Golf and the American Country Club
- List Price: $24.95
- Binding: Hardcover
- Publisher: Univ of Illinois Pr
- Publish date: 06/01/2001
- ISBN: 9780252026423
- ISBN10: 025202642X
The founders of the early country clubs sought to counter the nationalization and standardization of American life by creating closed, controlled communities that reminded them of the village America being snuffed out by industrialization. Initially little more than informal groups of friends playing golf in pastures and orchards, country clubs were soon draped in "instant" history and prestige and their members distinguished by uniform dress. By 1901, the country clubs that had sprouted all over the country had undergone another change, becoming "country estates" in the suburbs where the prosperous registered their social status.
The transformation of the club from country retreat to suburban playground went hand in hand with a widespread shift in attitudes toward health and sport. Golf was perceived as a democratic game, one that was physically sedate enough to accommodate players of both genders and all ages and that employed a handicap system to level the playing field. Other factors spurred the growth and expansion of country clubs in the 1920s: the advent of professional golf architects, the rise of public golf courses, increased discretionary time and income for many Americans, and a shift away from the Protestant ethic of deferred gratification toward values that justified increased leisure and pleasure.
The Depression brought this expansion to a screeching halt. After World War II the business of golf changed, with public and privatedaily-fee courses, corporate country clubs, and gated golfing communities, as on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, presenting steep competition for the private clubs. Moreover, the clubs confronted demands for equal access by minorities and women.
Pairing a conversational tone with rock-solid scholarship, Golf and the American Country Club offers a readable and even-handed treatment of a venerable and controversial American institution.