The Hamptons have a history that is rich in tradition, etiquette, and style.
Besides the potato farmers and the old founding families, eventually the very wealthy headed out to the South Fork to summer.
Before the automobile were the private train cars and the massive yachts that were used to transport the very wealthy’s massive trunks and possessions. It was a ritual done to insure the wealthy spend their summers in the appropriate high feather that their rank in society demanded. Charles Blair Macdonald was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 1857, but was considered a native of Chicago. Macdonald who was of strong Scottish decent eventually was perhaps the unofficial chief of protocol to the very wealthy from 1908 until 1937 in the Hamptons’. He also was the founder, builder, and President (30 years), of the National Golf Links of America, in Southampton. At sixteen sent by his dad to finish his schooling in the Village of St. Andrews in Scotland, Macdonald was introduced to golf at a course many believe is in fact its high alter ,that being, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, (a course known these days as St. Andrews.) At first he thought the game, “silly and stupid.” But as time went bye Macdonald played the silly and stupid game and sought to improve .Soon his passion for golf became his life. In 1892 Charles was requested by his friend to build a course on the grounds of his friend’s father-in-law, Senator Charles B. Farwell’s estate. Fairlawn was the name of the estate and today that is the name of the golf course. It is located in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Charles Blair Macdonald existed in highest national social circles which made it easy for him in 1906 to sell seventy $1,000 memberships to wealthy friends in order to raise the money so he could purchase the land and build National Golf Links in Southampton. The list of the original members included The Harrimans and the Hunts, Harry Payne Whitney, William K Vanderbilt II, J.P. Grace, Clarence McKay and even Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert Lincoln. Charles paid $40,000 to the Peconic Bay Reality Company for 200 acres of the Seconic Neck. Seth Raynor a civil engineer and Southampton local along with Mortimer Payne the foreman at Shinnecock Hills were most instrumental in creating Macdonald’s masterpiece. Recreating the holes that he was fondest of while learning the game in Scotland, Macdonald recreated a huge piece of the tradition of Golf. And cost was never a factor. An example; while playing the second hole at National with another member, a shot went off to the side where a water barrel was. The member told Charles it would be nice to have a windmill where the barrel was. Later when Charles was in Europe he purchased a windmill and had it shipped to National, It was reconstructed where it still stands on the spot of the water barrel. When completed the member was sent the bill which he paid.
Each hole at National has a name, for example the third hole is named, Alp’s, the fifth hole, Hog’s back, the 16th hole is named, Punchbowl and the beautiful seventh is named St. Andrews. Charles built himself a Georgian mansion 1914-1915 right on the grounds. Many members felt like guests at Charles’ Golf Course and assessments were dolled out and paid without fanfare. The guests over the years read like American royalty and in fact The Duke of Windsor played the course annually in the forties during the war. Other notables such as Henry Ford II, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Howard Hughes, Paul Shields, and Katherine Hepburn could be seen on the National Links.
Macdonald appointed Mike Tureski, a Southampton native to be superintendent who served Macdonald loyally until they were both replaced in 1937. The stock market crash of 1929 and the introduction of income taxes had an eroding effect on Charles and his powers. However it may be noted that at the end of the day Macdonald designed about two dozen courses with the help of Seth Raynor, who also created courses on his own. A characteristic of almost all Macdonald-Raynor courses are Cape style par 4’s (also at National) and versions of the two par three’s at St. Andrews, (named “ Short” and “Eden” as at National.) All his courses were designed very wide and for links style golf. Links style golf is golf played on a course near an ocean usually on gently undulating sandy ground with few water hazards and few trees, near a sea shore as in Scotland. It may be noted not too long ago National cut down 600 trees that had grown over the years but where not intended for the course.
Two years after being removed as president of National, Charles Blair Macdonald died April 23, 1939 in Southampton, New York. He was laid to rest in Southampton Cemetery. Brian Tureski of Southampton, the grandson of Mike Tureski a former superintendent under Macdonald at National recalls his grandfather telling him, “That even after Macdonald retired he checked every change to the course with Mr. Macdonald, and if he said no, it wasn’t done.