Feature Interview with Ed Oden
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11. Maxwell is known for his greens but he was building sand greens as late as 1927. Is it accurate to say that Maxwell became an early champion of Bermuda grass and helped to spread its acceptance and use?

Yes, Maxwell was definitely an early and vocal advocate for Bermuda grass.  He was part of a group of local businessmen in Ardmore championing the use of Bermuda in 1910, several years before the idea of building Dornick Hills first entered his mind.  The prevailing sentiment toward Bermuda was exceedingly negative due to the difficultly in eradicating it once established.  But Maxwell and his group were thinking outside the box and saw Bermuda’s invasiveness as a positive for development as an easily cultivatable high fat source of feeding cattle.  They felt Bermuda grass could do for Oklahoma what blue grass had done for Kentucky.  Maxwell had sodded a quarter of his farm in Ardmore with Bermuda grass.  So he was clearly interested in and experimenting with grasses for other purposes long before he started designing golf courses.

When Maxwell first decided to dip his toes in the golf design water with Dornick Hills, he had no experience with golf, much less building a course and getting grass to grow.  The few courses that existed in the Southwest at that time were almost exclusively constructed with sand greens.  Based on his January 5, 1924 speech at the annual meeting of the USGA Green Section, Maxwell was not a fan of sand greens, inquiring of the audience whether they had “ever had the displeasure of playing sand greens.”  So he reached out to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC to get their input on grass varieties that might work best in Oklahoma and was told that it was “a little too far south for bluegrass and a little too far north for Bermuda.”  Undeterred, Maxwell visited Bermuda grass courses in Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta and Florida in 1915 and was surprised by the general lack of information and understanding with respect to the propagation and maintenance of Bermuda grass.  Remember, he already had experience with Bermuda for non-golf purposes dating back at least to 1910.  Maxwell understood that Bermuda was really the only grass option for Oklahoma golf at that time.  And he rather quickly realized the critical role selecting the proper strain of Bermuda played in the success of establishing turf suitable for golf.  As a result, he was an early and enthusiastic supporter of continuing research, particularly through the Green Section of the USGA, to identify the best strains of Bermuda grass for propagation in the South.

12. Additionally, in 1933, you note that “Maxwell introduces seaside bent grass on six greens at Dornick Hills, which is “the farthest south that seaside bent has been successfully grown” and then experiments with bent at Augusta National in 1935. Is it also fair to say that he was at the forefront of agronomy and finding grasses that were the most conducive to good golf? Where did he learn so much about turf?

That’s right.  While Maxwell recognized that Bermuda grass was critical to the development of golf in the Southwest, he didn’t limit his thinking when it came to grass types.  He installed bent grass greens at Neosho in 1924.  Neosho is just over 100 miles Northeast of Tulsa and at roughly the same elevation, so Maxwell was working with bent in a climate that would seem to be similar to Northeastern Oklahoma at a relatively early stage of his career.  He used bent grass for greens and bluegrass for fairways at Jeffersonville outside of Louisville in 1927.  And Maxwell went with bent at Melrose in 1927 and Rochelle in 1930.  Hillcrest in Bartlesville and Indian Hills in Tulsa switched to bent greens in 1931 and 1932, respectively, although I haven’t been able to confirm that Maxwell was in charge of those conversions.  Regardless, he was certainly very familiar with bent by the time he started converting Dornick Hills to bent in 1933.

I don’t know to what degree other architects were utilizing bent in hot and humid climates at that time, but I expect Maxwell’s experience converting Bermuda grass greens to bent in Oklahoma was a driving factor in his development of “an experimental bent patch at Augusta” mentioned in Jay Monroe’s May 27, 1935 letter to Maxwell.  To be fair, it is not clear whether Maxwell was officially engaged by Augusta National in connection with this work.  However, given Monroe’s stature at the club and close relationship to Clifford Roberts, it would seem unlikely that Maxwell’s experimentation with bent at Augusta wasn’t sanctioned by the club even if not embodied in a formal engagement.  In any event, Augusta didn’t actually convert to bent until 1981, so Maxwell’s experimentation was either unsuccessful or not implemented by the club.

