Founded in 1936, the USGA Museum in Far Hills, New Jersey, is one of the country’s oldest institutions dedicated solely to sports. For decades it conveyed golf history by focusing on the evolution of equipment, but as Rand Jerris, the museum’s visionary director, points out, “Golf is not about equipment, it’s about people—the human stories behind the game.”
That principle guided the USGA in a recently completed, almost $20 million makeover of the museum. More than two thousand artifacts are on display, many of them newly acquired. A new wing named for Arnold Palmer houses the trophies for each of the USGA’s thirteen national championships, with the names of every winner inscribed on bronze panels encircling a room. Visitors can also tour six new galleries, each spotlighting an iconic moment in USGA history, including Francis Ouimet’s triumph in the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline and Tiger Woods’s record-breaking 2000 Open victory at Pebble Beach. Short films provide the social context, and the interior of each gallery reflects the design sensibilities of the time.
In the museum’s redone research center (open to the public for the first time; appointments encouraged), fans of golf’s golden age of expansion can pore over a trove of travel-related artifacts from the early twentieth century. The collection includes vintage posters created by railroad companies to promote resorts throughout England and Scotland and, later, across the continent and beyond. One of them, for the Eastern Bengal Railway, touts the golf in (of all places) the city of Shillong, which it bills as the “Gleneagles of India” for its similarity to the Scottish Highlands resort. Also intriguing are dozens of golf-themed luggage labels, as well as postcards from meccas such as Pebble Beach and St. Augustine and brochures showcasing the amenities at a newly established golf community in a place called Pinehurst, North Carolina.