Foxburg Golf Course

Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

The game of golf has been played in the United States in some form since 1786. Although most early golf courses have disappeared, one venerable course remains, and it’s in Pennsylvania! In fact, the Foxburg Country Club in Foxburg, Clarion County, is the oldest golf course in the country in continuous use. It was established in 1887 by Joseph Mickle Fox (1853-1918) adjacent to his summer home in Foxburg, about sixty miles north of Pittsburgh. A mem­ber of the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, Mont­gomery County, Fox visited Great Britain in June 1884 with the club’s team, the Gentlemen of Philadelphia, to participate in a number of cricket matches. After a match in Edinboro, Scotland, Fox was invited by friends to travel to St. Andrews to watch the game of golf being played. He was so taken by the game that he asked the pro, Tom Morris Sr., to teach him, and he brought clubs and gutta percha (a type of latex or rubber) golf balls back to America.

For a time Fox played on the lawns and meadows of his family’s summer home in Foxburg. Friends and neighbors were so fascinated by the game that the Fox estate could not accommodate all those who were interested, and so Fox provided land, rent-free, upon which to build a golf course. The course opened in 1887, with Fox as its first president and Harry R. Harvey as secretary. (Har­vey remained secretary for fifty-four years, and golfed at the course well into his eighties.) Dues were set at one dollar a year. A year later women organized their own club, which also used the course. The nine-hole golf course was rudimentary by today’s standards – one early account indicates that “old John Dunkle” was paid fifteen dollars yearly to mow the fairways with a scythe. The original “greens” were sand, which had to be raked after each use, and the holes were fashioned from quart-sized tomato cans. A small clubhouse was erected near the ladies’ tee for the ninth hole, and in 1924 the club purchased the original land that it had been leasing.

A pic­turesque log clubhouse, built in 1912 as a private residence, was acquired in 1942. The building houses the Ameri­can Golf Hall of Fame, founded by the Tri-State Professional Golfers’ Association, which exhibits a priceless collection of golf clubs, documents, photographs, trophies, and memorabilia chronicling the four-hundred­-year history of golf. Both the links and the museum are open to the public from April 1 to October 31.