-1929).  He and his family made a vast fortune in the mining industry (Anaconda Copper Mining Co.) and many other businesses.  Educated at Columbia University, he sat on the boards of numerous influential corporations of his day.  He owned the largest estate in the area which consisted of 74 rooms and 30,000 square feet of space. 

Alonzo Potter - St. George's first treasurer.  After graduating from Yale, he made his fortune in the banking industry.  He was a director and principle in J.P. Morgan, Solomon Co. and other prominent banking firms of that era.  He had a 216 acre, 25 room, "Summer residence" on the Nissequogue river.  He was a benefactor to many charitable organizations and a member of many clubs such as the Knickerbocker Racquet & Tennis club, the Yale club and National Golf Links of America in Southampton.

Lawrence White - Son of noted architect Stanford White.  Lawrence was a graduate of Harvard College and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris.  He was an extremely prolific architect and senior partner in the acclaimed NYC architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White.  Served as president of the National Academy of Design and was a trustee of many organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Arts.  He served in the Navy during both World Wars and was decorated by the U.S., French and Italian governments for his service.

Eversly Childs - Was an extremely influential industrialist and philanthropist.  Among other businesses, he was president of the extremely profitable company that developed the well know cleanser - Bon Ami.  He was a founder & director of Technicolor and a director of both the Long Island Lighting Company and Chase bank.  His strong sense of civic responsibility and philanthropy led him to donate three landmark properties to the Three Village Community - West Meadow Beach, the Setauket Neighborhood House and Old Field Park.

George Zabriskie - After graduating from NYU at the age of 17 he received his law degree three years later from Columbia University.  Thereafter he became one of the most distinguished lawyers in NYC, practicing for over 50 years.  He was a partner in a prestigious Wall Street law firm that represented many of the noted corporations and individuals of his era.  He was an original incorporator of St. George's, the first secretary of the club and served as St. George's legal counsel for over 15 years.

Lawrence Butler - He was a noted member of the community with a substantial estate in Head of the Harbor.  He was a descendant of Richard "Bull" Smith (founder of Smithtown) and a nephew of Stanford White.  A graduate of Harvard & L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, he became an acclaimed local architect.  His many local buildings include the Town Hall of Smithtown, the Smithtown Library and St. George's 1930 clubhouse.  His best known legacy is probably the Bull Monument that stands at Smithtown's western entrance.  He was instrumental in the monuments creation and for it being situated at the intersection of routes 25 & 25A in Smithtown.

James Oxnard - Interestingly, the Oxnard family fortune was made in the sugar beet industry.  Among other locations, they had a large sugar beet refinery in Oxnard California - which was named after the family.  He was a classmate of Devereux Emmet's at Columbia University.  The headquarters of his business was in NYC and he had a summer estate in Head of the Harbor with sweeping views of the water.

John Childs - Was a horticulturalist who made a vast fortune in the mail-order flower business.  He founded and was the first mayor of Floral Park, Nassau County.  By 1917, he had relocated his business to St. James and developed the 1,000-acre property known as Flowerfield (now Gyrodyne).  From Flowerfield his company shipped bulbs and seeds to all corners of the globe.  Like many founders, his primary residence was in NYC and he had a large estate in the St. James area.

Archibald Brown - Was a celebrated NYC architect with the firm of Peabody, Wilson & Brown.  He designed many building throughout the region.  Brown's painting of our first clubhouse (the Williamson farmhouse) hangs today in our clubhouse.  It is one of the few historical artifacts not lost in our two clubhouse fires (1953 & 1969).  In 1911 he bought a sprawling piece of property in Head of the Harbor from Devereux & Ella Emmet.  Brown named the estate East Farm.  A portion of the estate is now owned by The Nature Conservancy and accessible to all as the East Farm Preserve.

