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Peter Flory

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Melody Farm CC
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:12:57 AM »
Michael Wolf was pointing out some old writings that mentioned the short life of the Melody Farm Country Club.  I knew where it was, but never thought to try to decipher the routing/ course until now. 

I figure that I'll post my findings here and what I know about the course so that it adds to the historical record here. 

What I know:
- Located on what was the former J Ogden Armour estate, located just north of where the current Conway Farms is.
- He named it Mellody Farms (after the last name of one of the five Irish land owners that he purchased it from).  Name was later changed to Melody. 
- Armour's house and grounds was very much like Albert Lasker's at Mill Road Farm.  Elaborate gardens, pools, mansion, sprawling grounds.  He supposedly built the entire thing as a surprise gift for his wife Lolita when she was in Europe for a period of time. 
- Armour was a meat packing magnate who was extremely wealthy and had one of the most stunning financial spirals in history- at one point losing $1MM per day for 130 straight days.  He lost approximately $1B in today's dollars and the vast majority of his fortune, except for a small amount of cash and some securities that were worthless at the time and the bankers declined to take it- but later went up in value and benefitted his widow.
- Armour passed away in 1927 and the estate was sold.
- The Estate was purchased in June 1928 for $2.5MM.  The buyers were a group of 26 wealthy men who planned to turn the site into an ultra exclusive national golf club.  They included: Britton Budd, Samuel Insull, Charles Glore, George Reynolds, Henry Dawes, Bernard Sunny, John Thompson, Joseph Otis, Thomas E Wilson, Henry Ford, and Stuyvesant Peabody.  They planned to build a course that would be the "finest west of St Andrews in Scotland".  They were going to divide up the excess land and each build a residence on the property overlooking the golf course. 
- Insull seemed to be the main organizer and his plan was to build a club for the richest of the rich to convene, relax, and to be able to discuss their deals in private. 
- There was an impression that it would be a men's only club like Old Elm, but they never got that far and didn't sell any memberships beyond the initial group. 
- An 18 hole course was built by Jack Daray (and George O'Neill?) and a locker house was erected.  They planned to convert Armour's residence into a clubhouse, but never got that far.  The stockmarket crash in 1929 "hit the financial world and the syndicate of 26 found a white elephant on its hands."
- The course was opened for play briefly in 1931, but that was it.  In the article that M Wolf found, Daray claims that he was the only one ever to play the course. 
- Title in the Mellody Farms Country Club was transferred to Consolidated Property Trust in 1931.  The owners all had to pledge additional cash to it. 

1939 aerial showing the remnants of the course, which went fallow in around 1932-33.  (scroll right to see it all).  The front nine was relatively easy to see, but the back nine was challenging.  A handful of greens are still in the ground and I can see them in the LiDAR. 

For the holes where the ground is undisturbed, I can see some dramatic features.  The 2nd green for instance, is perched about 8 feet above the bunker that wraps around it.  On 15, it looks like there were large mounds in front of the green, only giving a little glimpse through the trough. 

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Melody Farm CC
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2022, 10:24:05 AM »
Here are the two articles I have on Melody Farm.  From the second article, it would appear that there were at least a few more folks who played the course than just Jack Daray.

Oct. 6, 1929 Chicago Tribune -

June 12, 1932 Chicago Tribune -

« Last Edit: July 31, 2022, 10:25:59 AM by Sven Nilsen »
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Peter Flory

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Re: Melody Farm CC
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2022, 04:55:51 PM »
You would think that would be the case, since it was fully formed.  How could the initial backers resist playing it?  Some probably were drawn into their crumbling financial empires, but there had to be a handful who still had the free time to golf. 

Here is how I measure the holes from near the back of the tee boxes to the center of the greens, with waypoints for how the holes dogleg (measured to where the drive would land and then along the approach shot line). 

1) 412 (4)
2) 354 (4)
3) 381 (4)
4) 181 (3)
5) 560 (5)
6) 457 (4)
7) 204 (3)
8- 395 (4)
9) 453 (4)
3,397 yards, par 35

10) 402 (4)
11) 147 (3)
12) 396 (4)
13) 495 (5)
14) 476 (4)
15) 585 (5)
16) 414 (4)
17) 134 (3)
18) 291 (4)
3,340, par 36

Total = 6,737, par 71

Peter Flory

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Re: Melody Farm CC
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2022, 09:46:11 AM »
I could see that there were 2 greens still in the ground from the lidar, so I went to check them out in person.  #2 green is sitting in dense vegetation and isn't photographable.  But #17 green is right by the entrance road, clear as day- at least in person.

This is more or less the view from just short of the green w/ the lake to the left.  That tree is sitting almost right in the middle of the green, but the pad is otherwise exposed.  There is still an impression short right where the greenside bunker was.  I'd be curious if there is still sand under there or if it fully erodes away after such a long period of time. 

Here is the view from behind- lake to the right from this angle.  This shows the pad more clearly and the depression to the right in this pic where another bunker was. 

Here is what is left of the garden area:


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Re: Melody Farm CC
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2022, 06:55:31 PM »
This is tremendous work. Kudos to Peter and Sven.

Root & Hollister as the course architects? Somewhere I have a clip that says Jack Daray, George O'Neil and Jack Croke were involved.
The website:
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