13. Not many courses can claim involvement from both Maxwell and MacKenzie. And no, this isn’t where we talk about Crystal Downs. Rather I refer to Melrose CC outside of Philadelphia! Tell us about it.

Melrose has largely been forgotten as its stature has diminished over time.  But it was considered a masterpiece when it opened.  More importantly, I don’t think you can overstate its prominence to Maxwell’s legacy.  First, it was the big break that thrust him into the national conscience.  Up to that point in time, his design work had been limited to courses in Oklahoma, states touching Oklahoma (i.e., Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri), and Kentucky.  Second, Melrose was the first project on which Maxwell collaborated with MacKenzie.  I don’t think there is any question that Maxwell’s career as a golf course architect would have been very different without Melrose on his resume.

Maxwell had already secured the engagement for Melrose, drawn plans for the course and started construction by the time MacKenzie was retained to consult.  Regardless, it was the effective commencement of their partnership.  MacKenzie was justifiably recognized as one of the world’s greatest architects and his arrival at Melrose was feted in the press.  But it appears that MacKenzie was used as more of a marketing tool than anything else and his contributions were limited to relatively minor suggestions and tweaks to Maxwell’s design, most notably with the placement of bunkers on the course.  Maxwell was acknowledged to be the one “who really designed this layout” in a profile of Mackenzie in the March 22, 1927 Philadelphia Public Ledger.  MacKenzie even wrote a letter to Maxwell effusive with praise for Maxwell’s work at Melrose:

“My dear Maxwell:

 When I originally asked you to come into partnership with me, I did so because I thought your work more closely harmonized with nature than any other American Golf Course Architect.  The design and construction of the Melrose Golf Course has confirmed my previous impression. 

 I feel that I cannot leave America without expressing my admiration for the excellence of your work and the extremely low cost compared with the results obtained.  As I stated to you verbally, the work is so good that you may not get the credit you deserve. 

 Few if any golfers will realize that Melrose has been constructed by the hand of man and not by nature.  This is the greatest tribute that can be paid to the work of a Golf Course Architect.

 Yours very sincerely,

Alister MacKenzie”

Sadly, the current course bears little resemblance to what was by all accounts an elite highly regarded golf course upon opening.  Construction of the Tookany Parkway resulted in the loss of substantial portions of the original course which forced a nearly total rerouting by the late 1930s.  A tragic loss of the first course of the MacKenzie/Maxwell collaboration.

14. You note that ‘Maxwell is listed as a non-resident member of Pine Valley on the club’s membership roster’ in 1928 and later was made an honorary member due to his contributions there. Is there any sense of a) what influence that course exerted over him or b) he exerted on that course in addition to the original 8th green and the dual 9th green?

I am confident that the story of Maxwell and Pine Valley is incomplete.  While I don’t know for sure, I suspect that he visited there during his early travels prior to building Dornick Hills.  Various reports have Maxwell (i) spending “two months” in 1913 looking at layouts in a number of cities, including Philadelphia, prior to returning home to plan Dornick Hills, (ii) taking an “extended tour of eastern courses and their prized clubs” in 1914, and (iii) visiting “a dozen or more” of the most prominent courses on the east coast in 1915 via the previously mentioned letter of introduction from R.C. Watson.  None of these reports were contemporaneous to the actual events, so it isn’t clear whether they are describing different trips or the dates are slightly off and they are all referencing the same one.  Regardless, it seems that Maxwell had relatively unfettered access to the courses in the Northeast which were relevant to his quest for knowledge about golf course design and construction.  I have a hard time believing that Pine Valley wasn’t among the places he visited.  If so, think about the timing, which would have pretty much corresponded with construction and opening of the initial 11 holes of the course.  Pure speculation on my part, but my guess is that Pine Valley had an early and immediate impact on Maxwell.

