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The MacDonald boys playing golf by Jeremiah Davison

The country that would eventually become the United States of America was a hodgepodge of culture and opportunity in the 18th century. Some cities, many of which were founded by Spanish explorers in centuries prior, were thriving and growing. Others were just starting out, and its citizens had no idea of the historical impact their small town would eventually make upon the U.S. and the world.

One of those sleepy little towns was Augusta, Georgia. Founded in 1738, Augusta would eventually become famous as the home of golf’s most prestigious event: The Masters.

 

The Origins of Golf in America

There is evidence which indicates that golf, or at least a primitive form of it, was popular among Dutch settlers in what is now upstate New York as early as 1650. Known as “kolf,” the game was quickly regulated, first by being banned on Sundays. In 1659, Albany city officials issued an ordinance prohibiting kolf on the city streets, due to high instances of broken windows.

A strong and accurate golf swing remains the primary tool in any golfer’s arsenal, but the technique took years to refine. One of the earliest records of golf clubs in America dates to 1739, when William Wallace, a businessman in Charleston, South Carolina, ordered a shipment of clubs from a manufacturer in Scotland.

 

Recreational Activities of Early U.S. Settlers

Although life was somewhat rough for the early settlers of America, they had plenty of time for leisure. Along with golf, early Americans played dice and card games, danced and participated in bare-knuckle boxing matches, the majority of which weren’t regulated in any way. It was British settlers who brought boxing to the Americas, along with the sport’s first “code of rules” in 1743.

 

Augusta: Battleground of Champions

Augusta was the second city, after Savannah, to be established in the Province of Georgia, a prominent geographic area that was later divided into the states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. And if it weren’t for Savannah, Augusta may not exist at all.

Eighteenth-century British settlers desired better protection for the capital port city of Savannah, which they felt was vulnerable to French and Spanish attacks. The result was Augusta, 128 miles away and safely landlocked, yet connected by the Savannah River.

Battles were indeed fought in Augusta during the Revolutionary War, the most famous of which is 1781’s Siege of Augusta. It was not the Spanish or French that threatened Augusta, however, but American patriots united against the British Empire. The patriots ultimately prevailed in June 1781, when British forces under commander Thomas Brown surrendered to American forces.

Decades later, champion golfer Bobby Jones selected the city of Augusta as the location for his passion project, a dream golf course. His Augusta National Golf Club was completed in January 1933. Jones chose Augusta for many of the same reasons as those early British settlers: the lush, green fields and rolling hills that protected the first Americans also make for exceptional golfing conditions.

Some say that Jones’ project revitalized the city. Those who traveled to Augusta in 2018 for the Masters praised the city’s delicious food, gorgeous scenery, and interesting history as additional perks, along with world-class golfing.

 

Celebrating Golf and History in Augusta

Today, the Augusta Museum of History chronicles the city’s rise from an obscure defense barrier to the traditional home of the world’s most renowned golfing tournament. Two miles away, visitors can tour what the Smithsonian has dubbed the “finest 18th-century house surviving in Georgia,” the Ezekiel Harris House, built in 1797.

 

About the Author:

Frankie Wallace contributes to a wide variety of blogs and writes about many different topics, including politics and the environment. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho and is a recent graduate of the University of Montana.