October 15th, 2016
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Greetings History Buffs:
Inspired by our "Rockingham Since '33" hats, we've spent a little time researching the history of The Rock. At the top of our list of questions was who exactly designed the course. Thanks to Google and the defunct Newmarket Times newspaper, we now know that the course was designed by Manuel Francis. A front page story from 1960 (seen here) announcing that George Hauschel and Bill Ball had taken over management of the club also identified Francis as the designer.
Francis came to America in 1919, at the age of 16. He was hired to work building a series of golf courses in the New York City area for Donald Ross. This launched a lifetime of work in the golf industry. In addition to designing Rockingham and other courses in the 1930's, he invented the Vesper Velvet Bentgrass while Superintendent of the Vesper Golf Club in Tyngsborough, MA. He also invented a machine that vertically sliced turf that has since become a universal piece of equipment
The original layout of The Rock was "much shorter" than it is today. It's unclear exactly how much shorter or when it was changed, but it most likely happened when the course was re-opened after World War II. What we do know is that the course record was set in the early 1940's on the shorter course by then RCC Golf Pro, Les Kennedy, who shot an astounding 27! Kennedy went on to play in both the US Open and the Masters. We don't see his record falling any time soon.
See you soon!
Bob Greene and Dan Ramus