Summer 2015 marks the 50th year of Colgate’s Seven Oaks operating as an 18-hole golf course — but its history goes back much further, to the original nine holes above West and East halls now known as the “Old Golf Course.” So, we’ve teed up 18 facts from yesterday and today.


By Rebecca Downing


Archival black and white photo of golfers on a green
Originally called Hamilton Golf Club, the course opened in 1916. It was renamed Seven Oaks in 1928 in honor of the Colgate family estate, Filston Farm, near the community of Sevenoaks, in Kent, England.

With a planned relocation to the Payne Farm across Hamilton Street from the campus in mind, Robert Trent Jones Sr. first designed the course in 1934. His approach followed British and American Open title holder Gene Sarazen’s vision to create an “Augusta of the North.” Major world events including the Great Depression and World War II, as well as property acquisitions over time, required many revisions. Built in two phases, the first nine holes were dedicated July 4, 1958, and holes 10 through 18 were first played in 1965.


First hole-in-one: Captain Richard B. Morrin MA’60, on the 141-yard #2 with a five iron in June 1959. History professor Kenneth O’Brien testified to it.


2015 Patriot League Championship
In April, the Raiders golf team hosted at Seven Oaks for the sixth time, tying Lafayette for third for Colgate’s best finish in 14 years. Chris Wilson ’17 finished fifth for a spot on the All-Patriot League First Team. Keith Tyburski is head men’s coach.

Chris Wilson '17 waving after a shot


Archival scorecardThe first foursome to play the freshly finished back nine, on Sept. 4, 1965: Stuart Benedict ’62, Jim Harberson ’64, William Burke ’54, and Don Tiffany ’43


“Finicky Cow Snubs Golf Balls”
Hamilton, N.Y. – Lant Gilmartin’s cow Susie today refused to eat any more golf balls. For five years, Susie has leaned hungrily against the fence of her pasture, which adjoins the Seven Oaks Golf Course, waiting for a sliced drive. Then Susie has eaten the golf ball as if it were an apple.

CowBut today, perhaps because it is the 13th, Susie sniffed disdainfully at a ball and returned to eating grass. “Maybe she’s got a little touch of indigestion,” said Lant. “I can’t believe she’s getting finicky in her old age.”

— Binghamton Press, Sept. 13, 1932


Greens fees

1922$.50 (9 holes, public, daily)   2015$50 (18 holes, public, Friday)


Souvenir Program from 1977 for National Golf ChampionshipNCAA National Golf Championship — June 8-11, 1977
Scott Simpson of the University of Southern California took the title at Seven Oaks with a one-over-par 289 for four rounds. He went pro, playing on the PGA Tour until 2007 and winning seven events, including the 1987 US Open, and is still competing on the Champions Tour.


Seven Oaks Pros
James Dalgety (1928–1962)
Thomas Parnell (1963–1974)
Gilles Gagnon (1975–1980)
Francis “Buddy” Powers (1981)
Marian (Burke) Blain (1982–2013)
Ben Pasquith (Current)


Man uses shovel to break ground

Groundbreaking in 1956 by Everett D. Barnes ’22, University President Everett Case, J. Leslie Hart ’30, and Robert C. Roberts

9 Now, 9 Later
The front nine holes for the “new” course — first called the University Golf Course — officially opened July 4, 1958. Colgate students looking for extra dough were hired in fall 1957 and spring 1958 to rake stones, smooth rough areas on the fairways, and collect debris.

Once the new nine-hole course opened, the “old golf course” on the campus hill was used for intramural play and phys. ed. instruction for two years. Colgate retired it because of the expense of running two courses.



Stand at the roadway
Look toward the 10th tee
You will see
Seven oak trees

Hemline hurrah
As of July 4, 1954, the women of Seven Oaks can wear shorts with a length of 1 inch above the knee.
— Mid-York Weekly, July 1, 1954

Archival photo of spectators watching others golf

Hamilton Golf Club c. 1920


To coin a phrase
Sayings of Sherburne business owner Joe Shaheen, a colorful member of Seven Oaks for many years, as recalled by Dick Carroll MA’66:

“Right in the middle on the right side.”

“Take your time — I’ve got until 10:00 tonight.”
(While playing early in the morning)

“It’ll be a good lie if I get there first.”

An archival sketch of the plan for Seven Oaks
A brickyard and kiln that supplied bricks for several buildings in Hamilton once sat in the area of the 13th tee.

Robert Trent Jones submitted 13 different course designs for Seven Oaks between 1934 and 1964.


Robert Trent Jones and others review plans for the course

Robert Trent Jones, far left

Before you hit the links
Try the Perkin-Sumption Driving Range, which opened in 2006. When excavating for it, local heavy-equipment operator Stub Baker unearthed a large cache of fossils. He notified the geology department, and soon professors, students, and local fossil buffs were swarming the area to collect trilobytes galore.

Colgate Alumni Golf Tournament 2015 marked the 33rd annual event.


Marker at the 16th hole


A good readCover of the book "Seven Oaks: A History of Golf at Colgate University"
Local historian Jim Ford’s Seven Oaks: A History of Golf at Colgate University (Upstate Institute at Colgate University, publisher, 2013) was a great source of many tidbits and photos for this article.


Golfers on the course with Colgate's academic buildings in the background.
You did it!
You just finished the 18-hole course that says “is good enough to be included in Golf Magazine’s list of the top 20 public golf courses in New York for 2010. The flawless condition of the golf course, as well as being tough enough to challenge collegiate golfers (with a 74.6/146 slope/rating), is the biggest reason why.”

Golfweek says:
Best Campus Course (22nd nationally, 2013)

Golf says:
Best Public Course (14th in New York, 2014)


The “19th hole” — Seven Oaks Clubhouse
Originally the home of Deacon Charles C. Payne, the ninth of 16 sons of Colgate founder Judge Elisha Payne, built circa 1835. Purchased by Dr. I.N. Wheeler in 1905.

Sip an Arnold Palmer and warm up with some Birdies before slicing into a golfy-sandwich: try the Seven Oaks Club, Malloy, Van de Velde, or maybe the Duffer is more your speed. Eat overlooking the “back six,” whether on the porch or Donald Tiffany ’43 terrace.

Archival photo of what is now the Seven Oaks clubhouse

The Wheeler Home, c. 1909. The barn in the background would become the Pro Shop at Seven Oaks in 1959.


One Response

  1. Russell "Russ" Fowler

    Excellent article. I played the old course back in the 1950’s. Gave up golf when the head of my club landed on the green along with my ball. I was playing with wood shafted clubs inherited from my Dad. Good memories.