Oakhurst Links is a Public, 9 hole golf course located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
In 1878, Russell Montague moved to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in part for its "healing springs" and purchased property a couple of miles from the Greenbrier Resort -then called the Old White Hotel.
A few years later, Russell Montague offered his property as a site to build a golf course. The course was laid out and named "Oakhurst Links." By 1884, if not earlier, a golf club was formed consisting of Montague, Grant, Torrin, brothers Alexander and Roderick MacLeod and George Donaldson. Although often ignored in previous accounts of the early history of golf in the United States, Oakhurst Links predated the St. Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers by at least four years making it America's first organized golf club.
Members of the Oakhurst club played an annual tournament for the "Oakhurst Challenge Medal" - the oldest known tournament and recognized as the oldest known golf prize in the United States. A copy of the Oakhurst Challenge Medal is on display at the USGA Museum, Far Hill, NJ. Play on the Oakhurst Links faded around 1910 as the majority of the members moved away. Some returned to Scotland, and Russell Montague moved his primary residence to Richmond, Virginia where his son Cary resided. Cary would return to the Oakhurst estate to live - where golfing legend Sam Snead would become the catalyst for the eventual restoration of the golf course.
Lewis Keller, an excellent amateur golfer, had met and become friends with Sam Snead in the early 1950's. At Snead's urging, Keller considered purchasing a summer home in the White Sulphur Springs area. Aware of the historical significance of Oakhurst and that it was for sale, Snead suggested that Keller visit Oakhurst and meet Cary Montague. In 1959, Lewis Keller purchased Oakhurst from the founder's son.
The Keller family would use the property for many years as a summer home and breed thoroughbred horses. However, the land was otherwise undisturbed. Because of his love for golf, Keller had always dreamed of restoring the old Oakhurst Links. Finally, in 1992 a visit from golf writer Dick Taylor spurred his resolve. At the time he was working on a development project with noted golf course architect Bob Cupp, who provided both inspirational encouragement and technical advice. Bob Cupp offered to restore the golf course.
Working from old records passed down to him from Montague, Keller and Cupp began digging around the estate. The property had been untouched. Cupp and Keller were able to locate the site of the original tees and greens and had records of the historic course's routing. What resulted from this "labor of love," was a course of 2,235 yards restored to its 19th-century condition. The modern golfer must recall, however, that golf in the 1880's was played with a "gutta percha" ball - twenty years before the longer, wound "Haskell" ball. In 1884, a drive of 150 or 160 yards was considered quite good. The longest hole is 356 yards and the shortest is 106.
Keller's restoration didn't stop at the course itself. To "restore" the experience of the 19th-century game, he contacted club makers in St. Andrews, Scotland to produce the 1880's replica golf clubs and balls which players at Oakhurst use today.
On October 20, 1994, the course was re-opened for play, with Sam Snead and Karsten Solheim hitting the first commemorative shots and press from around the world in attendance. In 1998, the first annual National Hickory Championship was played at Oakhurst, attracting a field of 42 players from around the United States and Canada. In 2002 Oakhurst The Birth and Rebirth of America s First Golf Course was published in hardcover (Walker & Co., New York) chronicling the complete history of Oakhurst with the forward being written by Sam Snead.
Now it's 2009, 50 years after Lewis Keller bought the property and 15 years after the course was reopened. Oakhurst Links is up for sale -- the birthplace of American golf, where sheep roam the fairways and modern technology takes a back seat to hickory-shafted clubs.
The asking price for the nine-hole course and its museum -- $4.5 million.
Keller now 86 plans to step down from being the custodian of Oakhurst.
Oakhurst Links is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been closed to public play in both 2008 and this year.
Those who do get to play the course are required to use replica hickory clubs, hit gutta-percha balls and form tees from a mound of wet sand. Golfers walk the course among the sheep just as golfers did in the 19th century. To add to the authentic experience on this par-34, 2235-yard nine-hole course, players who adhere to the Royal and Ancient Rules of 1891 and pre-1900 custom carry their clubs (no bags) as they walk up and down the spectacular vistas of the West Virginia hills outside White Sulphur Springs.
The course's museum is full of snapshots of visits from golfers such as Snead, Lee Trevino, and Tom Watson, who is now the golf pro emeritus at the nearby Greenbrier resort. Keller is hosting an event with Watson at Oakhurst in mid-September 2009.
In 2012, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice bought Oakhurst Links and it became part of the resort.
(cart not included), played on Saturday, June 2009 at 6am
I have played this course in the National Hickory Championship for the last three years and will play every year I am able to do so. Fantastic Golf as it was meant to be played. Every one who plays golf should expirience Oakhurst Links.
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