During the process of creating the website, I was struck for the first time by how a largely unknown banker from Oklahoma could get an invite to become a member at Pine Valley.  For some reason, I just hadn’t given it much thought.  My first inclination was that perhaps someone important at Melrose who was also a member at Pine Valley was impressed enough with his work to get him in at Pine Valley shortly after Melrose opened.  But now I think the opposite is more likely to be true.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Maxwell had already formed relationships at Pine Valley through his previous eastern tours and that those contacts opened the door for him to get the Melrose job.  The most likely suspect in my opinion is Albert H. Smith, who was one of the pioneers of Philadelphia golf, the first GAP amateur champion, a founding member at Pine Valley, and a member of the “construction committee” at Melrose (Horace H. Francine, also a former Philadelphia amateur champion, William Alexander, Wayne Herkness and Charles L. Sharpless were the other committee members).

My admittedly unsubstantiated conjecture about Pine Valley’s role in securing the Melrose contract raises on interesting possibility.  Since the beginning of my research, I’ve been puzzled by Maxwell’s presence in Philadelphia.  He had an office there and made regular visits throughout his career.  Yet Maxwell didn’t seem to do enough work there to support his investment in the area.  I just assumed that I would eventually uncover additional courses he worked on in Philadelphia which would justify his regular presence.  That never occurred.  On the contrary, several Philly area courses previously attributed to Maxwell now do not appear to be his handiwork and have been removed from our timeline – the old Pennsylvania RR Golf Club in Llanerch and its replacement in Malvern, now known as Chester Valley (big shout out to Joe Bausch for helping unravel that mystery!), the “Ledger course” in Philadelphia (almost certainly a very poorly worded reference to Melrose which was picked up without correction in subsequent reports of Maxwell’s work), and the Eugene Grace “estate course” (in all likelihood an erroneous reference to Saucon Valley) – thereby making Maxwell’s Philadelphia portfolio even thinner than previously recognized.  So what could account for so much effort in the area?  My hunch is that Philadelphia and Pine Valley in particular was a fertile breeding ground for business development.  During his banking career, Maxwell was far more of a relationship guy than a number cruncher.  It seems only natural that he would have recognized the value in cultivating relationships in circles that generated opportunities for design work.  This is what he did previously in Oklahoma through his network of oilmen and ranchers and later in his career through his ANGC connections.  I’d be willing to bet that he did the same at Pine Valley in between.

As for the specifics of Maxwell’s work at Pine Valley, details are very limited.  Jim Finegan’s club history and Chris Clouser’s book on Maxwell remain the best sources of information, although they don’t always jibe.  According to Finegan, in 1929 Maxwell (i) brought the original left 9th green about 20′ forward and built bunkers behind it so that an overshot would not fall down the ledge into the 18th hole, and deepened and extended the bunker separating the old and new greens, (ii) removed the hump in front of the 4th green and (iii) built three bunkers to the right of 5th green to counter the steep fall off into the woods.  Clouser (and Whitten) dates Maxwell’s work to 1933-35 and references changes to the 8th green at the same time as the 9th.  A 1929 article in the Paducah, Kentucky newspaper indicates that Maxwell would be “remodeling several of the greens” at Pine Valley, so it is possible that he touched more than 4, 5, 8 and 9 in 1929.  And a 1931 article in the Ardmore, Oklahoma newspaper mentions that Maxwell had been “given a contract to remodel the course, which could be a reference to his previous work in 1929 or an indication that he did additional work later on.  Maxwell (and Dean Woods) continued to make regular visits to Philadelphia throughout the 1930s.  And Maxwell’s transition from a regular member to an honorary member at Pine Valley in December of 1929 was “in recognition of his offer to respond at any time to any request of the Club for improvements or minor changes in the course without compensation.”  So I think there is a strong possibility that Maxwell did more at Pine Valley than described by Finegan or Clouser.

One interesting little tidbit is that, according to Ron Whitten’s excellent chronology for Golf Digest of changes at Augusta National, Maxwell was directed to make the new 7th green “similar to the par-4 eighth as Pine Valley.”  Whether that directive had its origins in suggestions from Maxwell or was independently made by Bobby Jones or Clifford Robert is unknown.  Regardless, it seems Maxwell’s changes to the 8th green at Pine Valley were influential beyond Pine Valley’s gates.

15. Considering the state of the American economy and the Dust Bowl, I am in awe of his 1930s projects which included Southern Hills, Crystal Downs, Augusta National Golf Club, Prairie Dunes, Colonial, and Old Town. During that decade, what architect worked on better projects?!

