Feature Interview with Dr. Bill Quirin
Dr. Bill Quirin came to the MGA in 1987 and quickly became its historian as well as the editor of The Met Golfer. He has authored eight (and counting!) centennial books of area clubs including Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey and Garden City Golf Club on Long Island. In 1997, he published Golf Clubs of the MGA – A Centennial History of Golf in the New York Metropolitan Area. George Peper calls the book a ‘must have for any golfer’s bookshelf and a great reference source.’ A native New Yorker, Dr. Quirin lives on Long Island with his wife and three children.
1. What inspired you to write Golf Clubs of the MGA ?
A long-standing interest in golf history, and a curiosity about the many private clubs in the area, many of which I had never seen. What was their story, and how did it all fit together. I’ve lived in the Met Area all my life and knew the region was rich in golf history. I wanted to study it in depth, and hopefully produce something that would inform others.
2. What was the biggest surprise that you uncovered in your research?
There were two great surprises. One, the great staff AND network of MGA committeemen who were so helpful as I traveled the various links of my Odyssey. And second, the great old golf magazines (and their fascinating picture) that are preserved at the USGA’s library at Golf House.
3. What are the five oldest MGA courses that are still on their original property ?
Shinnecock (1891), Morris County ( Ëœ94), Baltusrol ( Ëœ95), Brooklawn ( Ëœ95), Greenwich ( Ëœ95), Knollwood ( Ëœ95), Van Cortlandt ( Ëœ95), Ardsley ( Ëœ96), Maidstone ( Ëœ96), Gardiner’s Bay ( Ëœ96), Bedford ( Ëœ96), Scarsdale ( Ëœ96)
(There might be some little club whose story I don’t know)
4. Of the friends you know who have played either Lido or Timber Point, what are their general recollections?
Nothing to report at the moment, although there are people I know who might have played the old courses. They’re in Florida now, but I’ll try to talk to them in a few months.
5. What single architect had the most influence in the MGA area from 1890-1899? 1900-1909? 1910-1919?1920-29?
1890s – maybe Willie Dunn; 1900s – maybe Dev Emmet; 1910s – CB Macdonald; 1920s – Tillie
6. If you had to boil it down to three milestone moments in golf course architecture in the MGA area, what would they be?
National, for the hole designs; Lido, for what it took to build a course there; and, at the beginning, Shinnecock Hills, for the European influence brought by Willie Davis.
7. Here’s a toughie. List your all MGA eighteen, being faithful to the hole number and you can only select one hole from one course.
MY FAVORITE MET AREA 18
(pars in parens)
- Plandome (4)
- Somerset Hills (3),North Hempstead (3)
- Fenway (5), Jasna Polana (5)
- Hollywood (3), Baltusrol Lower (3)
- Bethpage Black (4), Ridgewood West (4) TIE
- 1. Creek (4), 2. Metedeconk (4), 3. CC Fairfield (5)
- Quaker Ridge (4)
- 1. National (4), 2. Wykagyl (4), 3. Meadow Brook (5)
- 1. Maidstone(4), 2. Shackamaxon(4), 3. GlenOaksRed (4)
- 1. Winged Foot West (3), 2. Morefar (4), 3. Leewood (4)
- Fairmount (5)
- EssexCounty(4), FreshMeadow(4), RichterPark(5) TIE
- Grossingers (5), Manhattan Woods (5) TIE
- 1. Shinnecock(4), 2. PipingRock(4), 3. Minisceongo(4)
- Deepdale (4), Siwanoy (4) TIE
- 1. Garden City Golf (4), 2. Engineers (4)
- Plainfield (4), Brae Burn (4), Stanwich (5) TIE
- 1. Knollwood (4), 2. Shorehaven (4)
8. Your Garden City Golf Club club history book is superb and is a must have for any golf architecture student . Are you working on any further such club history books that will be released in the next few years?
