Golf and the American Country Club

Golf and the American Country Club

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Description

In this entertaining cultural history, Richard J. Moss explores the circumstances that led to the firm establishment of the country club as an American social institution and its inextricable connection to the ancient, imported game of golf. 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 private daily-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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 232 pages
  • 160 x 237 x 21.3mm | 567.32g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 025202642X
  • 9780252026423

Review quote

"The title of [Moss's] thoughtful and informative book precisely states his double subject: the evolution of golf as one of the most important American sports and the emergence of the country club as an important (and often misunderstood) social institution... It is in this patient exploration of the interaction between game and club that one finds the richest source for perceptive observations and insights." -- John Dizikes, Journal of American History ADVANCE PRAISE "At last, the lacuna has been filled. Richard Moss has provided us with a thoroughly researched and gracefully written account of the relationship between golf and the American country club. This book is a must for country club linksters and scholars alike." -- Benjamin G. Rader, author of Baseball: A History of America's Game "Golf and The American Country Club tells us how elite, white Victorian America nurtured a game that made Tiger Woods a household name. In doing so, it provocatively offers the country club 'as part of the social capital that makes democracy possible,' despite its reputed history as a privileged, exclusive place for fat-cat Protestant white American men." -- Peter Levine, author of Ellis Island to Ebbets Field: Sport and the American Jewish Experience "Golf and the American Country Club is an immensely interesting history concerning a subject intrinsic to the art form of designing golf courses. The business world of golf yearns for history related to its industry, and this volume provides historic information that business people seek." -- Geoffrey S. Cornish, past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects
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