I’ll tweak your timeline slightly to run from the Wall Street crash of 1929 through the end of the Great Depression in 1939.  Maxwell’s portfolio during this period is astounding.  His solo designs at Southern Hills, Prairie Dunes and Old Town are arguably the equal of any other architect’s over the same time frame.  Add in collaborations with MacKenzie at Crystal Downs, the University of Michigan and Ohio State and with Bredemus at Colonial and I think Maxwell’s original design work is unparalleled.  So it’s hard to believe that as great as Maxwell’s original designs were during this period, his renovation work may very well have been the more impressive feat.  It literally reads like a who’s who of great American golf courses:  Pine Valley, Augusta National, Philadelphia County Club, Gulph Mills, Ekwanok, Maidstone, NGLA, Merion, Westchester, The Links Club.

While Maxwell certainly had a number of noteworthy designs both before and after the Great Depression, his standing in the pantheon of Golden Age architects is largely based on his work from 1929-1939.  Take that away and his legacy would be significantly diminished.

How Maxwell was able to prosper during this time remains a mystery.  Perhaps there was less competition with the untimely passing of Raynor and MacKenzie and with Tillinghast and Ross nearing the twilight of their careers.  Regardless, jobs were scarce, particularly in the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma.  Maxwell actively cultivated two seemingly incongruous networks – one entrenched in oil, banking and agriculture circles of Oklahoma and its surrounding states and the other among Northeastern elites.  Both continued to produce quality jobs throughout the Depression despite the difficult economic conditions.  My sense is that Maxwell’s reputation for economy was an attractive selling point for hard times.  His fees were reasonable and his approach inherently minimalistic.  Many of his projects utilized WPA labor, which certainly helped from a cost standpoint.  At the end of the day, Maxwell just seems to have been very adroit at adjusting to fit the times and, as a result, flourished.

16. Tell us about Dean Woods. Now there is a man who has never received anywhere close to enough credit!

Yes, Dean Woods is certainly underappreciated.  Woods was the brother of Maxwell’s first wife, Ray.  He was born in Kentucky and migrated to Ardmore in the early 1900s at roughly the same time as Maxwell and so many others from the extended Maxwell and Woods clans.  Dean was a good athlete and bounced around the minor baseball leagues of Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona from the late nineteen aughts through the teens.  Like most ballplayers, Woods supplemented his income with other employment, primarily as an electrical contractor.  He may have also been involved in horse training since there is at least one published report of a challenge race between a horse owned by Woods and one owned by another man while in Arizona.  Eventually Woods moved back to Ardmore with his wife and daughter in 1922 and settled down closer to family.  His line of work in Ardmore was listed in a Rotary Club promotion in the local newspaper as “filling stations.”

The first mention I can find of Woods working on a Maxwell project was at Twin Hills in 1924.  While it is possible Woods involvement in Maxwell’s work started before then, it seems that Twin Hills was the jumping off point for his role as Maxwell’s right hand man.  From that point on, Woods was regularly the onsite foreman in between visits from Maxwell, often relocating his family during construction.  He supervised construction at Lake View (now Rolling Hills) in Paducah in 1926, Melrose in 1927, Pine Valley’s renovation in 1929, the University of Michigan course in 1929 and Southern Hills in 1935.  Frequent trips to Philadelphia suggest Woods was likely involved in most if not all of Maxwell’s projects in Philly and others in the Northeast.  He led the charge at Prairie Dunes in 1936-1937 to the point where he was asked to play in the inaugural foursome on opening day.  He was so instrumental in the renovation of Colonial leading up to the 1941 U.S. Open that the club presented him with a special medal of honor for his efforts.

