The Illustrious History of St. George's Golf and Country Club

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The Illustrious History of St. George's Golf and Country Club

Walking onto the course at St. George's Golf and Country Club in Setauket, New York, you can see right away that this isn't your run-of-the-mill golf course. St. George's possesses a character that you won't find just anywhere, and that spirit touches every aspect of the club.

The unique nature of St. George's is tied to its impressive beginnings. The history of St. George's Golf and Country Club is the tale of a well-known architect and his desire to endow this course with a personal touch. The result of his endeavors is a legacy that has endured for over 100 years.

Architect Devereux Emmet

In the 19th century, the name Emmet was nearly synonymous with prestige. The Emmet family was considered one of the top families in America, a fact that was evidenced by its repeated inclusion in Ward McAllister's First Forty Families in America list.

Devereux Emmet, son of businessman William Emmet and grandson of prominent Judge Robert Emmet, was born in December of 1861. His family had money, and they had a prestigious reputation. Understandably, Devereux Emmet went to a respectable college and earned a respectable degree; he attended Columbia Law School, from which he graduated in 1885.

Unfortunately, practicing law did not capture young Emmet's fancy. Luckily for him, a new opportunity came along, and it was here that he would make his mark in history.

Family Connections

Emmet did not only come from a well-respected family. He also married into an impressive clan. His wife, born Ella Batavia Smith, was the daughter of a judge and the niece of a department store owner.

Her uncle, Alexander Stewart, also owned a company that began the suburban development of Long Island. Part of that project, known as Garden City, included the construction of a golf course. Every course needs an architect, and as a family member who had some interest in golf, Emmet was tasked with the project.

He designed the Garden City Golf Club, which opened just before the turn of the century. This might have been Emmet's first course, but it gained immediate attention. Within its first few years of operation, both the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open were played there.

With the success of Garden City, Emmet had found a new career path. He went on to design about 150 more golf courses during his lifetime. These included Salisbury Golf Club, Congressional Country Club, Huntington Crescent, Pelham Country Club and Cherry Valley. He even established golf courses on popular vacation islands in Cuba and the Bahamas.

Creation of St. George's

Emmet's wife's family owned land near the Smithtown area of Long Island, and she convinced her husband to move there. The area needed a golf club, so Emmet got to work designing one.

This would be his local course. Emmet knew that his friends and family would play there on a regular basis. The architect knew how to design great courses, but his personal investment in St. George's meant that the end result was something truly special.

Scottish Links Courses

Emmet designed St. George's with many of the characteristics of a traditional Scottish links course. In fact, he had previously traveled overseas to closely study those historic courses.

Although St. George's is not located in Scotland and isn't directly on the seacoast, it borrows heavily from the links tradition. Emmet designed the course to work with the area's natural landscape. Like a traditional links course, the holes are designed with the contours of the land in mind. Natural vegetation plays a key role in the layout and hazards of the course.

Golf's Golden Age

The time period in which St. George's was built also contributed to the impressive design of this course. The years from 1910 to 1937 are often considered the Golden Age of Golf.

During this time period, the popularity of the sport began to spread throughout the United States, and an impressively large number of new courses sprung up. Many of those courses are still popular today thanks to their classic yet challenging designs.

The creation of St. George's fell squarely within this era, so it comes as no surprise that Emmet and his team of distinguished co-founders produced a course that would withstand the test of time. The official opening of St. George's Golf and Country Club was on June 23, 1917.

Hard Times and Loyal Enthusiasts

When St. George's opened, the United States had just become involved in World War I. Not too many years later, the country sank into the depths of the Great Depression. St. George's easily could have gone under.

Fortunately, there were generous people who still believed in the value of a local golf club in this Long Island community. Thanks to a large donation from the owner of the Thom McAn shoe company, who was the president of St. George's at that time, the course stayed afloat.

In later years, as World War II raged, the viability of St. George's once again came into question. Thankfully, the club's leadership at the time chose to leave the doors open.

St. George's Today

Despite these ups and downs, in 2017, St. George's celebrated its 100th anniversary. During the last century, updates have been made to the course and the facilities, but Devereux Emmet's original design still shines through.

Over time Emmet's vision had faded with the over planting of trees and other changes to the course. However, in 2008, course architect Gil Hanse was tasked with the job of restoring the historic feel of St. George's. The result was an unquestionable success.

This is largely evidenced by a great honor that has been bestowed on St. George's annually since 2011. Golfweek has chosen to list St. George's among its rankings of the top 100 Best Classic Courses in America. Around the country, therefore, golf enthusiasts recognize St. George's as a magnificent place to play.

To get a feel for what St. George's is like today, watch the following video:

100 years ago, St. George's was an impressive course to play, and it remains that way today. Devereux Emmet's careful crafting still endows this course with a historic feel that you can't get just anywhere.

There's a sense of satisfaction that comes from playing a course that offers game-improving challenges, scenic beauty and a historic legacy. St. George's delivers all of those. For your opportunity to explore Emmet's design, contact us about becoming part of the St. George's family.
Posted: 8/31/2018 2:30:20 PM by Brian Curtin | with 0 comments

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