From The Club Future To The Golf Course Past

Melvin Lucas

Below is a letter Jeff Shelley received from Mel Lucas, Former GCSAA President. It hit home so much with Golf Course Trades love of history and memories that we had to let all read.


Enjoyed your recent article where you listed what clubs should do in preserving their history “Recent Golf News: Making the Rounds Part 24” . Having been [the superintendent] at Garden City Golf Club, the home course of Devereux Emmett and Walter Travis, I witnessed two different managers clean out storage areas in the clubhouse during their tenure. They threw out a lot of valuable ephemera. 

On one occasion, I saw bags being filled by the manager as he was cleaning out the storage lockers behind the bar. When I got to the club at 6:00 the next morning and well before the trash pickup, I did a “dumpster dive.” I will say that more than half the items had little to no value. However, for the avid golf collector I set aside a lot of desirable items, including many photos, none of which indicated who was in them.    

A good friend and former superintendent at another historic golf club noted bags of items in front of a manager’s office one morning. He remembered my story, looked inside, and fortunately found some very collectable items. 

Unfortunately, not all club managers are or were like Jim Brewer, the GM at Los Angeles Country Club. He maintained the finest collection of any private course in the U.S., as well as his own collection. Many club managers go through the ranks as bartenders, chefs or maître ds with fine operational skills running cruise ships, private city clubs, hotels, etc., They lack understanding that the reason a golf club exists is for the recreation it offers. Clubs built prior to 1945 have a lot of local, and even, national history. Some clubhouses endured devastating fires, losing many unique items. But too many clubs have had eager managers who want to run it strictly as a business. 

Clubs need to have a historian, someone who’s a well-respected member with a great understanding of the club. I know several club historians. They come from the ranks of individuals, such as yourself. They should be commissioned to be part of an annual audit of all major happenings every year to document milestones and store that information in advance of 25th, 50th and 100th written club histories. 

Related: Club Histories: Making the Rounds Part 20

I do not believe that Club Management Association of America education programs include a course involving the preservation of club histories. Michigan and Ohio State universities offer studies in the greenkeeping industry. 

I enjoy your articles, as they are right on. 


Mel Lucas
Former GCSAA President

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