If you are a golfer – or maybe just someone with an interest in sports history – the Golf Museum at James River Country Club has just what you’re looking for.
Among hundreds of other artifacts detailing the game’s earliest days are a Simon Cossar putter from 1790, the world’s oldest identifiable club.
One of the oldest golf balls? It’s there behind glass. So is a long-nosed putter made by Old Tom Morris, the putter used by Horace Rawlins to win the first U.S. Open in 1895, and the clubs and bag used by Harry Vardon when he won our Open five years later.
The best part: it costs nothing – repeat, nothing -- to see them.
How did this Museum come to be in Newport News, hardly a golf mecca?
Around 1930, philanthropist Archer M. Huntington, then principal owner of Newport News Shipyard, worked with Homer L. Ferguson to build the city’s Mariners Museum. At the same time. Huntington offered to build a country club for some local businessmen.
Undaunted, Huntington then offered to build a Museum at the club. Once approved, Huntington dispatched an employee of Scottish descent back to his home country, tasking him to return with as many items as he could purchase. At that time, people didn’t collect golf artifacts, so Huntington’s man brought back a treasure chest that the Museum added to when items fit its mission to display items from about 1860 to the early 1930s.
The Museum owns the “brassie” (2-wood) used by the legendary Bobby Jones to win golf’s Grand Slam. It also has in its possession the oldest book referencing golf, a 1556 volume of Scottish laws called The Black Arts. That’s one of more than 1,000 volumes in the collection.
While spacious, the room housing the Museum is intimate enough that it is a popular venue for wedding receptions, meetings and other events. That being said, it is imperative that visitors call first to ascertain that the museum is not in use. The phone number is (757) 595-3327 (clubhouse).
Photo courtesy of the Golf Museum at James River Country Club.