In 1924, pivotal tests conducted on Jekyll Island shaped the future of the sport
By Jennifer Senator
Jekyll Island landed on the map as a golfing destination with the 1899 opening of its first golf course. The elite Jekyll Island Club—whose members included J.P. Morgan Jr., an avid golfer, and William Rockefeller, who helped finance the course—was only the thirty-sixth club in the nation chartered by the United States Golf Association (USGA).
In 1924, the USGA conducted a series of equipment tests on the island. (The organization’s secretary, Cornelius Lee, was a Jekyll Island Club member.) Modern steel-shafted clubs, the tests showed, increased distance and accuracy better than traditional hickory-shafted clubs. Following this revelation, steel clubs quickly became the norm. Testers also experimented with ball size and density, resulting in the introduction of larger, lighter golf balls in 1931. The new balls ultimately proved unpopular, and after a year, the USGA reverted to a heavier ball but with a larger size.
These dramatic advances not only modernized the sport, they signified America’s shift away from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland, which had determined international standards since 1754.