Welcome To Downers Grove

Scotland is known as the birthplace of golf because it is believed the sport was first played there in 1774. However, the game was not introduced to North America until the late 19th century. In fact, one might be surprised to learn the nation’s first 18-hole golf course was built in Downers Grove, Ill.

Downers Grove Golf Club is rich in history. Photos Courtesy of Downers Grove Park District

The legendary Chicago Golf Club was established in 1892 by a group of businessmen on the site of the current Downers Grove Golf Club.

The founding father of the Chicago Golf Club was Charles Blair Macdonald, who has also been credited with having great influence in establishing the United States Golf Association, and developing golf-course architecture in the U.S.

Early in 1892, Macdonald—motivated by England’s Sir Henry Wood, Commissioner General to the Chicago World’s Fair—persuaded 30 of his Chicago Club colleagues to contribute $10 each to design and construct a 9-hole golf course.

The site chosen was a 60-acre stock farm owned by A. Haddow Smith—a Lanarkshire golfer who had immigrated in 1890 to the U.S. from Musselburg, Scotland. When Smith heard of Macdonald’s plan, he enthusiastically offered his land as the location for the new course.

Build It Bigger

The golf course was completed and ready for play in late spring of 1892. When the inaugural season ended, Macdonald convinced the club’s members to add nine more holes to the course. So, in 1893, it became the first 18-hole golf course in the U.S.

By 1895, Chicago Golf Club members had become so taken with the sport that they decided to build a new 18-hole course on 200 acres located near Wheaton, Ill. The Chicago Golf Club was then moved, and is still in existence there today.

Between 1895 and 1968, the site of the Downers Grove Golf Club (which eventually reverted to 9 holes) was owned by several individuals, and known as the Illinois Golf Club in the late 1890s, and then operated under the name of Belmont Country Club. In 1968, the course was purchased by the Downers Grove Park District for $750,000 and renamed the Downers Grove Golf Club.

The golf course’s rich soil provides for a robust variety of trees and plants.

Both the original and second clubhouses were destroyed by fire, the first in the 1920s and the second in 1976. The current clubhouse is its fourth, constructed in 1996.

Major renovations and upgrades to the course were made throughout the 1990s, including the addition of a driving range, rebuilt greens, and new tees and fairways. This year marks the 120th season on the course.

Bountiful Soil

Not only is Downers Grove rich in history, but also in its ground soil. Golf Club Superintendent Jeff Pozen says one of the greatest advantages of having such an old course to maintain is the high quality of soil available to grow turf grass.

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