The Western Golf Association has donated to the USGA museum a collection of fifteen thousand early golf photos which now are believed to be the archives of Golf Illustrated magazine, which was published from 1914 – 1935. From the USGA:
Founded in New York City in 1914 as Golf Illustrated and Outdoor American, later shortened to Golf Illustrated in 1919, the monthly periodical was established to “furnish golfers with a wealth of reading and illustration” and featured instruction, tournament news, opinion, fashion advice, photographs and advertisements for the well-to-do player. The magazine published contributions from leading golfers and champions of the day like Francis Ouimet, Jerry Travers and Harold Hilton. Horace Hutchinson, Bernard Darwin and John G. Anderson were its exemplary early columnists. Golf Illustrated counted among its editors the influential architects Max Behr and A.W. Tillinghast. As a consequence, the magazine had strong leanings toward course architecture, and the resulting depth and breadth of architectural photos in its archive were not a coincidence.
Golf Illustrated ceased publishing in 1935, during the depths of the Great Depression, shortly after being purchased by the Hewitt Publishing Company, which owned an early version of Sports Illustrated (though not the more famous Sports Illustrated begun by Henry Luce in 1954). The final edition of the magazine in the USGA Library is the July/August 1935 issue, though there were plans for a September issue. After the magazine folded, very little is known about what happened to its photo archive, though the magazine itself remains one of the finest chronicles of golf in its “Golden Age.”
“We have always suspected that the collection of Golf Illustrated images was out there,” said Rand Jerris, director of the USGA Museum, “and we have always hoped that it would turn up some day.”
While there is no confirmation that this is in fact the Golf Illustrated collection, we believe it might be due to the information provided by the WGA and the content of the individual photographs.
“The story I heard was that the original Golf Illustrated went out of business in the 1940s and someone there donated [the archives] to the WGA,” said Gary Holaway, WGA communications director. “It clearly is a collection that would not have been expected to be in our archives, as almost all of the photos are unrelated to WGA events.”
What the USGA museum should do is to put all of its photo collections on the web. They do no one any good sitting in a vault at the USGA where only a few can see them. They need to be seen and enjoyed as a part of the heritage of everyone who plays the game. It also would do the USGA a great deal of good as a public relations ploy.