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Richardson: Golf in Camden
Kirkwood Golf Course Web
The Kirkwood Golf Course, circa 1910.

Springtime in the South comes with a guarantee of two things: great clouds of pollen and azaleas in full bloom. Springtime in the golf world means it’s finally time for the Masters. My husband, an avid, albeit average golfer, was glued to the television when the Masters was being played. It was nirvana for him when his spring break fell during Masters Week. He could watch it every minute it was on the air. Of course, he was watching and appreciating the game of golf. I, on the other hand, was gawking at the golf course at Augusta every time I passed through the den. What springtime glory! Those drifts of azaleas around the greens and fairways! Everywhere the camera lens landed, the course appeared like a fairy land. Augusta National is as much world class garden as it is a world class golf course.

My daughter, Anna, and her husband were given tickets to the Tuesday practice round last week. My son-in-law, Jarret, is a dedicated golfer and was thrilled to have the chance to walk the course all day. What I couldn’t picture was my daughter, who never had a golfing bone in her body, spending hours following the players around as they made their way to the 18th hole. Never underestimate what the beauty of Augusta National, a babysitter keeping their spirited 3-year-old son, and a date day with her husband can do to a girl!

She called me Tuesday night aglow with how she had spent her day in Augusta. The beauty of that golf course just enveloped her. She thought of how proud her Dad would have been of her for being there experiencing the Masters. They had egg salad sandwiches and beer from a vendor for lunch as they walked. August National even made Anna like egg salad, which she has always disdained. You would have thought she was experiencing five-star dining! The women on the course sported their Lilly Pulitzer best, as did Anna. It was a big garden party! On the way home she decided she wants to take golf lessons. What a day! Her Dad would be proud! Jarret is thrilled!

My work at the Camden Archives and Museum has made me appreciate the game of golf in a new way, too. When we did the Hotel Era exhibit, one of my sections was “Golf in Camden.” So, I diligently began the research and came to a new appreciation or the legacy Rogers L. Barstow left in Camden. Not only did Barstow establish the game of polo here in Camden, he also established the sport of golf here, along with Frank W. Eldredge of the Hobkirk Inn.

The first golf course in Camden was built by Eldredge and Barstow in 1897. It was laid out in the back of the Hobkirk Inn. The course was later expanded across Broad Street. The second section was on land in front of the Kirkwood Hotel. In 1904, the Kirkwood Golf Club had formed and they laid out a new course to the west and north of the Kirkwood Hotel. This course expanded to 18 holes in 1920, and constitutes the present-day Camden Country Club course. Another course, the Sarsfield Golf Course, was built near the Court Inn in 1909-10.

The Kirkwood course constituted 117 acres and was acquired by the Camden Country Club in 1944, just as the Kirkwood Hotel was being demolished. The Kirkwood course was originally designed by golf great Walter Travis (1862-1927). Travis, founder of <italic> The American Golfer, </italic> excelled as an amateur golfer early in the days of golf in America. In 1904, he won both the British and American Amateur Championships, much to the chagrin of the British. His first golf course design in 1899 led to his design of numerous other courses. Camden’s Travis course was implemented near the end of his long golf career.

Travis’ course was redesigned by Donald Ross (1872-1948) in 1939. It has been said Ross was “one of the most innovative, diverse, and risk-taking designer of his or any other era.” Perhaps Ross’ best known courses are Pinehurst and Pinehurst No. 2. Camden is fortunate to have had the two most prominent golf course architects of all time work on the Kirkwood Course.

You know, maybe I will drive over there to see what spring looks like at our golf course in Camden!