Clearly, Woods understood what Maxwell wanted and Maxwell trusted him to deliver, which is remarkable given his lack of experience in golf course construction prior to joining Maxwell’s team.  Remember, Maxwell didn’t have any training before he plunged into golf course design, so he obviously wasn’t deterred by lack of experience!  In many respects Woods fulfilled a similar role as Raynor did for MacDonald, Russell did for MacKenzie in Australia, and Hatch, McGovern and Maples did for Ross.  Maxwell was a hands on guy and he was regularly onsite at most if his projects.  But Woods was in charge when Maxwell wasn’t around and he had complete faith in Woods’ ability to carry out his vision.  Maxwell didn’t use detailed construction drawings that I know of.  Rather, he did his work in the dirt.  So Woods wasn’t just building to a detailed set of plans.  Intuitively, that suggests that Woods was integral to the end result.  Maxwell is rightfully acknowledged to be one of the greatest designer of greens the world has ever seen.  But it was typically Woods who built those greens, including the famous “Maxwell rolls.”  It is interesting to wonder whether those greens would have been the same if Woods hadn’t been the one bringing them to life.

Woods involvement wound down in the early-mid 1940s, not coincidentally, in my opinion, hastened by the return of Maxwell’s son, Press, from WWII.  Woods ultimately retired to California and Press took over as Maxwell’s lead construction man.  Dean died of a heart attack in 1950 while visiting his daughter in Ardmore.

While we’re talking about construction men, I think it is important to also acknowledge the contributions of Press.  First of all, Press was an incredible man.  He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and trained as a pilot.  Press flew 81 combat missions in the European theater during WWII and was credited with saving the lives of 5,000 downed airmen on rescue missions in the Balkans.  He was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal and was decorated with the Wings of the Yugoslav air force for his service.

On the golf side, Press worked for his father during summers while at school, before joining the construction team full time after college.  After WWII, he rejoined his father, transitioned into the lead construction man as his uncle Dean moved toward retirement and, ultimately, into a co-design role late in his father’s career.  Given his military background, I suspect that Press played a particularly prominent part in securing the contracts to design and build the military courses in Wyoming and Texas after WWII.  Press often doesn’t get the same love as Woods does for his contributions to Maxwell’s portfolio since he didn’t play a major role in most of his father’s more critically acclaimed work.  Even Press acknowledged that he didn’t have his father’s genius.  Still, he went on to have a very successful career as an architect in his own right, including the second nine holes at Prairie Dunes.

17. You note that, ‘Maxwell remodels the 17th green at Augusta National and adds three bunkers at the front.  Clifford Roberts was not pleased, writing to Maxwell “I do not think you should have banked up the left-hand back side of the green.  This is supposed to be a run-up hole.  You have changed the character of the hole by inviting players to pitch it to the green.”’My question is about Maxwell changing MacKenzie’s work – how hard/easy was it for him to do that? Mackenzie had passed away a couple of years prior so Maxwell wasn’t interfering with something that MacKenzie otherwise would have done. Still, considering how simpatico the two were in terms of design philosophies, it is interesting how many of MacKenzie’s ground game options that Maxwell got rid of (e.g. 7, 10, 17). What do you think MacKenzie would have thought of Maxwell’s work? Presumably, Jones approved of it given that it occurred, though it did start what has become a never-ending process of moving the course away from its Old Course at St. Andrews roots.

Unfortunately, we don’t know Maxwell’s thoughts regarding the alterations he made to MacKenzie’s design at Augusta.  Given his reverence for Scottish links golf and his friendship for and partnership with MacKenzie, I doubt he did so lightly.  What is certain is that his changes in 1937 and likely thereafter reflected a conceptual shift by the powers that be with respect to the way they wanted the course to play.  Here is what the Augusta Chronicle said in January of 1938:

“A British linksland motive which was intended by the original builders of the Bobby Jones’ golf course in Augusta, has been abandoned, and the artificially thrown-up sand dune formations which were intended to give the foreign touch to a number of the greens at the home of the Master’s tournament have been replaced with a more modern American conception of proper contours to test a player’s skill.

 It was a notable experiment, but an effort to duplicate the natural terrain of one country in another location, by artificial means, does not work out successfully except in Hollywood, where the camera is faster than the eye and they build the Swiss Alps and the Egyptian pyramids and get away with it.

 The changes will be equally pleasing to those experts who by years of practice have perfected their strokes to the greens so they are able to hit the ball within putting distance of the pin.  Because of the peculiar undulations in the approaches to a number of the original Augusta greens, many a well directed shot bounced off at a strange angle, thus discounting a player’s skill.

