Class of 2019
Walter J. Travis was born in Maldon, Australia. He didn’t arrive in the United States until 1886, when he moved to New York City to represent a company that exported hardware and construction products.
He married Anne Bent of Connecticut a few years after arriving and earned naturalized citizenship. The couple initially made a home in Flushing, Queens, and then eventually settled in Garden City on Long Island about a decade later.
Travis first became infatuated with the game in 1896 at Oakland Golf Club. A month later, he won his first trophy at Oakland’s handicap competition and within a year, he won the club championship with a score of 82.
Travis became known among his fellow golf competitors as “The Old Man”, due to the fact he began playing the game at age 35. He entered his first U.S. Amateur in 1898, where he lost in the semi-final.
He went on to win three U.S. Amateur Championships in a span of four years in 1900, 1901, and 1903. Two of those wins came on New York courses including his home club, Garden City Golf Club (‘00) and Nassau Country Club (‘03). In 1904, Travis became the first player from America to win the British Amateur (it would take another 23 years for another to duplicate).
His success was aided by his early adoption of B.F. Goodrich’s wound-rubber golf balls and the Schenectady Putter (invented by Mohawk Golf Club member A.F. Knight), both of which he helped popularize throughout the golfing world.
In the span of his amateur golfing career, Travis won the Metropolitan Golf Association Championship four times (1900, 1902, 1909 and 1915) and the North – South Amateur at Pinehurst three times (1904, 1910, 1912).
Overall, he competed in 17 consecutive U.S. Amateurs from 1898 – 1914, and six U.S. Opens between 1902 – 1912 where he was low amateur in five of those, including his second-place finish in 1902 at his home club, Garden City Golf Club.
Travis’ early playing accomplishments and popularity sparked a major surge of interest in the game of golf throughout the country. Wanting to share his knowledge, Travis authored several books on golf and golf course architecture, including The Art of Putting in 1904 and Practical Golf in 1909. In addition to this, Travis founded and published The American Golfer, which was widely regarded as the most influential golf magazine of its time.
He retired from competitive golf in 1916 at the age of 54, due to declining health diminishing his skills.
If his golf game and contributions in writing weren’t impressive enough, Travis pursued his passion of golf course architecture. His first experience was at Manchester Vermont’s Ekwanok Country Club in 1899 alongside John Duncan Dunn of Scotland. Throughout his life, Travis designed over 50 golf courses without any formal education or training in landscape/golf course design.
In designing a layout, he felt it was important to place bunkers aesthetically and scientifically to create interest and make each hole a new problem, which sharply contrasted the commonly used cross-bunkers. His early strategy with bunker placement represented a significant development to golf course design. His creative green sites, often dramatic and uniquely carved into the natural landscape, are highly regarded among modern golf course architects.
Seven of his course designs reside in New York State, including the Country Club of Troy, Garden City Country Club, Onondaga Golf & Country Club, Orchard Park Country Club, Stafford Country Club, Westchester Country Club (South and West Course), and Yahnundasis Golf Club.
He also touched many Empire State venues through renovations including Garden City Golf Club (he was a founding member, green chairman), Grover Cleveland Municipal (formerly the Country Club of Buffalo), Stamford Golf Club, Sunningdale Country Club, Valley View Golf Club, and Westchester Hills Golf Club.
Some of the Travis venues that no longer exist include Flushing Country Club, Longue Vue, and Oak Ridge Golf Club, and Oakland Golf Club’s back nine.
Travis passed away in 1927 in Denver, Colorado at the age of 65 and is buried at Dellwood cemetery in his beloved Manchester, Vermont. He was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1979.
Walter Travis’ Career Highlights
- Player Highlights
- 3x U.S. Amateur Champion (1900, 1901, 1903)
- Competed in 17 U.S. Amateur Championships
- British Amateur Champion (1904)
- 4x MGA Champion
- 3x North – South Amateur Champion
- Architecture Highlights
- Designed over 50 courses, including the following NYS courses: CC of Troy, Onondaga Golf & CC, Orchard Park CC, Stafford CC, Garden City CC, Westchester CC (West Course), and Yahnundasis GC.
- The Art of Putting (1904)
- Practical Golf (1909)
- Founded and published The American Golfer, which was widely regarded as the most influential golf magazine of its time.
- Elected to World Golf Hall of Fame (1979)