This discussion group is best enjoyed using Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.


George Bahto in MetGolfer
« on: April 08, 2003, 05:02:56 PM »
For those not on the New York area, George Bahto is featured in an article in MetGolfer, which is the publication of New York's Metropilitan Golf Association. For a full link see and look under latest issue on the bottom right bar.


By John Steinbreder

George Bahto was just your average weekend golfer in New Jersey, until a strange turn of events led to him becoming a golf course architect and published author.

 There is nothing unusual about the act of writing a book on Charles Blair Macdonald. The Chicago native not only won the first U.S. Amateur Championship, but he also was one of the game’s most acclaimed architects—and advocates—having built the great National Golf Links of America on the south fork of Long Island, among other tracks, and was instrumental in the founding of the United States Golf Association. Plenty of fodder, you might say.

But what is odd about the recently released volume titled “The Evangelist of Golf:The Story of Charles Blair Macdonald” is that the author is not a dyed-in-the-wool golf historian, but a second generation Turkish-American from New Jersey who once played minor league baseball and spent most of his adult life running a dry-cleaning business.

So how did the unlikely figure of George Bahto become one of the leading authorities not only on Macdonald but also on his two designer protégés, Seth Raynor and Charles “Steamshovel” Banks?

Actually, it all started with a fire. “I was a member of a [Parsippany] New Jersey club called The Knoll when the clubhouse burned down in the mid-1980s,” says the burly 72-year-old father of four. “We were interested in restoring the building to its original design as well as recapturing some of the things that had been lost, so I started scrounging around the United States Golf Association archives at Golf House for information on the club.”

Bahto not only discovered information on the clubhouse at The Knoll and the Charles Banks course there, but he also learned that many of the New Jersey tracks he had also enjoyed playing, such as Essex County CC in West Orange and Hendrick’s Field GC in Belleville, had been built by the same architect. “I started researching all that Banks had done,” Bahto recalls. “That eventually led me to Raynor, about whom very little was written or known, and then to Macdonald. I ended up writing a club history on The Knoll, and then I had hoped to do something about Raynor and Banks. But you can’t do something about them without first doing something about Macdonald. So I started on him.”

Bahto admits that the project grew into something of an obsession. He talked to lots of golf course historians and read any newspaper or magazine articles on the architect he could unearth. He visited some 80 different layouts that Macdonald had a hand in designing and spent many hours at the Golf House library. “I came up with enough material for three books,” he explains, all of which will eventually be published. The Macdonald book came out last November. Bahto then plans to release another devoted to the National and follow that with a third about all the courses Macdonald, Raynor, and Banks created and the clubs of which they were a part.

The Macdonald book is a handsome volume full of vintage photographs, detailed sketches and revealing information. Several chapters deal specific-ally with individual clubs he helped design, among them a number of Met Area clubs, such as Piping Rock, Deepdale, and The Creek, all on Long Island, and Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County. There also is fascinating biographical information on Macdonald as well as descriptions on the many holes and features he often copied from the great links of the United Kingdom.

In addition, Bahto wrote a chapter on Raynor dubbed “Seth the Surveyor,” which reveals many surprises. “I was amazed, for example, at the amount of courses for which Raynor was never credited,” he explains. “Did you know that he worked on Maidstone [on Long Island] twice? Or that he drew up the plans for The Olympic Club in San Francisco but died before they could be acted upon? In fact, he had 30 courses in some form of development when he passed away in 1926.”

Architect Tom Doak wrote a foreword and Ben Crenshaw penned an enthusiastic introduction, and they are not the only ones impressed with what Bahto has done. “He’s like a walking cartoon character when he gets talking about Macdonald, Banks, or Raynor because he gets so animated,” says Pat Sisk, who was superintendent at the Seth Raynor-designed course at the Country Club of Fairfield in Connecticut before taking a similar position with the Milwaukee Country Club, in Wisconsin, four years ago. “He gets so excited about their work, and he really knows what he’s talking about. That’s apparent when you look at the book, and apparent when you spend time with him. George taught me how to look beyond the basic designs of their work and seek out the intricacies.”

Adds Dr. Bradley S. Klein, the architecture editor for Golfweek magazine and the author of an award-winning opus on Donald Ross: “George is a great chronicler and a very good resource in that regard. He is also a very strong digger, and his book shows that.”

Bahto didn’t know much about golf when he was a young boy helping his father Shukrey, who emigrated from Turkey after World War I, at the family’s dry-cleaning business in Upper Montclair. Baseball was his game, and after he finished high school, he went on to sign with the Philadelphia Athletics. He was playing shortstop for their farm team in the Adirondack League when the Korean War broke out. Bahto decided to enlist in the Navy. He was 21.

Although that effectively marked the end of his baseball career, it reintroduced him to golf, a game he had first learned while caddying for his father. “I spent a fair amount of time at the naval school in Norfolk, Virginia, and then I began a two-and-a-half year stint as a radio man on a patrol plane,” Bahto recalls. “We’d fly over the Atlantic looking for Soviet submarines, but we’d also have lots of down time whenever our plane would go in for mechanical work. When that happened, we’d all play golf.”

