Tuesday History: Golf takes full swing in Asheville

FORE: The popularity of golf was slow to pick up in Asheville, until it was recognized as a way to attract tourists. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

This week will be our final post from Edwin Bedford Jeffress’ 1950 Asheville Citizen article, titled “Jeffress, Former Newspaperman Here, Describes Asheville of 1908-1911.” In this excerpt, Jeffress writes about the arrival of golf to Asheville and its impact on the location of the Grove Park Inn. Click here for last week’s look at local politics, as well as the arrival of Asheville’s first automobile.

Thanks as always to the Pack Memorial Library’s Special Collections, North Carolina Room for its assistance.

On March 26, 1950, Jeffress wrote:

Asheville was slow to take up the great game of golf. The Asheville Country Club was at the foot of Sunset Mountain. There was a nine-hole golf course there, but the standard course had become 18 holes. The Southern Railway, in bringing people to Asheville, naturally found resistance on the part of travelers on account of the lack of a good golf course. As always, in the spring there was a considerable movement of tourists to Asheville from Florida. They came to enjoy the mountain climate after Florida had warmed up. It was a sort of conditioning for returning to the cooler northern climates.

S.H. Hardwick, of the Southern Railway passenger department, came to Asheville under auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, and in an open meeting put the matter up to the citizens. As a result, a complete change occurred. Instead of one being regarded as a freak if he played golf, or wore knickers or subscribed to stock in the Asheville Country Club, he became a patriot. It was a popular thing to do. If that was what Asheville needed to keep its spring business, it helped greatly until the summer crowds started toward the mountains. As a result of this revival of interest in golf the Asheville club expanded to the full 18 holes.

TEE TIME: This photo was used as part of the Grove Park Inn's brochure, circa 1915. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina
TEE TIME: This photo was used as part of the Grove Park Inn’s brochure, circa 1915. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

One afternoon, at the suggestion of Secretary Randolph of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, I accompanied him and a group of citizens, including E.W. Grove, to the top of Sunset Mountain to a point on the eastern end of the ridge. Mr. Grove designated this as the spot for his new hotel [The Grove Park Inn, which opened, July 1, 1913], which he planned to build. Later I learned the reason that he selected a site at the bottom of the mountain. It was because his St. Louis bankers vetoed the site on top of the mountain because they feared that the hotel would not succeed unless it was on a site at the foot of the mountain facing the new golf course and had a patronage spread uniformly over the year. No doubt the new golf course helped to bring this development to Asheville.

 

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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