Among those leaders were former Governor James Cox, William Pawley, Frank Smathers, Hugh Purvis, Paul Scott, George Sally, Carl Fisher, Arthur Pancoast, Van Kussrow, Dan Mahoney, James Buchanan, Oscar Dooly, and of course, Dr. John Oliver La Gorce.
The Biltmore Country Club in Coral Gables had been taken over by the government during the war for a military hospital, so these men and many others looked elsewhere for a first-class club. La Gorce beckoned from across the waters of Biscayne Bay.
A non-profit corporation was authorized to issue 500 ownership certificates at $1,000 each and the $500,000 thus obtained, was the down payment. The balance of $500,000 was a first mortgage at 2 percent. The purchasers of certificates elected a 15-member board of governors, which set initiation at $500, dues at $300, and social memberships at $200.
The war was over, residents and winter visitors were anxious and ready to relax and enjoy the advantages and beauties of Florida. La Gorce became a large and important part of that picture.
The Early Years: Back in 1924, when Miami was booming, the original La Gorce Country Club was built by dredging more than two million cubic yards from Biscayne Bay. Carl Fisher was the pre-eminent realtor of the day and the course was used mainly for guests at nearby hotels, which he owned. There was the Flamingo, Lincoln, the King Cole (now the Miami Heart Institute), Bolivar and the Nautilus (now the site Mt. Sinai Hospital). At that time, Alton Road had two tar-surfaced lanes and a trolley line.
La Gorce was completed in 1927, and within a year, received nationwide prominence when the Miami Beach – La Gorce open was played here, with Johnny Farrell, the winner.
From the start a great club spirit was evident. For example, barren spots in the course soon blossomed with royal palms, Australian pines and other trees because members personally bought and planted such foliage, much of which now grace our fairways. Four tennis courts were built. There are now six, four of which have lighting facilities for playing at night. The swimming pool was also built.
Bringing in 1950 at La Gorce... Who are they and where are they now?
In the early 1950’s, under the presidency of James Buchanan, the clubhouse was expanded. Later when Harry Daumit was president (1969-73) many improvements were made in the course. Robert Trent Jones, an outstanding course architect, was called in to redesign some of the holes. For example, there were no water holes. Now there are three. The number of traps was also reduced from 80 to 72.
Fun and Games for The Pleasure-Bent
It did not take long for golfers and others from throughout the country to make La Gorce their winter headquarters. The course then – as now – was rated as one of the best, and tournament professionals and top amateurs were constantly on hand. A stroll through the men’s grill room and reading the plaques is like recalling the “who’s who” of golfdom in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s.
Manufacturers of golf equipment (Dunlop, Titleist, Spalding, etc.) retained visiting pros to test their products at La Gorce tournaments.
As the ladies became more interested and expert in golf, their influence became evident. Scotch foursomes were regular events. Shorts were acceptable as proper attire, but they could be no more than three inches above the knees. Dude ranch parties, tea dances, and other events were popular and received extensive coverage in newspapers. An excellent club spirit and good fellowship prevailed.