 The greens at the fifth, seventh and seventeenth holes have been rebuilt.  The abruptness of the “sand dunes” contours, which baffled the expert players has been eliminated and truly struck balls will not in the future take as many sour “kicks” as formerly.”

This is believed to be a photo of the 17th green after Maxwell added the front bunkers that Roberts objected to:

Roberts may not have liked the change, but it was clearly part of a philosophical correction.  There is no way Maxwell goes down that rabbit hole on his own.  At a minimum, Roberts and Jones must have been fully supportive of the directional shift.  More likely, they were the ones who set it.  Whether that was a wise decision is subject to debate, as is whether MacKenzie would have approved.  Rightly or wrongly, it appears that the powers that be at Augusta (presumably Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts) felt that certain aspects of MacKenzie’s original design and presentation were unnatural for Georgia and unfair for tournament golf.  My guess is that they would have come to the same conclusion even if MacKenzie was still alive and objected.

18. What insight can you offer about Maxwell the man? He was in the crowd the day that Jones completed the Grand Slam at Merion. You have that ‘Maxwell attends a dinner at the Tulsa Country Club where A.W. Tillinghast is the featured speaker’ in January 1936. He simply seems indefatigable!

When I started down this path, my interest was really only in Maxwell the golf course architect.  But I became fascinated by Maxwell the man as I dug deeper into his story.  You are right, he had a Forrest Gump-like habit of crossing paths with important people and showing up at historic moments.  As previously noted, he goes from golf neophyte to meeting the USGA president, C.B. Macdonald and Francis Ouimet in a matter of months.  Still an unknown commodity, he meets up with MacKenzie on his first trip to England and Scotland, sowing the seeds of their later partnership.  He played golf at Dornick Hills with President Taft; pledging to donate $10 to the Red Cross for each ball Taft could drive over a hill – Taft tried and failed.  He was at Merion when Bobby Jones won the grand slam.  And he was in the gallery on the 15th at Augusta when Sarazen made double eagle in 1935.

More importantly, Maxwell was deeply involved in professional, social and civic matters.  He was treasurer of the Commercial Club, on the executive committee of the Oklahoma State Tennis Association, a ruling elder in the Presbyterian church, president of the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, helped form and on the executive committee of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce, president and a member of the board of directors of the Oklahoma State Golf Association, on the board of the local hospital, treasurer of the county Red Cross, active in the state banking association, a member of the court of honor for the Boy Scouts, a director for various oil and gas companies, a member of the County Advisory Board, treasurer of the Ardmore Board of Education, active in the Rotary Club, chairman of the local Salvation Army, treasurer of the Ardmore Audubon Society, and a founding member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.

If a cause needed funding, supplies or support, Maxwell was there.  He made sure the Dornick Hills tractors were available to cut the grass on the local baseball fields.  He was among a group of local businessmen who purchased the property for the Ardmore convention hall.  He helped establish a clearing house for local banks.  He was among a group of concerned citizens who successfully urged the Governor to appoint a Special Judge and impanel a grand jury to investigate the conduct of the Ardmore District Judge and Sheriff’s office and was on the committee appointed to name a new Sherriff following the criminal prosecution of his predecessor.  He landscaped a new playground for the city of Ardmore.  He was on the front lines in fundraising efforts for the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Tulsa University and others. He provided landscaping services to beautify the shore line and lay out park sites in connection with the construction of Lake Murray dam project near Ardmore.  He planned and built a 10-acre athletic field in Ardmore for football, track, tennis and outdoors meetings.  He donated chimes installed in the First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore.

Maxwell was also a big supporter of the arts and culture.  He was friends with Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel prize winning poet from India, and brought him to Ardmore to offer lectures.  He advocated building a Chautauqua camp outside of Ardmore, Oklahoma in an effort to make Carter County the intellectual center of Oklahoma.  He organized a radio party with the Ardmore Philharmonic club to listen to a broadcast of a concert by the Philadelphia Symphony.

