Under Troon management, the historic club is teeing off to a greener future
By Ilene Dube | Images courtesy of Springdale Golf Club
Some describe it as “a good walk spoiled” (a quote falsely attributed to Mark Twain*). Others call it “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (such was the title of a book and film about golf champion Francis Ouimet). Princeton’s most famous resident, Albert Einstein, reportedly said of the sport: “Tried it once. Too complicated. I quit.”
While modern golf originated in 15th-century Scotland, the game can be traced to the Song Dynasty in China during the years 960 to 1279. The Dutch and the Romans may have also played an early form of the game.
Today, the rate of attrition for old-time golfers exceeds the number joining from a younger generation, and consequently more courses are closing than are opening. But at Princeton’s Springdale Golf Club, celebrating 125 years of operation, membership is surging.
Open exclusively to its 400-plus members, as well as Princeton University students and faculty — the University owns the land and the club has a long-term lease — the bucolic enclave with a gothic tower at its center is only viewable to most of us while driving along Alexander Street, or possibly taking our children and grandchildren sledding on its hill. On special occasions, Springdale opens its doors to the community for special events, fundraisers, and charity golf outings. Cross-country skiing is permitted on the fairway, though not on the greens.
Paris has Notre Dame Cathedral, Pittsburgh has its Cathedral of Learning, and in Princeton the Gothic spires of Cleveland Tower loom over the course at Springdale. Part of the Graduate College, Cleveland Tower was designed by Ralph Adams Cram (architect of New York’s St. John the Divine Cathedral) as a memorial to President Grover Cleveland, who served as a University trustee following his retirement from public life, and is home to one of the world’s largest carillon organs.
Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland were pals but competitive, says Springdale’s Board of Governors President Kevin Tylus, and the two presidents bickered over where to put the tower. Wilson wanted it in town, and Cleveland ultimately consented that it could be anywhere as long as it bore his name. more