Interest in golf at Colgate dates back to 1916 when a group of Colgate faculty members and townspeople met to form a local golf club. Their efforts led to the formation of the Hamilton Golf Club and the creation of a nine-hole course in 1917-18, which was located on the upper portion of “the hill” behind the student dormitories.
In 1927, Thomas Winton, a golf course architect from New York City, was hired to redesign this original layout. That very hilly original course, renamed Seven Oaks to honor the ancestral home of the Colgate family in England, is the one that has generated so many wonderful memories for Colgate Alums over the years.
Meanwhile in 1934, William Reid proposed an 18-hole course to be constructed on the newly-acquired Dunn Farm, an area northeast of the main campus where holes 1-12 of Seven Oaks are currently located. Reid brought to Hamilton an old friend, Gene Sarazen, to help design the course, along with a young architect named Robert Trent Jones. Sarazen’s idea was to create his concept of an “Augusta of the North.”
The original plans were modified in 1935 to be included as a W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) project during the Great Depression. Failure to get the project approved and the outbreak of WW11 led to the plans being set aside.
However, after the war Mr. Jones was called back several times to modify the plans as the University acquired more land and found ways to fund the project. In fact, by the time that the final plans were set in motion, we find that Robert Trent Jones had drawn up 13 different course concepts. (A lucky number for Colgate University.)
The acquisition of the Dr. Wheeler home and property offered a suitable building for a clubhouse. Along with funding from the American Management Association, the University was now ready to break ground for our current course. The first nine was dedicated on July 4, 1958, with the second nine being opened on September 4, 1965. The course “on the hill” was closed and the Seven Oaks name was transferred to the new course.
Since the time that it was opened, the reputation of Seven Oaks has continued to grow. The course has hosted many prestigious events, including E.C.A.C. Qualifiers, New York State Boys and Girls Amateur Championships, the 1983 Women’s State Amateur Tournament, the 1990 Ben Hogan Central New York Classic, the 1977 N.C.A.A. National Tournament, and the 2010 Patriot League Championship. Seven Oaks is yearly listed as one of the top collegiate courses in America and one of the top golfing venues in New York State. We can all be proud of our “Jones Gem in the Upper Chenango Valley.”
Seven Oaks would like to thank Mr. Jim Ford for his time and dedication to researching and providing the history of our beloved course.