Last week, the people in charge of redeveloping Fort Monmouth put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the maintenence and management of the Suneagles Golf Course and its restaurant and banquet facilities.
According to officials, when the fort closes on Sept. 15 the golf course will continue to operate under a new management firm.
Amidst the legal jargon and technical aspects of the 50-page document is an interesting historical profile of the golf course, which predates the fort itself. Patch has included the history here in its entirety.
According to the RFP, written by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, sometime in the early 1920s, Max Phillips of the famed Phillips Van Heusen Clothing Company of New York City and the designer of the soft-collared golf shirt, purchased the 250-acre estate and adjoining 350-acre winter farm, to build a private golf club.
Construction of the club began during October 1923, and when finished consisted of an 18-hole championship golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, polo stables and fields and a magnificent clubhouse, which had a retractable roof over the ballroom. Total construction costs for the project was $750,000 ($500,000 for the course and $250,000 for the clubhouse).
A. W. Tillinghast, the man described as the "Dean of American-Born Architects," and whose courses include Winged Foot, Baltusrol, Bethpage Black, designed the course. The first golf professional was the Scotsman Seymour Dunn. Members and guests would frequently see Dunn on the course in a Scottish kilt, as he wanted to infuse the club with a Scottish flair. There were approximately 200 members when the Suneagles Country Club opened amid significant publicity on May 29, 1926.
In the 1930s, the club was purchased by the members from Phillips, and renamed the Monmouth County Country Club. Around this time an article in Golf Illustrated magazine was written about the course.
The following is an excerpt from that article:
"Possessed of a charmingly designed and appointed clubhouse, its fortunate members may stay at the club. No more delightful place could be available for a golfer as they look out over the course at the glorious country beyond through the ample casement windows. The clubhouse is Tudor in character and was designed by B. Hustace Simonson, known for the design of many of the finest examples in the U. S. of the architecture of this period. Monmouth County has one of the handsomest and best appointed clubhouses in the Metropolitan districts."
The U.S. Army purchased the Monmouth County Country Club in 1942 for the unbelievable low price of $42,000. This included the club house (Gibbs Hall), golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts and the polo fields that is now known as the Charles Wood housing area. It was the site of the 1935 NJ Golf Association Open Championship, which was won by the legendary golfer Byron Nelson -- his first professional victory. The course record of 65 was established in 1935 and is held by Gene Saranzen.
Suneagles was also the site of the 1963 All Army Golf Trials, which was won by Lt. Frank James, while Sergeant Orville Moody came in second. Orville Moody subsequently turned pro in 1967 and won the U. S. Open Championship in 1969. Other famous Suneagles golfers have included Babe Ruth, Sam Snead and the 1941 PGA winner Vic Ghezzi. The professional for most of this time (39 years) was John W. Welsh Jr., better known as Jack Welsh, who still plays on the course.
Although Suneagles has changed while being under the ownership of the U. S. Army, it is still known as a challenging and rewarding golf course and one of the premier Army golf courses in the world.
The course has a pool, tennis courts, 19th Hole and Gibbs Hall, the former Officers Club. Gibbs Hall offers lunch and dinner dining, as well as conference and banquet accommodations. The Excalibar Dining Room comfortably provides seating for up to 134. More intimate dining gatherings and cocktail parties are accommodated in the Monmouth Room. The Grand Ballroom offers elegant ambience and is ideally suited for large gatherings of up to 500 guests. Smaller banquet rooms can be partitioned for meetings, seminars and award ceremonies.