All Things Flynn

By Ron Driscoll, USGA

| May 24, 2024

All Things Flynn

Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Golden Age course designer William Flynn:

Born in Milton, Mass., in 1890, Flynn was a talented golfer who competed in high school against Francis Ouimet, who would go on to win the 1913 U.S. Open and two U.S. Amateur titles. Flynn played four sports in high school and captained Milton High’s football and basketball teams.

Flynn is reported to have helped to design and construct his first course at age 19 in Heartwellville, Vt., for textile magnate William Plunkett. The nine-hole layout, called Kilkare, hosted a notable 1917 event won by two-time U.S. Open runner-up Mike Brady, but the course did not survive two major floods.

Flynn obtained a patent for his design of the iconic basket flagsticks at Merion in February 1916. An ad placed by Flynn and associate Frederick Peters in a 1916 edition of American Golfer magazine lists the distinctive flagsticks at $3 each, nine for $26 and 18 for $50.

Flynn was part of an inner circle of turf experts led by Charles Piper and Russell A. Oakley of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a collaborative whose experiments and findings advanced the understanding of planting and maintaining turf. Their efforts would help lead to the founding of the USGA Green Section in 1920.

Flynn designed at least a half-dozen courses for wealthy clients, including a reversible nine-hole layout, Pocantico Hills Golf Course, on John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s estate in Tarrytown, N.Y. In 1938, one year after its completion, Rockefeller wrote to Flynn: “I cannot speak too highly of what you and your organization have done for us.”

Fox Chapel (17th hole pictured) is one of three venues in Pennsylvania to be hosting USGA championships in 2024. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

Fox Chapel (17th hole pictured) is one of three venues in Pennsylvania to be hosting USGA championships in 2024. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

Three More in 2024 for Pennsylvania

The USGA has beaten a path to Pennsylvania for its championships – 91 of them in all – beginning with the fifth U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1899. That figure tops all states, although California has been nipping at the heels of the Keystone State, having hosted four USGA events in 2023 for a current total of 89.

Pennsylvania will reassert its top spot this year, as the U.S. Women’s Open (May 30-June 2) will be the second of three USGA championships in the state this year. The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball starts on May 25 and is scheduled to conclude at Philadelphia Cricket Club one day before the start of the Women’s Open. The U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be contested at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh from Aug. 1-4.

No fewer than 31 Pennsylvania courses have hosted USGA events, led by Merion (a record 19), Oakmont (17) and Saucon Valley (8), all of which have multiple USGA events in their futures – a combined 19 for the three clubs, including six U.S. Opens. Though the state could land more USGA championships over the next few years (at press time, 17 future championship sites were TBD through 2029), it is currently slated to host its 100th USGA event in 2032, with the U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley.

As for California, if the future schedule were to remain static (i.e., none of the TBD events are earmarked for either state), it would eclipse Pennsylvania and reach the century mark with the 2030 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Spyglass Hill.