 
ST. GEORGE’S CONNECTION TO THE NATIONAL GOLF LINKS OF AMERICA

As Alister MacKenzie often stated, “American golfers owe a debt of gratitude to Charles Blair Macdonald, who was the father of golf course architecture in America.”  C. B. Macdonald, after attending St. Andrews University where he befriended Old Tom Morris, built one of the most majestic and iconic courses in the world – The National Golf Links of America (NGLA).  As Herbert Warren Wind once exclaimed, The National simply is “a majestic monument” to golf. 
Interestingly, St. George's came about in part as a response to C.B. MacDonald building NGLA, which was located less than one mile from his estate.  It was MacDonald’s home course.  Devereux Emmet and MacDonald were good friends who hunted, traveled, and often worked together on golf course designs.  As part of MacDonald's preparation for the design of NGLA, he and Emmet took a lengthy trip to the British Isles.  They did extensive work measuring and surveying many of the great links holes of the British Isles.  Upon their return, Emmet assisted MacDonald and Seth Raynor on the building of National.  National opened in 1911 with Emmet being a founding member of MacDonald's brilliant new home course.

This is where St. George's comes in.  Emmet and MacDonald were not only good friends but also friendly competitors.  As such, Emmet decided he would build his own special home course near his sprawling estate in St. James.  So, in 1915 Emmet gathered a group of wealthy gentlemen in NYC to discuss building a course.  Thereafter, he conducted a study of various parcels of property and determined the present site would allow for the design of a superior golf course. He put extra time and effort into the design and construction of St. George's as it was to be the home course for him and his family for the rest of his life. And here we are today, some 100 years later with the same basic design.  Emmet's home course has truly withstood the test of time.
 

RECENT YEARS – THE RESTORATION

In 2011, St. George’s received a remarkable honor – inclusion in Golfweek magazine’s list of their Top 100 Courses in America.  Every year since 2011, St. George’s has been so honored.  There are approximately 6,000 courses in the U.S. that are included in the “classic” category (those built before 1960).  To be included in the Top 100 of that category is a reflection of the true intrinsic quality of St. George’s. 
How did this honor come about?  In large part, it is due to the recent restoration efforts at the Club.  Noted golf course architect Gil Hanse provided a detailed master plan to bring back the former glory of the course.  The essential components of the plan included; tree removal, fairway expansion, connecting of fairways, asphalt cart path removal and greens expansion. Also, rough was pushed back from around numerous bunkers to allow golf balls to freely flow into the bunkers.  Green Superintendent Adam Jessie fully embraced and executed the plan.
The purpose of the restoration was to unearth the true heart & soul of St. George’s - which is rooted in the great links courses of the British Isles.  As described by Golfweek’s Bradley Klein – “The effect (of the restoration), looking out from the clubhouse onto the property, is simply transformative. Of all the retro-movements in golf architecture of late, perhaps the most reveling is the widening of playing corridors to the point where they overspill onto one another.  That means less rough and more room for the ball to run askew.  It means the wind is a greater factor.  And it allows the moraine topography of the site to emerge synergistically rather than having to start over on every tee.”
Gil Hanse has done dozens of restorations and designed amazing new courses such as Castle Stuart in Scotland and the 2016 Olympic course in Rio.  Ran Morrissett of Golf Club Atlas describes Hanse’s restoration of St. George’s as follows – “As recently as 1995, noted course architect and critic Tom Doak was dismissive of St. George’s qualities because the course was shrouded in non-indigenous plantings which framed the greens and robbed the holes of the grandeur that existed in Emmet’s day.  Things took a turn for the best when the Club engaged Gil Hanse to provide a Master Plan. When the right Master Plan, Green Keeper and Board come together, great things can ensue – as they did here in grand fashion! Today’s course bears little resemblance to 1995’s and displays all the charm and character that existed when Emmet was alive.  Put another way, today it is easy to appreciate why Emmet became so enamored with the property and the one of a kind landforms that gave him the platform to build his defining work. With the guidance of Gil Hanse, and the execution of Superintendent Adam Jessie, the historic bones of the course have been uncovered for all to see.”