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timeline for Willie Dunn, Jr.

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Joe Bausch:
At the bottom of this post is a blurb from the 1896 Philly Inquirer where improvements to the original Philly Country Club are attributed to Willie Dunn.  I'm assuming this is Willie Dunn, Jr.

A quick Google search trying to learn more about Willie brought up this info from the following web page:

In the opinion of many historians, Willie Dunn's influence on American golf is grossly underestimated. He was an architect, an instructor, a tournament player and a businessman. Though his many contributions were subtle, he has provided us with a legacy that is unequivocally important.

His story is more a family story than anything else. Willie was son of one of the famous bothers "Dunnie" whose exploits on the links against Old Tom and Allan Robertson live at the heart of early golf professionalism. By the time he was 13 he was working for his older brother Tom as an apprentice golf club maker and later plied Willie his trade in North Berwick. He began to forge his own career while professional at Westward Ho! for two years (1886-88) before moving to Biarritz, France where he was instructing wealthy patrons when he met the American millionaire W.E. Vanderbilt.

It was Vanderbilt who sponsored Willie' first trip to the United States in 1893 where he spent the summer giving lessons at the Newport (Rhode Island) Golf Club. After wintering at his regular position at Biarritz, he returned to America where he won the first, but unofficial, championship of America in 1894. Coming in second in 1895, he found America ripe for golf and settled here permanently.

His first professional position was at the Ardsley Country Club, Ardsley, New York where he designed the course and settled down to a club making business in 1896. Also about this time, he was joined by his nephew, John Duncan Dunn who emigrated from England where he had been engaged with the firm of Dunn Brothers.

John D. Dunn assisted Willie with the business at Ardsley and soon a full retail shop was opened in New York City. Later, the two would be joined by Seymour Dunn, John D.'s younger brother.

With a bloodline as important as his, Willie found himself a valuable commodity. American firms were rapidly expanding into the club making business, desperately trying to keep up with the soaring demand and Willie was sought out by several. One of the earliest entries to the domestic club business was B.G.I. who employed Willie as their club designer in 1897. Replacing himself at B.G.I. with John D., he moved on to Crawford, McGregor and Canby in Dayton within the year and also briefly worked for Spalding , all before 1900.

However short his stays at each of those companies, he instilled in them the skills, methods and style to produce clubs to compete with Scottish imports. During this time he continued to own and run the business in New York which produced clubs into the 20th century.

The clubs the Dunns produced provide an interesting mix of traditional Scottish values and modern ingenuity. Early clubs from the Ardsley days were imported from Scotland and assembled in New York. Some of these irons bear a small eagle mark, a reference to his new home and were possibly forged by Robert Condie. Others were simply marked "Dunn Selected" in either script or block letters and date from 1897-1903.

During this time, the firm received much publicity from the sale of their "one piece" club, made from a single piece of wood, which was actually patented by John D. while he worked for the family in Bournemouth, England in 1894. This club was also sold by B.G.I., Macgregor, Spalding and Wright & Ditson.

One of Willie's first American patents (though it appears to have been applied for but never finally granted) was his Indestructible driver. It's head was a wood block encased in an aluminum shell, the wood being exposed at the face and on top.

In the early 1900s, Willie experimented with plastic-like substances, finally patenting several types of drivers and putters. The substance was known as pyralin and came in black and white versions. Clubs included standard drivers, duplex drivers and mallet putters and for manufacturing purposes the patents were assigned to the Kempshall Manufacturing Co. in Arlington, NJ.

Willie continued to design and patent clubs well into the 1920s but by then he had moved to San Jose, CA where he retired. He lived until 1952.

I think Willie is also credited for some work on the early Princeton Golf Club (now Springdale) and Shinnecock Hills. 

I'm trying to get a timeline down for Willie.  Where was he say between 1900 and in the 1920's when he was in San Jose, CA?

Mike Cirba:

I'm amazed to learn that Willie Dunn lived until 1952.   I know he designed oodles of very early American courses but then seems to have fallen off the architectural map after about 1907 or so.

He did in fact design the course at Princeton that was being built when Hugh Wilson was on the Green Committee there around the turn of last century, and Wilson likely knew him, as Wilson used to vacation at Saranac in far upstate NY which was laid out by Willie and Seymour Dunn around 1905, I believe.

For a fellow as pervaasive in early American architecture as he was, do you think he got washed away with the tide away from strictly geometric golf?   I know that Walter Travis was very, very critical of Dunn's architecture.

