George Arthur Crump was a hotelier and a golf course architect famous for designing and building the Pine Valley Golf Club. At the time of its opening, Crump’s creation was considered to be the most difficult golf course in the world when it was launched in 1913.
Learn about this golf course architect and his creation as you read on.
Who is George Arthur Crump?
George Arthur Crump was born in Philadelphia in September 24, 1871, and spent most of his formative years in Camden and Merchantville, New Jersey. He attended primary and secondary schools before joining his cousins in the hotel business. He did not pursue university education.
His grandfather, William Hawkins Crump, was an editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and his father once served as the British vice-consul in Philadelphia. In the mid-19th century, their family owned the Colonnade Hotel, a landmark at the 15th and Chestnut Streets for more than 50 years.
After his father’s death, George Crump inherited the Colonnade in 1902 and operated it until 1910, when he sold it. A noted clubman, Crump had a multitude of friends. He was known for living life vigorously, for his generosity, kindness, and good sportsmanship.
Crump got married to Isabelle Henry when he was 35. Isabelle was a daughter of Francis Henry of Warren, a pioneer in the Pennsylvania oil and lumber industries. She was noted for her charity work, especially for hospitals and societies that prevent cruelty to animals. She bought and cared for horses that the Philadelphia Fire Department deemed unfit for service.
When Crump left the Colonnade in capable hands, he became free to pursue other interests, especially golf. Crump started playing in the late 1890s, and within a few years, he became a full-fledged golf fanatic with memberships at different golf clubs. Besides golf, he was also an avid squash player and a member of the Racquet Club. Because of these activities, he amassed a large circle of friends and acquaintances who described him as quiet, modest, warm, kind, welcoming, unselfish, and generous.
Crump also takes challenges so enthusiastically, even to the point of obsession. In just a few years of taking up the game, Crump won the Patterson Cup in 1901, one of Philadelphia’s major golf championships. He became the club championship at St. David’s in 1903 to 1905.
In the inaugural 1905 Lesley Cup, Crump represented his city of Philadelphia. He was on the team in 1906, but unfortunately, they didn’t win in this format either. These struggles would begin to weigh in on Crump and the Philadelphians, which impacted future golf development in that city.
In 1906, Crump began construction of their stately Georgian-style home. It was his and his wife’s dream home, but sadly, Isabelle did not live to see the house completed. In 1907, Isabelle Crump boarded on a ferry in Manhattan destined for Jersey City, and she collapsed mid-river and died. When their dream house was finished in 1908, George’s widowed mother moved in with him.
As he mourned for his wife, Crump didn’t compete in the Lesley Cup that year nor in the following year. But he was resilient, so by 1909, he reappears in all major competitions.
In 1910, Crum and his friend Joseph Baker embarked on a European trip to play and study the premier golf courses in Britain and the continent. In the fall of 1902, Crump and several avid golfers met to discuss building a golf course in nearby New Jersey, where soil and weather conditions might be a little more favorable for winter golf than on Philadelphia.
According to stories, Crump discovered Pine Valley and spotted the land from a train window one wintry Saturday, and thought to himself, “What a place for a golf course!” He also knew the ground when hunting for a small game there. Crump suggested the area to the committee, and they agreed that the place was ideal.
The site was challenging and the project became an obsession for Crump. He sold his hotel in Philadelphia and plowed his money into the course. Crump was somehow able to imagine worthwhile golf holes in what was a discouraging wilderness of scrub growths, pines, swamp, sand hills, and thick under-brush. Pine Valley Golf Club was his first and only golf course designed.
Crump died in January 24, 1918, at his home in Merchantville. At the time of his death, four holes at the Pine Valley Golf Club were incomplete. Since his death, alterations have been made by other leading golf designers.
History of Pine Valley Golf Club
Pine Valley Golf Club was founded in 1913 by George Arthur Crump and a group of amateur golfers from Philadelphia. They bought 184 acres of rolling, sandy ground deep in the pinelands of southern New Jersey. The group gave Crump the opportunity to design the course.
The golf course was Crump’s first and only golf course design, but he brought together celebrated architects like Hugh Wilson, A.W. Tillinghast, Walter Travis, George C. Thomas Jr., and H.S. Colt to help him build the course.
The site was challenging and the project became an obsession for Crump. During the construction of the golf club, marshlands had to be drained and about 22,000 tree stumps had to be pulled out using horse-drawn cables and special steam-winches. This was done at a time when lots of golf courses were still built by minimal earth moving.
In building the Pine Valley Golf Course, Crump set himself some idiosyncratic principles, such as:
- No hole must be laid out parallel to the next.
- No more than two consecutive holes must play in the same direction.
- Players shouldn’t be able to see other holes than the one they were playing.
- A round of golf on the course must require a player to use every club in the bag.
The first eleven holes unofficially opened in 1914. When Crump died four years later, four holes – numbers 12-15 – were unfinished. These holes were completed in 1922.
Later on, Pine Valley spread to 623 acres. Since Crump’s demise, other leading golf course designers made alterations on the golf course. The club also contained a ten-hole short course designed by Tom Fazio and Ernest Ransome III.
Pine Valley Golf Club is a highly exclusive, members-only club. Membership for the club is by invitation only from the board of directors, and guests are only allowed if they are invited and accompanied by a member.
From 1985 to 2000, 2003 to 2008, 2013-2014, and 2017-2020 – Golf Digest deemed Pine Valley Golf Club as #1 in America’s Greatest Golf Courses. Golf Magazine also called it the Best Golf Course in the United States and in the World in several years.