Together with such pastimes as lawn tennis, archery, and trapshooting, some of these clubs began also to provide facilities for a game new to America. It was far more important than yachting, coaching, or polo. It was not for very long to remain, as Harper's Weekly termed it in 1895, "pre-eminently a game of good society." It was soon to give rise to a tremendous growth in country clubs which were to become the special prerogative of the great middle class in cities and towns throughout the country. This sport, of course, was golf.
It did not really take hold in this country, despite its hoary antiquity in Scotland and occasional attempts to introduce it on this side of the Atlantic ever since colonial days, until after 1888. The organization in that year of the St. Andrews Club, near New York, may well be taken as the first important date in golfs history in the United States. Other courses were built -- whatever number of holes was most convenient -- after St. Andrews had showed the way. Soon a great number of the country clubs about Boston, New York, and Philadelphia had their links. By 1892 golf was spreading westward. It took Chicago by storm and moved on to St. Louis, Milwaukee, Denver, and the Pacific Coast. In 1894 the United States Golf Association was formed.
No other game has evoked such scorn among the uninitiated. The democracy still considered tennis a rather feminine game, a chance to sport white flannels and gay-colored blazers rather than exercise. It simply did not know what to make of the absurd spectacle of enthusiastic gentlemen in scarlet coats furiously digging up the turf in frenzied -- and wholly serious -- efforts to drive a little white ball into a little round hole some hundreds of yards away. Nor were the red coats of these pioneer golfers the only article of costume that seemed singularly inappropriate on the rolling fairways of the new courses. They wore elaborate leg-wrappings to protect themselves from the gorse indigenous to Scottish hills but quite foreign to this country, and they pulled down over their foreheads visored caps in the best Sherlock Holmes tradition. Women had not yet taken up the game, although it was already being urged upon them as an admirable compromise between "the tediousness of croquet and the hurlyburly of lawn tennis," but together with wondering little boys who had been pressed into service as caddies, they often accompanied their lords and masters about the links. The public guffawed, little dreaming of golfs popularity in another two decades or of the public courses of today.