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Palm Beach, Boynton
Port Richey, North
Miami Beach, Naples,
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La Gorce Country Club www.lagorcecc.com
5685 Alton Road Miami Beach, FL 33140
Phone: (305) 866-4421
Beach Deserves A First-Class Country Club”
More than 70 years ago, two prominent men made statements that applied
then - as well as now - to the La Gorce Country Club. One came from
John Oliver La Gorce, a pioneer in the development of Miami Beach,
who described the areas as a place “…for pleasure-bent
and health-seeking folk.” James M. Cox, former governor of Ohio
and presidential candidate in 1920, had La Gorce in mind when he said,
“Miami Beach deserves a first-class country club.”
A cross-section of the current membership shows people from throughout
the United States and Canada who, year in and year out, look upon
La Gorce as their “second home”. Several members are the
third generation of some of Miami’s most prominent families.
Businesses and professions – from accountants to zoologists
- make for a lively and interesting membership. La Gorce’s “heritage”,
so to speak, is one of which we can all be proud and its place in
the Miami community is well established. To appreciate what La Gorce
stands for today a brief review of its colorful history is necessary.
Back in 1924,
when Miami was booming, the original La Gorce Country Club was built
by dredging more than two million cubic yards from Biscayne Bay. Carl
Fisher was the pre-eminent realtor of the day and the course was used
mainly for guests at nearby hotels, which he owned.
There was the Flamingo, Lincoln, the King Cole (now the Miami Heart
Institute), Bolivar and the Nautilus (now the site Mt. Sinai Hospital).
Alton Road had two tar-surfaced lanes and a trolley line.
La Gorce was completed in 1927, and within a year, received nationwide
prominence when the Miami Beach – La Gorce open was played here,
with Johnny Farrell, the winner.
Green fees were $3.35. Sandwiches were served form 11 to 3. No dinners.
From the second floor of the modest clubhouse, which cost $95,000,
one could see boats offshore. In those early days, as well as those
that followed, celebrities from throughout the country played La Gorce:
Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Tex Rickard, John Golden, Babe Zaharias,
Betty Hicks, Patty Berg, Eddie Rickenbacker, Will Rogers, Harvey Firestone,
Gar Wood and Edgar Guest, to name a few.
During World War II, La Gorce, like so many clubs, was hard put to
survive. The Army had taken over the nearby Bayshore Golf Club for
a training area and parade ground. Soldiers were billeted at the Boulevard
Hotel. La Gorce was open from December to April and many Army personnel
were among the players. It had no liquor license, so players either
brought their own or purchased drinks from the locker boys. The city
of Miami Beach took over the club, then on the brink of going out
of existence, and it became a public course.
1945: The “New” La Gorce is born
Within 24 hours the “old” La Gorce Country Club was to
be sold to real estate developers and a colorful era in Miami Beach
was about to close. But that did not occur because several civic-minded
men quickly raised $1 million and purchased the club. It was April
1945, and the “new” La Gorce was born; a colorful era
Among those leaders were former Governor James Cox, William Pawley,
Frank Smathers, Hugh Purvis, Paul Scott, George Sally, Carl Fisher,
Arthur Pancoast, Van Kussrow, Dan Mahoney, James Buchanan, Oscar Dooly,
and of course, Dr. John Oliver La Gorce.
The Biltmore Country Club in Coral Gables had been taken over by the
government during the war for a military hospital, so these men and
many others looked elsewhere for a first-class club. La Gorce beckoned
from across the waters of Biscayne Bay.
A non-profit corporation was authorized to issue 500 ownership certificates
at $1,000 each and the $500,000 thus obtained, was the down payment.
The balance of $500,000 was a first mortgage at 2 percent. The purchasers
of certificates elected a 15-member board of governors, which set
initiation at $500, dues at $300, and social memberships at $200.
The war was over, residents and winter visitors were anxious and ready
to relax and enjoy the advantages and beauties of Florida. La Gorce
became a large and important part of that picture.
From the start a great club spirit was evident. For example, barren
spots in the course soon blossomed with royal palms, Australian pines
and other trees because members personally bought and planted such
foliage, much of which now grace our fairways. Four tennis courts
were built and there are now six, four of which have lighting facilities
for playing at night. The swimming pool was built.
in 1950 at La Gorce.
Who are they
and where are they now?
In the early 1950’s, under the presidency of James Buchanan,
the clubhouse was expanded and when Harry Daumit was president (1969-73)
many improvements were made in the course. Robert Trent Jones, an
outstanding course architect, was called in to redesign some of the
holes. For example, there were no water holes. Now there are three;
the number of traps was reduced from 80 to 72.
Fun and Games for The Pleasure-Bent
It did not take long for golfers and others from throughout the country
to make La Gorce their winter headquarters. The course then –
as now – was rated as one of the best, and tournament professionals
and top amateurs were constantly on hand. A stroll through the men’s
grill room and reading the plaques is like recalling the “who’s
who” of golfdom in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s.
Manufacturers of golf equipment (Dunlop, Titleist, Spalding, etc.)
retained visiting pros to test their products at La Gorce tournaments.
As the ladies became more interested and expert in golf, their influence
became evident. Scotch foursomes were regular events. Shorts were
acceptable as proper attire, but they could be no more than three
inches above the knees. Dude ranch parties, tea dances, and other
events were popular and received extensive coverage in newspapers.
An excellent club spirit and good fellowship prevailed.
under the Miami moon were regular events at the Club.
Grill in bygone years“A Far – Sighted Man”
Among other things,
John Oliver La Gorce was well known for his pioneering contributions
in the development of Miami Beach, where he was a winter resident
for 40 years. He helped his friend, Carl Fisher, in planning the community,
which he described as a place “…. for pleasure-bent and
Dr. La Gorce was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and as a young man
went to work for the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.
When he passed away in 1959 at the age of 80, he had been president
of the Society and editor of the National Geographic Magazine. For
his contributions to science and education, he received honorary degrees
from five universities. Columbia University’s prestigious Maria
Moors Cabot Award was given to him for his promoting understanding
among the nations of the Americas.
He was a man of many talents, such as being among the first editors
to advance solar heat as a form of energy; in his teens he learned
the Morse code dot and dash system. He was on the Board of Trustees
of the University of Miami and a member of the Committee of 100.
Go beyond the La Gorce Country Club and one will find some of nature’s
wonders named for him: a glacier in Alaska, a fantastic rock formation
in Utah, in Antarctica’s white wilderness, the La Gorce mountains
and La Gorce peak. He wrote many articles on such diverse subjects
as Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania, aquariums in Romania and fishing
– in which he was highly proficient. Plus, a 94-page article
in 1930 in the National Geographic, “Florida – The Fountain
An editorial in The Miami News said of him: “But more than the
name lives on – the memory of a far-sighted man who helped make
a patch of swamp into a glittering metropolis known the world over.”
enthusiasts in the early fifties.
All Bar Mitzvah Photos