By: Carla Eilo
If you read our article from last month, you know I have been busy learning the history of the town and organizing and familiarizing myself with the Historical Society’s broad museum collection. As I meet new people in Lake Placid, I quickly find that they are excited to tell me about their family history and their connection to the community. What makes a historical society special is the museum collections that come from different families, who tell their stories about their time spent in Lake Placid. As I look through the photos, scrapbooks, and personal objects from the collections, I am able to see the history unfold.
This past month I was able to learn and familiarize myself with another story of Lake Placid through a historic object that is new to our collection. We received a donation of a golf club created in the Seymour Dunn golf club shop. Nevton Dunn, grandson to Seymour was kind enough to donate this piece of local history to us.
Born in 1882 in North Berwick, Scotland, Seymour Dunn had come from a family who had a long history with the game of golf. By the age of 17, he was named pro at the Societe Golf de Paris. He thought of the idea to create an indoor golf school in the Bourne Hall Hotel located in Bournemouth, England. He went on to design golf courses for King Leopold of Belgium, King Victor Emmanuel of Italy, and Baron Rothschild of France.
Dunn spent his summers in the United States. When he was 15, he designed a nine-hole course at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. In the year 1906 he spent his first summer in Lake Placid, where he would soon return.
In 1907, he immigrated to the United States and held a position at Van Cortlandt Park Golf club in the Bronx and worked with his uncle, Willie Dunn. Shortly after, he would take the position as Golf Professional and Golf Club Maker at the Wykagyl Golf Club in Rochelle, NY. In the year of 1909, he laid out the Links Course at the Lake Placid Club and would settle in the area and take the position of Golf Architect and Professional at the Club.
He opened the first manufacturing assemblyline for golf clubs in Lake Placid in 1910 and had 10 employees working at the shop. By having an assembly-line, Seymour was able to create and sell matched sets of clubs. Through this business, he also set up a mail order company distributing his equipment throughout the United States. Wood clubs would sell for $3.50 each and irons would be priced from $1.50 to $3.40.
He designed many golf courses in the area, the more familiar ones being the course at Craig Wood and the Lake Placid Club Links Course.
Dunn wrote many articles for golf magazines, but is best known for writing “Golf Fundamentals.’” This notable book was first published in 1930 and broke down the game into 20 different phases and divided them by mechanics, dynamics, and psychology.
From this one object, we were able to connect it to a larger story that further revealed another interesting facet to our town’s history. By associating the history with the golf club, it brings more depth to the piece and, hopefully, it will bring more enjoyment to future generations as they share in these stories.
As the Historical Society receives new acquisitions, it is important to have that same community history connected with the object. Not only does this provide a background that bridges the item to the area, but it offers another layer of richness to Lake Placid’s past.