Street names can give clues about a community's past. That's especially true with golf courses. When Long Island streets are tagged with golf-related terms, it often means that buried beneath sidewalks and front lawns are the remains of a long-forgotten (or fondly remembered) course.
This series of posts will look back at courses that have been gone for decades, some close to a century, and whose presence is only marked by what developers scratched on road maps and signs. To see other courses in the "Street Names: The Ghosts of Long Island Golf's Past" series, click the links at the bottom of the post.
Historians, followers of golf architecture and devotees of famed early-20th-century designers are well versed in the story of the original Lido Club and the legacy that's lasted since its World War II-era demise. Yet for many casual players, for beachgoers relaxing on the sand at Lido West, and for Long Beach High School students milling near remnants of the old Channel hole, Lido's status a century ago as an engineering marvel and an icon of Golden Age golf is far from their thoughts.
The abbreviated story goes like this: In 1914, C.B. Macdonald was coaxed out of semi-retirement by a project that would allow him to design a brand-new course on the remote Long Beach barrier island, with full creative control and access to very deep pockets. Building the course on a barren sandbar required dredging two million cubic yards of fill from the bottom of Reynolds Channel, in addition to the expertise -- provided by Scottish groundskeeper Peter Lees -- in growing grass on sand. The project took three years to complete and totaled an astronomical $1.43 million, and the end result was what esteemed golf writer Bernard Darwin considered "the finest course in the world," a sentiment that was echoed by other scribes of the era.
In 1928, a stunning new clubhouse and hotel towered over the beach, and soon after, the club was built out with a half-mile of oceanfront cabanas and the sorts of luxe amenities that lured high-rollers to the Atlantic. As for the course itself, unlike in the current bayside layout, holes ran from channel to ocean. Tee shots were launched from one side of a crude Lido Boulevard toward fairways on the other. A par-3 of more than 230 yards played right along the beach sand (within a few years it was swallowed up by a storm, then shortened). Macdonald's "Channel" hole was a celebrated example of risk/reward mastery. Rough was rugged, and the wind overpowered even the best of the best All told, the unique circumstances in which it was created, the presence of Macdonald and Seth Raynor (and Alister MacKenzie, who designed the 18th hole), and the club's sudden and unceremonious disappearance combine to form a lasting Lido mystique.
Meanwhile, as the palatial clubhouse went up beside the ocean, a slightly more modest project was already underway near the bay, just west of the club grounds. At a time when real estate developers sought to transport the spirit of Italy stateside in the form of "American Venice" neighborhoods, four new canals were built off Reynolds Channel. In between the canals, a community consisting of narrow, tightly packed streets was planned, all connected by three arched bridges. Given its association with the big club next door, this American Venice paid homage to 1920s-era golf rather than the European city. The canals were named Sarazen, Ouimet, Hagen and Jones, and the streets paid tribute to international golfers of the 1910s and 1920s, including Johnny Farrell, Jim Barnes and Joe Kirkwood.
Just a few years later, the Depression set in, and the high times of the Roaring Twenties crashed to a halt. Lido persisted, however, and the club, carrying enormous financial burden, trudged through the '30s before meeting a very unique end during World War II. While the economic downturn and onset of global warfare left many Long Island clubs abandoned, neglected or sold off, Lido was leased to the United States Navy, which converted the property into a training base and receiving station. The Channel hole now launched pontoon boats instead of drives; the opulent clubhouse and hotel became a barracks and mess hall.
The longing for yesteryear began, quite literally, the following season. "We suddenly realized how much we missed the wind-swept Lido Club. On the hottest of days, there we always found a cool and refreshing spot," wrote Newsday's Ed Buckley in 1943. "Hope the Navy lads are enjoying it now."
Longtime Lido advocate Ralph Trost of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote, "War is serious business and war changes many things. But that can't stop a fellow from hoping that preparing Lido for the training of Navy men won't demand a complete leveling of the place. Because we're sure it would never come back."
There was interest after the war in resurrecting the Lido course, but the poor condition of structures built on the grounds and complications in reacquiring the whole parcel scrapped any plans. A new course -- today's Lido Golf Club -- was built on an entirely new site to the east. Eventually, Long Beach High School and Middle School, plus residential streets, were built over the old course.
Meanwhile, The Canals neighborhood, complete with narrow one-way streets memorializing golfers from a century ago, lives on hidden away in a quiet corner of Long Beach. Not far from Farrell Street and due south of Bob Jones Canal, and still overlooking the beach, is the old Lido clubhouse and hotel, now the Lido Towers condominium and the only existing link to Macdonald's short-lived masterpiece.
[PICTURED: TOP -- An aerial view of the Lido Club, with the new clubhouse/hotel at bottom left and part of The Canals neighborhood at top left; MIDDLE -- Today, each of the three arch bridges that span the canals include a plaque with a brief description of the area's history; BOTTOM -- Nearly a century since they were first drawn up, narrow streets still bear the names of World War I-era golfers.]
SEE OTHER STREET-NAME POSTS:
Part 1: Cedar Point/Meadowlawn/Westwood -- North Woodmere