Club History

The Harmonie Club of New York had existed for over sixty years with very few changes in the way they conducted social events and the business of the club. There had been relocations to various sites in Manhattan culminating in its establishment at its current site on East 59th Street. Dinners and dances were held and there was an illustrious list of luminaries who provided guest speeches for the membership. The formality of the club in the late 1800’s was impressive by anybody’s standards. Club minutes were still recorded in German until the 1890’s, but by the start of the 20th century the club was about to embrace a new trend from its European roots. Golf was about to become a new passion of the club.
In late 1912, President Emil Goldmark and the board of the Club tersely dismissed a proposal from fifty of the younger members to have “golf courts” built in the main clubhouse. But the seed had been planted and clearly the old guard realized that the younger members were starting to develop different interests and by 1913, a committee had been established to search for a country club to cater for these new outdoor activities. By early 1914, the search had ended at an ideal property on the east shore of Hempstead Harbor at the Glenwood Country Club. Henry Calman, the Chairman of the Country Club Committee presented a letter to this effect to the Club Board on February 26th, 1914 and within a month the Harmonie Club owned the golf course they had been seeking.

Glenwood had a short and tumultuous history. It was built by the Crescent Athletic Club of Brooklyn in 1911 after buying the former estate of Judge Townsend Scudder. Golf was really starting to get a grip on the United States at this time and architecture in particular had been given a new prominence with the unveiling of the National Golf Links of America in September of 1911. During the construction of National, Devereaux Emmet was to become a keen observer of the work of Charles B. Macdonald and his engineer, Seth Raynor. It is fair to say that Emmet became engrossed with the architectural process and he was convinced that a work of real architectural importance had been created by Macdonald and Raynor. Glenwood became one of the first courses designed by Emmet though it would hardly rank as one of his best. The work at National provided him with the inspiration for the architecture of Glenwood, and in a piece written in 1913 about the work in progress, Emmet stated that “the bunkers should look like those of the National Golf Links of America”.

The golf course was not particularly well received however, and before long it was experiencing severe financial problems. This proved to be the Harmonie Club’s good fortune however and they purchased Glenwood for the princely sum of $390,000 on March 13, 1914 and it was immediately renamed the North Shore Country Club. In short order, the new owners realized that the golf course needed a lot of work. Emmet was still relatively inexperienced in building golf courses when he completed Glenwood and it was determined that the course needed a major renovation. The Country Club Committee of the Harmonie Club continued their work to deliver the best golf experience to its membership. After some consultation with a local golf professional by the name of Isaac Mackie on what work needed to be done to the course, he improbably estimated that only $1,500 was needed to get the course into “perfect” shape. The Board thought otherwise and immediately authorized a $25,000 expenditure for the renovation of the course.Robert White was hired by the club in December of 1914. White was an excellent addition to the staff of the club and would shortly make a name for himself as the first President of the PGA. The St. Andrews native
had come to the United States in 1894 and during tenures in Boston, Cincinnati and Chicago, he established himself as an expert Greenskeeper as well as being a more than capable golf professional. Insuring that the club was run properly while a major renovation was underway was clearly veryimportant to the Board of the club and they could do no better than hiring a man of the caliber of Robert White.
By June of 1914, there were already 381 members of the club. The club pushed ahead with the plans for the renovation of the golf course, and a development at the end of 1914 would insure
that North Shore would take a bold step towards becoming a great golf course. On November the 5th of that year, the club hired an advisor for the improvement of the existing course and for that task, $400 was paid to a rising star in the field of golf architecture – Mr. Seth J. Raynor.

Raynor began as a humble engineer in Southampton, albeit from one of the most established families in the area; one of theoriginal settlers from the early 1600’s. The legendary Charles B. Macdonald, considered the godfather of modern golf architecture had undertaken the task of building the National Golf Links of America and to assist in that monumental task, he hired Raynor, perhaps purely out of convenience. Raynor entered the project at the very beginning in 1907, and quickly became Macdonald’s most trusted colleague and advisor. National was an architectural tour de force and after its opening in 1911, the pair promptly embarked on the construction, among others, of Piping Rock and Sleepy Hollow.

