We can thank John Hamiliton Gillespie for bringing the game of golf to Sarasota. Gillespie arrived in1886 and soon after he laid out a two-hole practice course near today’s main post office on Ringling Boulevard. The 9-hole course was constructed after the turn of the century with a clubhouse added in 1905.
Aside from being the man credited with saving Sarasota, he was the first mayor of the town and known throughout Florida as the “Golfing Mayor.” He was indeed avid about the game. He laid out courses in Kissimmee, Jacksonville, Winter Park, Tampa and Cuba and wrote articles for the “New York Golf” and “Golfers’ Magazine.”
Apparently he was known to remark to men who responded to him that they did not play the game – “Mon, y’re mission half ye life.”
Here is the layout of Sarasota’s 1st golf course on a 1967 ariel photo. Laurel Park is off to the right. The last street on the right is Morrill. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.) Posters of this photo with the course are available at William Hartman Gallery on Palm Avenue.
For more information about “The Colonel” John Hamilton Gillespie pick up a copy of Jeff LaHurd’s book “John Hamilton Gillespie, The Scot Who Saved Sarasota” at Bookstore1 on lower Main Street.