Foxburg Country Club, the oldest course in continuous use in the United States
By Mike Dudurich • February 11, 2021
Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.
Through the years, the term “hidden gem” has been overused and many times inappropriately used. The subject is often either not hidden or not a gem, or both.
That’s not the case with Foxburg Country Club, a quiet little place in a quiet little town situated 300 feet or so above the Allegheny River in Clarion County.
It will never rival places like Oakmont Country Club or any other of the elite clubs in Western Pennsylvania. But they’ll never have the distinction that Foxburg does: it is the oldest golf course in continuous use in the United States.
It is an absolute hidden gem.
Imagine that. The U.S. has courses from sea to shining seas, but none has been in continuous operation since 1887.
Nobody is making any comparisons between Foxburg and the finer clubs, but EVERYBODY has the same feelings when they make the walk from historic clubhouse to the first tee.
“It’s incredibly historic,” said longtime Oakmont CC head professional Bob Ford. “The feel of everything is amazing.”
Ford has played the course over the years, including participating in the American Golf Hall of Fame Pro-Am. That event was held to raise money for the Hall, which is housed in the upper level of the clubhouse.
“I grew up from age 10 in that general surrounding area,” said Dan Johnston, the president of the WPGA. “At that age, kids couldn’t be on the course until they were 12. I grew up there and learned to appreciate all the nostalgia there. It’s a neat place to grow up and appreciate the game of golf.”
Johnston is part of a group heading up an effort, known as the Foxburg Golf Preservation Inc., to make sure the Foxburg experience continues for generations to come.
“We want to preserve and maintain Foxburg so that it always remains as a golf course,” Johnston said. “We need to get containment for a water source for the course. That’s the biggest thing regarding the course. We want to try to get more youth in the area involved in the game again.
“This is a very special place. To say you got to play a golf course that’s been around since 1887 is very cool,” Johnston said. “And I’ll tell you, there is nothing like sitting on the front porch of the clubhouse, having a cigar and looking at the golf course.”
Well-known amateur Chuck Nettles, a member of the WPGA’s executive committee, is part of that effort. He was introduced to Foxburg in a unique way.
“My wife (Sarah) grew up in that area and when we’d visit, I’d see the golf course and once I got to play it, I was hooked,” Nettles said. “Every time I go back there, I find something else about the course that I love.”
Nettles said papers have been filed and he hopes that efforts to help restore and preserve the course will not only get noticed but gain support.
Jim Marron wasn’t around when the Foxburg layout opened but he has been a member there for 61 years.
“I was there for the 100-year celebration,” Marron said. “I can remember when a junior golf season pass was $12. My family all plays. I have three brothers and they’re pretty good. In all my years I’ve only won the club championship one time.”
Marron, who owns a restaurant in town, the Allegheny Grille, and has a great appreciation for the club.
“This is a small town just like its’ always been,” he said. “You can play 18 holes for $15, it has a unique scorecard. There have been some changes to holes, they’ve added tees, I think there are 14 now. It’s a special place, no doubt about it.”
Marron pointed out that the little club has had several notable golfers on a regional basis come through it. Joe Boros, the director of instruction at Treesdale Golf & Country Club, and Jesse Horner, the Director of Golf Operations at Cranberry Highlands Golf Course. Those two are joined by Brandon Gardner, Chris Marron and Emily Marron.
“I hope it continues to survive,” Marron said. “We’re starting to pick up some members and we have a superintendent, Jeff Texter, who does as good a job as possible with a limited crew. Par is 68 and after you play it and walk off the last green you can’t believe you didn’t shoot 65. The greens are very small and very hard to hit. It’s just a joy to play, never more than now.”
Fitting right into the under-appreciated narrative is the American Golf Hall of Fame, located on the second floor of the rustic clubhouse. The museum is the home of an extensive collection of old and valuable golf clubs and artifacts from many different eras (prior to 1900) of the game.
In 2007, Foxburg was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, adding to the legend of this special place.
“It’s really the simple things that catch your attention,” Johnston said. “And then you have special things like the tee boxes.”
In this case, tee boxes don’t mean the area in which players can hit their tee shots. These are carved stone boxes on each tee that were to hold sand and water. The little wood pegs weren’t in use back in the early, early days of the game. Players would step onto the tee, grab a bit of sand from the tee box and make their own tees.
Foxburg Country Club is a special place, no doubt about it. And those who care most about it are determined to keep it that way and make it even better.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.