The 18th Hole That Gave Him a 2nd Term

There’s storied history about Glen Arven Country Club in Thomasville, Georgia. Founded in 1892, Glen Arven is one of the oldest clubs in America.  It doesn’t get the accolades that some of the older courses get but Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and many of the other great golf legends walked its fairways when the Thomasville Open was a stop on the fledgling PGA winter tour. .

While it’s not known who laid out the very first nine holes, the subsequent “Old Course”, as it was originally called, was redesigned in 1896 by Willie Stark, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland. It remained a nine-hole course until John Van Kleek and Wayne Stiles completed their design of an 18-hole championship layout in 1929. Glen Arven, an overlooked gem that has been active for almost 120 years, is today stronger and more successful than ever.

It’s Glen Arven’s 18th hole, with a historical highlight, like no other hole can claim, that gave this country a two term President. In September 1955, three years into his first term, President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a debilitating heart attack on the 8th hole of the renowned Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado, It turned out to be the first of a number of major illnesses Ike would experience during his Presidency.

By February 1956, Eisenhower, feeling well enough to get out of Washington, travelled to Thomasville, Georgia for some exercise and well-deserved rest and rehabilitation. To Ike, that meant quail hunting and golf. As it turned out, the President wasn’t entirely confident he could handle the effort required to play 18 holes and it sharpened speculation about his fitness and willingness to run again in the 1956 Presidential campaign.

He opted to play Glen Arven’s front nine holes, riding in a three-wheeled golf cart and then felt well enough to ride and play the same nine holes a second time. It can only be assumed that Ike didn’t want to play the back nine holes because of its intimidating final hole. The fact that he could tolerate playing an entire 18 holes suggested he should test his endurance by playing Glen Arven’s back nine, and its daunting 18th hole.

Glen Arven’s home hole, back then, was a 471 yard, par 5, dogleg right named the “Pump Hole”. A tee shot of about 200 yards would land beyond the corner and lake and give the President a complete view of the rest of the hole. The smart play was to hit a 150 yard second shot over the creek and land the ball on the flat surface at the foot of the uphill 18th green. From there, it’s 120 yards and 60 feet straight up hill to the green. When Ike got to the base of the hill, he got out of the cart and told his playing partners he would walk up hill to the green. In fact, Ike was testing himself to see if he was fit enough to announce his candidacy for a second term. Having successfully hiked up the hill and finished the 18th hole without feeling exhaustion or pain, President Eisenhower decided he would run for a second term. Shortly thereafter, the hole was renamed “Cardiac Hill”.

Sidney Matthew succinctly summed up the aura of Glen Arven in his Centennial History Glen Arven Country Club as follows: “There are myriad reasons why Glen Arven Country Club may just be the most historically important country club in the Deep South. Who else can claim membership in the select few clubs which have survived at least one hundred years of continuous existence? Who else can pass the litmus test for greatness: An auspicious founding by distinguished gentlemen, a storied tradition, a noteworthy membership, a superb test of golfing skill designed by a legendary, designer, host to important championships, home to world class champions, and a comfortable gathering place for the companionship of congenial friends? What else could any venerable club ask for? Glen Arven is truly one for the ages.”

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18th hole photo © 2016, Dave Sansom

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John Mooshie, a freelance journalist from Wakulla Springs, Florida,
has an insatiable curiosity for almost
everything and writes on a broad range of golf, travel, and
golf fashions for various magazines, newspapers, 
e-zines, and websites. Formerly an ad agency and billboard
copywriter, he switched careers, co-designed
an 18 hole golf course, and now writes reviews on both golf course
resorts and destination spas.. He is
currently conducting research to write biographical sketches about
individuals and businesses that fly
below the radar and will soon publish a golf book  promising to cure
the five bad shots in golf.