Ekwanok was established in 1899 when organized golf was just getting its start in America. That year, James L. Taylor, a summer resident of Manchester who had been active in golf in the New York City area, began purchasing property and looked at a 200 acre parcel of farmland which he thought would make an ideal site for an 18-hole golf course. In August, Taylor invited Walter Travis, the great Australian-born American golfer (three-time winner of the National Amateur Championship and first American to win the British Amateur Championship) to visit Manchester with John Duncan Dunn (a well-known golf course designer and scion of the famous Scottish golfing family) to give their opinions on the potential for a course to be built. Travis commented that it was “one of the finest golf course sites in the country.”
That September Taylor brought together a group of friends, all of whom were equally enthusiastic about building a championship course in Manchester, having discussed the possibility during the proceeding summers. Further encouraged by Dunn and Travis, Taylor purchased the 200 acres. On September 7, 1899 the group formally signed the incorporation documents and Ekwanok was founded. The newly-formed Board promptly hired Dunn and Travis to design and oversee the construction of the course. Work began in the fall of 1899 and construction was complete by the summer of 1900 including a beautiful, three story clubhouse.
At that time, an 18-hole golf course was somewhat unusual, as most of the clubs in existence had nine holes, with a few layouts of 18 or six holes. As a result, Ekwanok, with its 18-hole championship course in the beautiful valley below Mount Equinox, became an immediate success and a center for American amateur golf.
The Presidents Cup (later the Isham Cup), one of the oldest golfing trophies in America, was established in 1900; it remained in competition until 1932 and bears the names of many outstanding golfers, including Charles B. MacDonald, Walter Travis, Jerry Travers, and Fred Herreshoff. In the fall of 1901, the Vermont Golf Association was organized at Ekwanok, and the first state amateur championship was held at the Club in July 1902. Ekwanok members went on to win the first eight championships. In 1903, Ekwanok hosted the final match of the first international championship involving leading players from England and Scotland. In 1914, America's first golf hero, Francis Ouimet, won the United States Amateur in a 36 hole match at Ekwanok, defeating Jerry Travers 6 and 5, on the 13th hole.
In 1904 Ekwanok elected Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of President Lincoln, as the third president of the Club, and he served honorably in this position until his death in 1926. In 1928 the Robert Todd Lincoln Memorial Cup, an invitational tournament, was inaugurated. The tournament, honoring the longest serving president in Ekwanok history, continues today as a member/guest event and is one of the highlights of the golf season.
Lincoln had presided over Ekwanok during prosperous times. Shortly after his death, however, the nation fell into the Great Depression, and Ekwanok was not immune to the hardships. Bartlett Arkell, a philanthropist and art connoisseur, who was also president of the Beechnut Packing Co. for 50 years, steered Ekwanok through the 1930's, overseeing the funding and building of a new Clubhouse after a tragic fire destroyed the original structure in 1938. Arkell's generosity was legendary at Ekwanok, in Manchester and at his other favored club, Augusta National, where he provided the purse for the first nine years of the Masters Invitational and helped to fund the moving, enlargement and conversion of the famous manor house into the club’s first clubhouse.
In 1962, the U.S. Seniors Golf Association chose Ekwanok as the site for its first Invitational golf tournament, bringing together golfers from all over America, as well as Canada. Organized in 1905, the USSGA was America’s first association of Senior golfers to include in its membership amateur golfers by invitation from golf clubs throughout the United States. It was also the first “Seniors” (age 55 and over) golf organization in the world. The Ekwanok USSGA tournament continues to this day.
Hole for hole, Ekwanok is essentially the same layout today as it was in 1900. Changes have of course been made over the years to the greens, tees, and bunkers, but the location and sequence of the holes remains intact. And we are proud of the fact that Ekwanok is the last remaining course in Vermont with a caddie program.
Ekwanok also continues to be an integral part of the Manchester community. Club members have long taken an active part in the town’s social, cultural and community affairs, while also working to allow Ekwanok to deepen its reputation as one of America's finest classic golf courses, one where the membership prizes the great values of the game of golf, the beauty of its setting, and the wonderful friendships formed there.
Ekwanok Country Club in 1915
The 6th Hole
Ekwanok Country Club in 1939, Front
Ekwanok Country Club in 1939, Back