Golf In Augusta — In 1899
Even before Bobby Jones selected the Fruitland Nursery for his Augusta National Golf Course, the town of Augusta was known for its golf. In an 1899 issue of Golf Monthly, a review of courses in the South noted the Hotel Bon Air, and its accompanying golf course.
The Hotel Bon Air Golf Club consisted of nine holes, and was 3, 300 yards long. In 1900, it was renamed the Country Club of Augusta. The Country Club of Augusta then commissioned a new 18-hole course designed by David Ogilvie (aided by Seth Raynor). The “Lake Course” consisted of eight holes on the west side of Milledge Road, and ten on the east side. The ten on the east side comprised the original nine of the Hotel Bon Air course, along with a new tenth hole constructed there. The combined 18 holes was the first full course in Augusta.
The present clubhouse of the Augusta Country Club was built in 1903. A second eighteen hole course, the Hill, was built later. The club now has just a single 18-hole layout, which was redesigned by Donald Ross in 1927.
As for the Hotel Bon Air, it burned in a fire on February 3, 1921. It was replaced by a Spanish Revival building in 1924. The renamed Bon Air-Vanderbilt Hotel survives to this day as low income housing.
The text of the 1898 travel entry follows:
Has really one of the best courses in the South. It is under the management of the Hotel Bon Air, a thoroughly first-class establishment. Mr. C. G. Trussel, the manager came into my office a few weeks ago and satisfied me that golfers who visit this resort will make no mistake.
The links were laid out last year, but the course has been considerably improved and the 9 holes now cover a distance of over a mile and a half, embracing some excellent natural hazards.
The turf is firm and absorbent, and those who have played it say that excellent lies are obtained throughout the entire length of the course. A professional is employed, and no expense is spared to keep the golf links thoroughly up to the mark. The winter climate of Augusta is uniformly even, and out of door life is practicable and enjoyable at all times.
Today, The Augusta Country Club backs up to the more famous Augusta National Golf Course. As you might expect, photos of the club show that the two share quite similar terrain.
Most of us will never get the chance to play Augusta National. But maybe … just maybe … you could convince a member of the Augusta Country Club to share a round on Augusta’s oldest course.