By the time he’d finished his four-year hitch, Bahto was married and the father of two girls. With a family to support, he went right to work with his father. He also continued to play golf, at one point working his handicap all the way down to a two. But that sport was little more than a weekend recreation until the fire at The Knoll and the sudden passion for Macdonald, Raynor, and Banks it ignited.

The Macdonald book is just the half of it. Bahto also has developed a consulting business to help clubs restore their classic tracks. That, for example, is what he has been doing at Essex County, where he has recently been leading an extensive bunker renovation project. “George brought an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise about Charles Banks,” says Richard Tompeck, the club president and green chairman. “It was almost like it was Banks in George’s body, and his work has been excellent.” So much so, he adds, that the Essex County membership is univers-ally thrilled. And anyone who has spent time around a golf club knows how elusive that sort of unanimity can be.

Bahto is currently involved at The Knoll, as well as up at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, which has a nine-hole course that Raynor built in the early 1920s. It is also where Banks was working as a teacher when he met Raynor and caught the design bug so completely that he quit the education business and joined the architecture game full time.

All told, Bahto has eight projects in the works. “I just like restoring things,” he explains. “I’ve restored four Thunderbirds [cars] as well as a Victorian house. I really like bringing older things back to their original grandeur. But most of all, I like working with golf courses.”

That does not mean, however, that restoration is all he does. Bahto has also designed his own course at the Stone-ridge Golf Links CC on Long Island (on the site of the former Happauge Golf Course), giving it a retro-Raynor look. It opened in 2001 and has been widely lauded for its green complexes.

These days, Bahto’s life is all about golf. He closed down the dry cleaning business not too long ago, though he still owns the building that housed it. But he hasn’t retired. The books and the course restorations keep him moving at a pace most septuagenarians gave up long ago. And he is also looking for another course to design. In fact, he is so busy that he hardly gets to play golf anymore.

“But that’s not really a problem, because I really enjoy what I am doing,” Bahto says. “The Macdonald book has been a stepping stone, a beginning to all I am doing now. And I wouldn’t change a thing.”

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2003, 05:26:37 PM »
There will be no living with him now.   ;)
George's baseball career is overshadowed by his proficiency in another game. He was the "New Jersey Marble Champion" of 1941.  ;D  

Great article about a great guy. Thanks for posting it. Magazine delivery is slow out here in the hinterlands.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon


Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2003, 07:18:31 PM »
I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days with George, including some LONG car rides, that seemed to pass all too quickly in brief moments.

He has the energy of a 20 year old, and the insight of an ancient.  Fantastic to see him getting recognition for his passionate achievements.  

If you look in the dictionary under "Gentleman", I'm sure his picture is there, too.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2003, 06:51:40 AM »
I've yet to have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bahto... and before this I had never seen a picture of him... but funny, this is EXACTLY how I pictured him.

Great article about from all accounts a REALLY great guy.  Keep up the good work, George.  Can't wait for the next book!


ps - it normally doesn't work this way... participants here rarely look like I think they will in person.... intersting.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2003, 07:50:36 AM »
Wow- I know a celebrity  :)

Mike nailed it above. George is 72 going on 19.  No one is more deserving of the recognition.  Its great to see such passion for a subject and it shows in the book and the personal interactions.  

My only regret is that my colleagues at the Yale GC failed to heed the calling of restoration from George  :'(
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2003, 09:23:45 AM »
If you look up the word "energy" in the dictionary you will see a picture of George Bahto -- he would actually cause the Energizer bunny to run out of gas. ;D

In knowing George as long as I have he is tireless in his passion and commitment to golf.

Congrats George!

P.S. George, if you do read this -- how are things coming with The Knoll? E-mail me offline.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2003, 09:34:55 AM »
I had the pleasure of spending some time with George a few weeks back too. Yes, George had the energy of a much younger man Mike and Geoffrey, but the wisdom of a much older man. He stayed in the bar while you two and I played in the wind and rain. lol
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2003, 10:15:36 AM »
I should also mention that I am coincidentally playing an outing on the afternoon of Thursday May 22 at Essex County CC, where George has been doing some work to the course. If anyone has an interest in playing, shoot me an email.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2003, 11:04:38 AM »
I saw the Raynor layout design for Olympic a few days ago and it was supposed to be the "West Coast Lido".  I wonder what Cypress was supposed to be?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: George Bahto in MetGolfer
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2003, 01:38:40 PM »

I saw the Raynor layout design for Olympic a few days ago and it was supposed to be the "West Coast Lido".

Biggest mistake Olympic ever made.  The plans are on the wall in the locker room if anyone visits Olympic.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by 1056376800 »


An Error Has Occurred!

Call to undefined function theme_linktree()