Appeared in September/October 2000 LINKS
When Bobby Jones won the 1930 U.S. Open, Interlachen Country Club etched its name in American golf history. With his victory, Jones set golf partisans on edge. He was already the British Amateur and British Open champ that year, and the Grand Slam was within reach.
The fact that Interlachen hosted the U.S. Open that remarkable year—and that a golfer for the ages won it—is not lost on the club’s current membership. Interlachen golfers are justifiably proud of their elegant Donald Ross course. (William Watson designed the first course in 1910; Ross in 1919 revised the course to such an extent that it became essentially a new layout.)
The tale of Jones’ win is told in memorabilia hung on the walls of a card room adjoining the men’s locker room. The temperature was approaching 100 degrees as Jones played his practice round on Tuesday. Afterward, he said, “Somebody may go crazy and shoot . If they do, they will win with no trouble at all.”
Weather conditions multiplied the obstacles that memorable week. It was so blistering hot and humid the first day that Jones was unable to undo his tie; his friend and Boswell, O.B. Keeler, had to cut it off with a pocketknife.
Jones shot rounds of 71-73-68-75 to win the championship with a 1-under-par 287. Only on the final day did temperatures cool into the mid 70s. Along the way Jones had his adventures, including one that would come to be known as the “Lily Pad shot,” on the par-5 9th, during the second round.
Jones had driven over the brow of a hill to the extreme right side of the fairway, needing to carry a pond to reach the green. Distracted by two girls running across the fairway during his swing, Jones half-topped his wood shot and watched with first dismay, then wonder, as the ball skipped across the water and landed on the bank on the far side. He pitched up near the hole, got his birdie and moved on. Fans swore it hopped across a lily pad, but Jones later wrote that the ball skipped across like a flat rock.
Interlachen, which means “between lakes,” opened formally on July 29, 1911. Watson’s course was a solid effort, strong enough that Interlachen hosted the 1914 Western Open.
Ross then performed wonders at Interlachen. His original blueprints are framed on the walls of the clubhouse, along with a black-and-white photo of each hole as taken during the 1930 U.S. Open. It’s quite an exercise in golf course architecture to study these blueprints.
For instance, at the 9th hole, Ross instructed his shapers to “cut down the sharp ridge” down the fairway, “using material to fill in the left end of the lake, providing a fair green for short players.” Ross always considered golfers of all abilities—one reason why Interlachen remains a pleasure to play for all golfers.
The first hole is a par 5 that sweeps away from the clubhouse, which stands sentinel on a high point and can be seen from afar. The fairway gets progressively narrower as one approaches the green, a Ross trademark. He always liked to give a golfer the opportunity to swing away from the tee, and then test him on the approaches to the greens.
The course follows the fashion its opening holes suggest. The 530-yard 4th features a green on top of a hill across a valley, while the 175-yard 5th is a slightly downhill par 3 to a green surrounded by bunkers.
After several hours, you reach the 18th green, where Jones made his long putt to win the ’30 U.S. Open. It’s an image that lingers in a golfer’s mind, providing a warm reminder of a special place and time.
Year founded: 1911
Architects: Willie Watson, Donald Ross, Willie Park, Robert Trent Jones Sr.
At a Midwestern grotto of golf excellence, 18 splendid holes curve through wooded glades and history hangs on the clubhouse walls
By: Lorne Rubenstein