From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

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Playing golf on OSU campus was once par for the course

Lantern, June 30, 1920

Lantern, June 30, 1920

Today, Ohio State’s popular and renowned golf course sits about two miles from the Oval, but did you know there used to be a golf course a stone’s throw from the center of campus?  Thanks to a detailed letter written by Howard E. Wentz in 1973, the Archives has a clue to the course’s existence.

In the summer of 1919, a series of articles appeared in The Lantern that suggested a peaked interest in golf among faculty and students alike. According to the student newspaper, spring and summer classes were offered to students that allowed them to learn about the technical game of golf, with subjects such as “the fundamentals, principles, and strokes.”  At this point, Ohio State had already offered classes in different sports, such as baseball, tennis, swimming, and boxing—all of these subject areas already had designated practice fields. Until the summer of 1919, Ohio Field was the only practice area where golf students could swing.  But that July, a five-hole course was proposed, a direct result of the interest displayed by the Ohio State student and faculty body.

A committee of three professors, Alonzo H. Tuttle, John W. Wilce, and Joseph S. Myers joined together to form the first Ohio State University Golf Club in 1919. The push for a new course became even stronger, as faculty and students could join the group for just two dollars.  If a course were built, faculty could play Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for two hours and 45 minutes, or 4:45 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.; students were permitted to play every Tuesday and Thursday.  Only serious players were permitted, as they had a strict “no practice” policy during these days.

University Golf Course as sketched by Howard Wentz in 1973

The University Golf Course as sketched
by Howard Wentz in 1973

The new University Golf Course opened on Saturday, June 26, 1920.  Described in the Lantern as “in excellent condition” and “a wonderful opportunity for members of the faculty and students to participate in wholesome recreation,” the finished product had nine holes in total (as opposed to its initially proposed five holes) and a distance of 1,911 yards.  Unfortunately, there is no information that describes the physical construction of the course, although the task was completed and overseen by Tony Aquila, the caretaker of Ohio Field.

In his series of letters in 1973, Howard E. Wentz describes his time as a young caddy at the University Golf Course.  Wentz details the different types of people who played at the course during his summer:

“I recall many former notable O.S.U. professors and their wives whom I caddied for.  Among them were Leonard Goss, Oscar Brumley, Howard Snook, George Eckleberry, Lou Morrill, Joe Taylor, Billy Graves and others.”

Chic Harley, 1919

Chic Harley, 1919

Wentz also recalls being star-struck when OSU football star Chic Harley came to play.  He recalled Harley having a golfing stance that was completely “unorthodox” but could easily “beat any of us kids at our own game.”  In the same paragraph, Wentz discusses how Dudley Fisher, a famous cartoon artist for The Columbus Dispatch, frequented the course.

With no photographs of the course, the University Archives only has one map that exists solely from Wentz’s memory.  There is, however, one cross-matched piece of evidence of the course: Both The Lantern and Wentz agree on the location of hole one, which was directly behind Page Hall.

There is no solid evidence to suggest when the golf course closed permanently, but a letter to then-OSU President William Oxley Thompson, published in The Lantern on March 1, 1921, states the course was still standing.  However, there’s no information on the course after that letter.

University Gardens plants roots for students’ education

Students walking west of Thompson Library today are likely unaware of just how drastically different the campus landscape appeared in the past.  Starting in the 1920s and 1930s, the University Horticultural Gardens blanketed the campus west of Neil Avenue, presenting an array of plants, flowers, hedges, a lily pond and a number of exotic plants.

As a University largely based in agriculture, it’s no surprise that the school began to set aside a portion of the campus, as early as 1884, to be slated for garden space.  Much of the campus grounds were already covered in farmland when the school officially opened to students in 1873.  However, plans for a formal University Horticultural Garden did not surface until the 1910s, when a number of University Departments began laying out a scheme for the gardens.

At its peak, the University Gardens covered nearly 15 acres. The gardens were situated south of the McCracken Power Plant, west nearly to the Stadium, east of Thompson Library and south to the site of Jennings Hall.

At its peak, the University Gardens covered nearly 15 acres. The gardens were situated south of the McCracken Power Plant, west nearly to the Stadium, east of Thompson Library and south to the site of Jennings Hall.



The gardens presented a nearly perfect learning opportunity for students across a variety of colleges, as it served as an extension of their class work.  Landscape Architecture students were involved in the creation and formation of the gardens; Horticultural students grew experimental types of plants and recorded their results; and Botany and Zoology students were often devoted to plant-breeding experiments and the study of pest control.

The purpose of the gardens was two-fold: it not only provided hands-on experience for students, it also served to beautify the campus.  In fact, many gardening clubs and members of the public visited the gardens to learn about flowers and take a peek at unusual plants.  Some of the plants that were being tended were quite rare, reported the Lantern in 1922.  One species of gladioli had been imported from the Pacific Coast, and the bulbs cost $10 each.  Other plant species were brought from Holland, Asia and a number of other countries.



Students must have also enjoyed strolling through the gardens, especially at summer’s peak when the flowers were in full bloom. A July 15th 1927 Lantern editorial author writes: “One follows with amazement the intricate and perfectly executed designs in which the beds are planted and sighs as he recalls the bedraggled and wandering little rows which he has accomplished in the old garden at home – and asks himself if a course in horticulture wouldn’t be a valuable part of one’s education, after all.”

However, as the years wore on and campus construction progressed, the gardens were downsized.  “As size diminished, interest in the garden waned as well”, according to a 1968 Lantern article.  By the 1970s, the gardens were almost entirely gone.

Please see our Flickr page for more images of the University Horticultural Gardens.


For Archives, it’s pretty fabulous to be 50

anniversary_emblem_fullsizeEveryone always complains about getting old, but here at the Archives, we found that turning 50, at least, can be one heck of a good time.

We had more than 300 people help us celebrate this important milestone during our Anniversary Open House event on May 14. Our guests were treated to a wide array of artifacts, a viewing of historical campus film footage, and fine food and drink.

If you attended the event, you may have noticed guests who took the opportunity to sit on OSU Football Coach Woody Hayes’ Couch (as seen in the upper-right-hand corner of this blog) and share their favorite memories of attending or working at OSU. Check it out!

To see how really spectacular the event was, please see the Archives’ Flickr Gallery.

You can also revisit the 50 artifacts that were on display during the event in a new interactive story map, designed by Josh Sadvari of the Research Commons.

University Archives' 50th Anniversary Story Map

University Archives’ 50th Anniversary Story Map

We truly appreciate all of our supporters who attended our Anniversary event.  If you were not able to make it, we hope this post has given you an opportunity to see what was missed.  And, if you are interested in donating to the Archives, you can do so through our Paul E. and Sandy Watkins Endowment for University Archives.

See why your support is so important to our mission in a message written by University Archivist Tamar Chute.

And finally, if you just want to take a look at cool old photos of OSU, check out our Flickr page!

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