He Loved Golf
Francis L. James was born in England and grew up playing cricket, eventually competing professionally. A short man who spoke with a thick accent, James emigrated to North America where he found another sport to his liking: golf. He approached his new love with zeal, and while he never made a significant mark as a player, he gained international prestige as a designer of golf courses. Over one hundred golfing greens owe their plan to his ingenuity, including some of America's most famous courses.
Golfers in the Moscow area had struggled for years, playing their favorite game on any available patch of land. One avid golfer, George Morey Miller, joined the university's English department in 1909. When he discovered his new residence had no golf course, he immediately began campaigning for a place to play. Along with other Moscow golfers, he constructed a five-hole course in the area where Ghormley Park was later located. Moscow linksters soon formed a golf club and rented eighty acres north of town where they established a nine-hole regulation course. World War I interrupted their golfing activity, but after the war the club bought a farm east of Moscow and in 1926 decided to build a first-class course. Not surprisingly, they hired Francis L. James to design it. In the 1930s the golf club gave the property to the Moscow Elks to be kept in perpetuity as a golf course for Moscow residents.
While the new course served the town's golfers, it did not greatly benefit the university. "Idaho students have the golf bug again," noted the Argonaut in 1928. "Followers of this sport are getting so numerous that flying golf balls are not a rarity on campus...The campus and athletic field are the only places large enough to provide improvised golf courses and practice." Determined to alleviate that problem, students demanded a more suitable location. In 1930 they began voluntarily developing a course during a campus work day, a project university workmen completed the following year. Still, the course proved inadequate, and in 1935 the school purchased seventy acres adjoining the campus southwest of the arboretum, added thirty previously acquired acres to the tract, and made plans to build the state's finest golf course. They turned to Frank James to lay it out.
James had returned to the Palouse once more after his work on the Moscow Golf Club project when he designed Washington State College's golf course in 1934. The University of Idaho course was completed in 1936. James's third look at the Palouse region convinced him to stay. "What I like about this country is the way things grow," he said. "I am never going to leave it. I am going to die here." University administrators hired him as manager of the golf course, golf coach, and resident professional. He died on the job in 1952. After his death the university named the course clubhouse after him. A plaque inside reads: "He loved golf, and was loved by all those who played the game." University President Jesse Buchanan said at the dedication ceremonies: "He saw golf course possibilities where others could not see. He could not look at a bit of landscape from a train window without mentally visioning a green here and a fairway there. A cow pasture was not a cow pasture to James. It was a splendid golf course."
Indeed, one of Frank James's most significant attributes was his uncanny ability to design "splendid golf courses" utilizing what nature provided. He did not mutilate the natural surroundings; rather he gently molded and adapted them to a new use. Residents of Moscow and Pullman are the fortunate recipients of three of his designs. They are utilitarian uses of the landscape, enjoyed not only by golfers but by joggers, skiers, hikers, and sledders, a tribute to the man who envisioned them.
(This story taken from the book "This Crested Hill - An Illustrated History of the University of Idaho". Author is Keith C. Petersen.)
The University of Idaho Golf Course is truly a course full of history and traditions. It has been host to many great players, such as Byron Nelson and Harold (Jug) McSpaden as they downed Roy Moe and Neil Christian of Spokane 4 up in an exhibition best ball at the University Of Idaho Golf Course back in August of 1946.