By 1914 work had commenced on what many would consider to be Macdonald and Raynor’s finest work. The Lido Club was an engineering marvel that many consider to be the finest golf course that is no longer in existence. Raynor not only shared credit for the architecture with Macdonald, but he also oversaw the construction of this masterpiece. As luck would have it, Raynor and Macdonald were spending their efforts on creating Piping Rock and The Lido Club at exactly the time that the Harmonie Club needed advice on the reconstruction of North Shore Country Club. Raynor was a natural choice for the task.
A week after Raynor was hired, Robert White’s role in the project was solidified. As well as being the Golf Professional, he was to be the Greenskeeper of the old course as well as to superintend the construction of the new course under Raynor. The team was coming together and the plans were advanced at a rapid rate. By Christmas the new routing was at an advanced stage and it was decided that the woods at the eastern end of the property would be utilized in the new routing. By the end of January 1915, the plans were finalized and a budget of $37,500 was set for construction costs as well as a payment of $1,800 to Raynor for his plan.

Evidently the construction of the course caused a great deal of excitement at the Harmonie Club and in the golf community in general. North Shore was being built by the best architects of the day while they were building the greatest golf courses of their careers. The plans were laid out in the office of the Harmonie Club and judging by the membership rolls of the club, there was incredible excitement about the upcoming transformation.
There is scant evidence of the progress of the work other than periodic updates noted in the Club minutes throughout 1915. The partnership had a history of working without much fanfare for various reasons. Raynor seems to have been a relatively unassuming, though driven man. Macdonald liked to strictly adhere to the amateurism which was very important to many of his era. In fact, he didn’t accept any financial compensation for his work; something unthinkable in today’s world. An important update was received in the last week of 1915, and that was that the new course would be ready for play by Memorial Day of 1916 and that it would be finished under budget.

President Henry Calman reaffirmed the club’s satisfaction with the work in an official announcement to the members in March of 1917. In this message he formally thanked Raynor and Macdonald for the work on the new course. Mr. Calman eloquently put it this way:
“I know I am only voicing the sentiment of all of our members in expressing gratification at the result accomplished which has, at one bound, placed us in line with the golf links recognized as the best in the United States. We, of course, were greatly favored in the matter by the remarkable natural advantages offered by our land, but no results like those accomplished could have been achieved without the genius of those responsible, namely: Mr. Seth J. Raynor, Mr. C.B. Macdonald and Mr. Robert White.”

When we go forward to the present day it is hard to believe that North Shore Country Club has been in existence for nearly 100 years. In that time there has been a thriving membership and a real sense of community. Some changes have happened to the golf course, which unquestionably effected the original intent of the architecture; a normal process in the evolution of a golf course. With the new ownership in place in 2010, a remarkable full circle has occurred. Despite the challenging times of an unprecedented recession, the club survived and just as Seth Raynor and Charles Macdonald fortuitously built the gem that was to be North Shore, the greatest golf architect of the our generation agreed to restore North Shore to its former grandeur. That architect is Tom Doak.
Doak’s resume is beyond parallel. With many golf courses in the “top 100” lists, his greatest works to date have been Pacific Dunes in Oregon, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, and Ballyneal in Colorado. But he has built two golf courses in the last five years which makes his involvement in North Shore that much more fitting. In 1996, Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York was opened to incredible fanfare and fantastic reviews. It is considered to be one of the greatest golf courses built in the last fifty years in the United States. What is significant to the North Shore story is that Sebonack is on the same piece of land as, and connected to, the National Golf Links of America. That connection is quite astonishing. All three North Shore architects working on the same piece of land building two wonderful golf courses almost one hundred years apart.
The second golf course in question is literally receiving its grand opening on the day that this missive is being written. Old Macdonald is the fourth course at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and adjoins Doak’s famed Pacific Dunes. The name is no coincidence; the course is homage to the work of Macdonald and Raynor with versions of the classic holes that they made famous at all of their courses, including at North Shore Country Club. Though the public has yet to sample Old Macdonald in large numbers, the course has already received accolades that can be described as nothing less than spectacular. Given Tom Doak’s connections to the work of these architects of yesteryear it is right and correct that he restored their work at North Shore.