The only club book I’m working on (almost finished) at the moment is Canoe Brook (NJ), I’m also well along with a book about ‘Golf On Long Island,’ something I think will be a popular item at the 2002 and 2004 US Opens, both on Long Island. This book will be chronological, focusing on the major tournaments held on LI over the years, and the clubs and courses where they were played. Am looking for a publisher.
9. List three hidden gem courses in the MGA area and what you like about them so much.
Plandome (beautiful use of striking terrain), Cold Spring and North Shore (both with some classic Macdonald-Raynor touches), Village Club at Sands Point (short, nicely bunkered and contoured new 18 by Tom Doak), Suburban ( a shortish Tillinghast gem), and Pine Barrens ( Pine Valley-esque publinx in mid-Jersey).
10. How influential was the original design of Shinnecock Hills to the other architects practising in the MGA area?
I can’t say what features those original holes had that might have influenced others. Don’t know.
11. What course in the MGA area would you most like to see host a Walker Cup?
National – it was the first, and I think a Walker Cup would be the best (and probably only) way to place the course in the national spotlight.
12. For those of us who like quirky courses (many of which are shorter than 6,300 yards), what are a couple that you would recommend in the MGA area?
Morefar, with statues all over the course (even in bunkers!!), with its dramatic terrain and challenging back nine, is both a scenic delight and ¦ quirky. Ardsley also has some wild elevation changes, and some VERY tight holes, and might be called architecturally quirky. Due Process Stables, with its racetrack motif, is also unusual â€œ and a superb course, I’m told.
13. Was any one source of particular value to you as you compiled the material for Golf Clubs of the MGA?
Clearly, the great old magazines from the 1900-1936 era at Golf House, and the wonderful staff there, particularly Patty Moran, who is the ‘most helpful’ person in the world.
14. Did the design of National Golf Links of America ever achieve Macdonald’s desired impact among architects?
It seems that Macdonald and his National spawned a school of architecture that had little intersection with the rest of the design world at the time. True, you might find an isolated ‘Redan,’ ‘Short, or ‘Valley of Sin’ elsewhere, but infrequently. Even the deep, sand-at-ground-level bunkers didn’t catch on. Until George Bahto, that is.
15. How pleased would Walter Travis be with the presentation of Garden City Golf Club as it exists today?
Garden City is still a great test (if short by today’s standards), and quite faithful to the Emmet/Travis design, especially with respect to Travis’ distinctive bunkering. Travis probably would wonder ‘what the hell’ a Robert Trent Jones signature par 3 is doing out there where his classic/unique old 12th hole once lived.
16. Is there much interest among the membership of the Golden Age courses to restore them to the architect’s original design? Is tree removal the single biggest issue facing many of the boards?
Restoration seems to be prevalent these days, and tree removal is one of the hot items, as is bunker restoration. At Sands Point Golf Club, they used aerial photos to see exactly where the old Tillinghast bunkers were before Jones covered them up, and then dug them out. That course now once again has that great Tillinghast feel.
17. What is your favorite course built in the past fifty years in the MGA area and why?
I think Rees Jones’ Atlantic Golf Club is growing up in splendid style, and has the links flavor he envisioned. It deserves its high national rankings. On the public trail, Pine Barrens in central Jersey captures the Pine Valley flavor very well, and Gile Hanse’s Tallgrass on Long Island, with its extensive waste bunkers and ‘tall’ grass, presents a unique treeless challenge.
18. What are you most looking forward to with Bethpage hosting the U.S. Open?
I’m looking for some ‘fewest putts’ records, and wondering if the best players in the world will exploit this one weakness more than Bethpage’s many hazardous features will torture them. With the talent these players have from sand, there will be lots of ‘ups and downs.’ I think it will come down to how often Bethpage’s other challenges will prevent players to going for the greens and/or their bunkers in regulation, and how often the length of the holes and the small greens will induce ‘really wild’ approaches behind the bunkers.