Joe Bausch:

--- Quote from: Mike Cirba on February 21, 2010, 04:10:54 PM ---
For a fellow as pervaasive in early American architecture as he was, do you think he got washed away with the tide away from strictly geometric golf?   I know that Walter Travis was very, very critical of Dunn's architecture.

--- End quote ---

Perhaps.  When was Travis critical of his architecture?

Note:  here is more on Willie, from the following web page:

WILLIAM DUNN JNR. born 1865 in the Borough of Blackheath in the suburbs of London where his father was the greenkeeper and club maker. That year the family returned to Leith Thistle G.C and were living at 7 Vanburgh Place, Leith Links, Edinburgh. In 1881, Willie Dunn Jnr. moved to North Berwick where his older brother Tom Dunn was appointed Keeper of the Green. It was here that Willie Jnr. apprenticed as a club maker with his brother Tom and Charles Gibson.

Willie Dunn Jnr. was 15 years old when he played his first match against Ben Sayers at North Berwick and won. The following year he partnered Sayers in a money match against the two Fernies at St Andrews. The first day was halved but the second day Dunn and Sayers won the match by five holes. Willie entered the Open Championship for the first time from North Berwick in 1883 and again in 1884, and 1886.

In 1886, Willie Dunn Jnr. was asked by Horace Hutchinson to take charge of the links of the Royal North Devon Golf Club at Westward Ho!. Dunn remained there for a year and laid out the present course. In 1888, he moved to Royal Epping Forrest in Chingford and laid out their 18 hole course. The following year he was considered for the vacant post at Worcestershire Golf Club but instead transferred to Biarritz in France where his brother Tom designed the course during a winter visit while still engaged at North Berwick.

Willie Jnr. remained at Biarritz for six years and in 1891 James Beveridge recommended him for the position of instructor at Shinnecock Hills. Willie was persuaded by Duncan Cryden and Edward S. Mead of Dodd, Mead & Co to come to America. James Beveridge was club maker at Shinnecock and knew Willie Dunn when they both lived and worked in North Berwick. Willie laid out a twelve hole course at Shinnecock and a nine-hole ladies course. Four years later a combination of the two courses were used to host the 1896 US Open. Willie Dunn Jnr. was the first unofficial champion of America in 1894 and runner-up in the first official US Open 1895.

By 1896, after flying visits to Biarritz in the winter, Willie Dunn with his wife and son Willie Dunn Jnr settled at the links of Ardsley Country Club in New York. It was here he set up a club manufacturing business and was joined by his nephew John D. Dunn in 1897. Willie opened a retail shop in New York and began experimenting with steel shafted clubs and was the first to use a tee peg. In 1895, he established the first Indoor Golf Centre and he continued this facility when his business moved to 9 East, 42 Street New York in 1898, a few blocks away from John D. Dunn's premises. In 1900, Willie Dunn Jnr laid out a private nine-hole course for John D Rockefeller on his Tarrytown Estate, NY.

When Dunn left the Royal North Devon Golf Club he recommended Charles Gibson from North Berwick as his replacement. Bert Way was Dunn's apprentice at North Devon and when he left Shinnecock Hills, Dunn recommended W.H. 'Bert' Way as his replacement. John Forman the Musselburgh 'caddie' followed Willie Dunn at Ardsley (1898-1901).

Most historians agree that Willie Dunn's influence on the development of the sport in the USA during the early part of the twentieth century was considerable. In the 1920s, Willie Dunn Jnr. moved to San Jose in California where he retired. He died in London at the age of 52 years.

But again it seems he sort of 'disappeared' there in the early part of the last century, perhaps around 1907 as you suggest.

"I'm amazed to learn that Willie Dunn lived until 1952."

Me too.

Does the timeline mention if it's true that Willie Dunn Jr invented the hoola hoop, the Twist and Rock and Roll itself? That's what I've heard. If it's true one would certainly not want to minimize that remarkable contribution to human culture.


It looks like you said above that Willie Dunn died at 52. You may have that wrong. I think it's more like he died in 1952 at around the age of 122. You also neglected to copy the end of that article of Charles "chick" Evans when Chick said Willie told him he screwed 10,000 Southern Cal girls when he went out there in 1928.

Joe Bausch:

--- Quote from: TEPaul on February 21, 2010, 04:22:19 PM ---

It looks like you said above that Willie Dunn died at 52. You may have that wrong.

--- End quote ---

That web page I took that from probably has it wrong.


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