Maxwell’s life was a true testament to community service and the betterment of others.  According to Charles Evans, Maxwell’s longtime friend and mentor, in a tribute to Maxwell published in the Daily Oklahoman the following Maxwell’s death, “The entire home, school, church and cultural life of Ardmore, out to the very edges and on through the state and nation have been enriched for all time by the work of this man.”

19. Lastly, what three pieces of information are most tantalizing that you wish you could get sorted? For instance, you have an article that ties Maxwell to Cypress Point.

The Cypress Point mystery definitely tops the list.  The materials Chris Clouser sent me (thanks again Chris!) included a copy of a letter written by Press Maxwell in 1981 listing courses that his father had worked on.  Press acknowledged that he had a “lousy” memory and that the list was probably incomplete.  But, while he left a lot out, everything he included checks out, except for one – Cypress Point is noted as a redesign.  Initially, I discounted any involvement by Maxwell there as the product of a faulty memory and didn’t give it much thought.  However, not long thereafter I acquired a copy of Frederick Baird’s 1981 history of Crystal Downs.  That booklet includes a first person account by Walkley Ewing, the original developer of Crystal Downs, which describes MacKenzie’s initial visit to Crystal Downs in October 1928.  According to Ewing, MacKenzie was “accompanied by his American associate, Perry Maxwell, who had worked with him on the California projects.”  That peaked my interest and got me wondering if there was something to the reference to Cypress in Press’ letter after all.  Then a year or so later I found a February 28, 1928 article in the Ardmore newspaper saying that Maxwell had just returned from a “business trip” to California where “he joined his partner, Dr. A. MacKenzie, one of the foremost golf course architects in the country, at Pebble Beach and together they inspected some of the most well known courses in the vicinity.”  The timing fits with Ewing’s description in Crystal’s history and, more significantly, confirmed that Maxwell had in fact been in California with MacKenzie.  Whether that means Maxwell assisted MacKenzie in some fashion at Cypress Point and, if so, was the redesign mentioned in Press’ letter, I can’t say.  I ran all this by Sean Tully and Tommy Naccarato given their knowledge of MacKenzie’s work in California and I think there was a general skepticism (myself included) of Maxwell’s involvement at Cypress in the absence of any concrete evidence.  Why would Maxwell be brought in with Hunter already there and in the fold?  Still, I can’t get Press’ letter out of my mind.  Maxwell clearly worked on every other course mentioned in the letter.  The possibility that he may have touched Cypress is too intriguing not to continue to be on the lookout for information which might shed light on the issue one way or the other.

Another mystery which I find fascinating but doubt will ever be clarified involves Maxwell’s “dream course” described in a nationally syndicated article in May, 1941.  Here is the relevant excerpt:

“Despite his pride in this Hutchinson course, Maxwell now has a dream of building the perfect course.  He would construct it on the sand dunes of the New Jersey coast.  He would provide an amphibious plane base so that wealthy New Yorkers could ferry down for a round of golf and return to the city within two or three hours.

 The golf course architect believes that the ‘undulating’ sand dunes would make the finest topography in the world for a layout.  Someday, someday, he’s going to build his greatest course there.”

Obviously, this was a dream never realized.  But it seems that Maxwell knew exactly where he wanted to build it.  Had he already identified specific land or only a general area?  Did he intend to acquire and develop the tract on his own or were others involved?  If the latter, who?  And, most importantly, why didn’t it materialize?  I would love to know the true story.

The last one I’ll mention I don’t ascribe much credence to, but you asked for tantalizing, so I’ll go ahead and toss it out.  An October, 1963 article in the Daily Oklahoman states that, in addition to Pine Valley and Augusta National, Maxwell also remodeled “Oakmont near Pittsburgh.”  I have not found any other information connecting Maxwell to Oakmont or evidence supporting this claim.  And the referenced article came more than a decade after Maxwell died, so who knows where their information came from.  I have my doubts about the accuracy of this article as it relates to Oakmont.  But as I said earlier, there is always something new to learn.  Who knows, maybe someone (perhaps someone at Oakmont) will read this interview, be inspired to do some digging and discover another piece of the Maxwell puzzle – similar to Chip Stokes stumbling onto Maxwell’s rerouting plan for Ekwanok.  Now that would be great!

THE END