Biography
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Albert Warren Tillinghast was born in 1874 in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "Tillie" was the only child in an upper middle class family. He never attended college, he didn't even complete high school. There were many sides to Tillinghast that most people are unaware of.
  • There was Tillie the photographer.
  • Tillie the advocate, promoted the advantages of public golf.
  • Tillinghast was also considered an entrepreneur. His businesses included mini-golf courses and driving ranges that were equipped with lights and covered booths.
  • And there was Tillie the playboy
A.W. Tillinghast did start making his footprint in American Golf History by
  • being one of the founders of the largest sporting organization in the world, PGA of America.
  • he was also a profound writer.
  • He also worked for Golf Illustrated in the early 1900’s. He wrote an article where he ranked the top 12 American golfers. It was in these articles where people first heard of one of the greatest golfers of all time, Bobby Jones. Jones first appeared in Tillie’s article in 1916 at just age 14!! (The Creator of Golf Courses).
  • Tillie also wrote two books, Cobble Valley Golf Yarn which can be purchased for $500. The Mutt though, had 250 copies that were hand numbered and signed by Tillinghast. These copies could be bought for anywhere from $5,000- $7,500. The rarest publication written by A.W. Tillinghast was Planning a Golf Course. Which was only 24 pages long and the last one was sold for $14, 400!!!
Tillie didn’t start designing golf courses until 1911, or so that’s what most people think. In 1898, Tillinghast recalled, “I was invited to run out to Frankford, a suburb of Philadelphia where at that time golf had yet to be introduced. Selecting the most available ground, I laid out a rather crude course, using four holes, tin cans which had once contained French peas,” (Original Designs). Most people don’t know about this little course.
At this point I believe he went on to become the greatest golf course designer of all time.
  • His first “real” design was in 1911 at Shawnee-On-The-Delaware. Tillie was a hands-on architect. He relied on inspirations from the moment and when it came to him, he would draw his ideas in the dirt. With his very flamboyant personality and his love of drinking, he was a very interesting man to work for. He would sit under a tree, bottle in hand, and call out directions to his workers as they shaped the course. No matter how he did it, he always found a way to create a magnificent golf course.
In the 20 years following his first official design, Tillie designed approximately 60 courses from scratch all over the country, with many located in the northeast. During that same time period he redesigned 60 more courses.
  • His most famous courses are the Upper and Lower Courses at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey. The “Old course” at Baltusrol had already held many international tournaments including two U.S. Opens. When Tillie was hired by Baltusrol to design another course, he decided to do a little more. He wanted to demolish the “Old course” and build two new courses. That’s exactly what he did. The Lower Course he designed has held four U.S. Opens, in 1954, 1967, 1980, and 1993. It has also held one PGA Championship in 2005 and will host it again in 2016. The Upper Course he designed held one U.S. Open in 1936 and one U.S. Women’s Open in 1985.
  • Other courses Ridgewood Country Club (27 holes), as well as Somerset Hills Golf Club, which is known to be one of his most interesting designs.
  • In southern New Jersey, he helped to redesign the current number one golf course in the world, Pine Valley Golf Club.
  • He also designed 16 golf courses in Westchester County alone! His most famous design in Westchester is Winged Foot Golf Club’s East and West courses. The West Course at Winged Foot has held five U.S. Opens, in 1929, 1959, 1974, 1984, and 2006. The East Course has also held two U.S. Women’s Opens, in 1957 and 1972.
  • Other famous courses in Westchester include Quaker Ridge Golf Club, Scarsdale Golf Club, and Fenway Golf Club. On the west coast, his most famous design is the San Francisco Golf Club. Tillinghast designed other lesser known courses that have pretty remarkable layouts.
Tillinghast wasn’t exactly a family man. Despite having good relations with many people, he often had trouble relating to his family. His wife, Lillian, was often afraid of him. He would sometimes become short tempered due to his drinking. His grandson recalls one incident, “One night… Dadgan (Tillinghast), apparently drunk, was shouting and waving a pistol while Damee (Lillian, his wife) held his wrist and shouted back,”(Remembrances of My Grandfather). Tillie also had a habit of “taking off.” He would often leave home for short periods of time without giving a reason. He would come home without any announcement and go on living like nothing happened. After the crash of the stock market in the early 1930’s he lost pretty much everything. He often had to borrow money from his son-in-law to help support him and his wife.
Tillie faced health issues late in his life. He suffered from Arteriosclerosis in his legs. He had also been diagnosed with mild diabetes in 1936. Then in 1941, heart disease really took the life out of him. He stopped drinking and became less temperamental and during this time wasn’t a bad person to live with. It was at that point when he and his wife went to live with his oldest daughter, Marion, in Toledo, Ohio. Then on May 19, 1942, after suffering a second heart attack, he died at the age of 68. He lived an exhilarating life and will never be forgotten for the many remarkable golf courses he designed.

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Scorecards of courses designed by A.W. Tillinghast