The Five Founding Clubs of the USGA

Shinnecock Hills is one of the five founding clubs of the USGA

"The Five Founding Clubs" refers to the five golf clubs that, in 1894, got together to create the United States Golf Association (USGA). Those clubs are Newport Country Club, Chicago Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, The Country Club (in Brookline, Mass.) and Saint Andrew's Golf Club (in New York, not Scotland).

This quintet of clubs is sometimes called "The Founding 5" or "the Five Founders," in addition to the Five Founding Clubs.

How the Five Founding Clubs Created the USGA

Here is the list of the five founders with their locations and year they were founded:
  • Chicago Golf Club: This club is located in Wheaton, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and was founded in 1892.
  • The Country Club: In Brookline, Massachusetts, founded in 1882.
  • Newport Country Club: In Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1893.
  • Shinnecock Hills Golf Club: In Southampton, New York, on Long Island, and founded in 1891.
  • Saint Andrew's Golf Club: Located in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, now a New York City bedroom community, and founded in 1888.
How did these five clubs come together to form the USGA? Two of them had an argument.

The golf scene in America was just getting started in the early 1890s, but there was already talk of holding a national amateur championship tournament. In 1894, both Newport and Saint Andrew's staged tournaments that they called national amateur championships.

But they couldn't both be the national amateur championship. Nobody outside those two clubs, not even the two winners of those events, knew who to call the true national champ. The need for a governing body of golf for the United States became clear through this argument between the two clubs.

On Dec. 22, 1894, representatives from the five clubs convened in New York city and agreed to create that governing body. They named it the United States Golf Association. The next year, Charles B. Macdonald won the first, official U.S. Amateur Championship tournament, played at Newport.

The Five Founding Clubs Today

Four of the founding five remain famous clubs today. Saint Andrew's Golf Club in New York is much less well-known. It has never hosted a USGA championship, and remains a very private club. Up until the 1970s, it did not allow anyone who was not a Presbyterian of Scottish descent to join!

The original golf course at Saint Andrew's was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1983 and has been updated by Nicklaus since. Although the club isn't as well-known as the other founders, it remains a historic place.

The other founding clubs are more famous because they all have been the site of major championships through the years.

Shinnecock Hills is on the USGA's schedule to host a U.S. Open in 2026, after staging one in 2018. It has been the site of the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women's Open and the Walker Cup, as well.

Chicago Golf Club was chosen as the site of the very first U.S. Senior Women's Open in 2018. Over the years, it has also staged the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Senior Amateur, U.S. Women's Amateur and Walker Cup.

Newport CC was the place where both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open were first played in 1895. Since then, it has been the site of one of Tiger Woods' U.S. Amateur wins, plus the U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Senior Open.

The Country Club (often referred to as The Country Club at Brookline, or just Brookline) was the site of Francis Ouimet's shocking win in the 1913 U.S. Open, and of Team USA's stirring comeback win in the 1999 Ryder Cup. Other U.S. Opens have taken place there, too, and are scheduled; the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur have also been staged in Brookline.

Photo credit: "File:Shinnecock Hills GC 02.jpg" by Peetlesnumber1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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