Haunted Tales from the Golf Course and Beyond
by Pete Pappas
With enough history comes legend, and these legends of bizarre and unexplainable happenings on the golf course have a definite supernatural feel about them. There’s an eerie connection between golf and the paranormal that extends beyond disappearing shots or obscure rulings. Some accounts you can just file under strange true, while others are undeniably otherworldly. Whether you’re a golf enthusiast or even a ghost hunter, these haunted tales from courses around the world will leave you frightened and fascinated.
Golf has been played at Baltusrol Golf Club for over 12 decades, and the A.W. Tillinghast designed lower and upper courses have hosted nine U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships. Both “Tilly the Terror” courses can range from stern test to a torture chamber depending on how they’re set up. But the real haunting is done by the ghost of a murdered man, Baltus Roll, who the club was named after.
Roll was a quiet oxen farmer and rumored to be wealthy with a hidden fortune. On the night of February 22, 1831, two idlers broke into Rolls’ mountaintop home, hog-tied him, and tossed him into a pool of icy water trying to force him to give up the location of his treasure. At the time it was called “The Crime of the Century,” and ever since that night according to the locals – the ghost of “Old Balty” stalks the slopes, hilltops, and forest of both courses that bear his name. If Baltus really did have a treasure, it was never found.
The Home of Ghosts
St. Andrews is famously known around the world as the Home of Golf, but it’s also known as the Home of Ghosts – with no less than five notorious specters associated with this historic Fife town. It’s the ghost of Young Tom Morris, however (winner of four Open Championships), who’s the most kindly and compassionate of these spirits.
The ghost of Young Tom is said to wander the Old Course and help golfers locate and retrieve their stray balls from the rough. Some eyewitness accounts have actually reported a phantom apparition of Morris gliding through St. Andrews’ bunkers and fairways, and even playing shots and then simply vanishing. The Old Course is arguably the most fun course you’ll ever play on either side of the Atlantic, and the ghost of Young Tom just might help you pull off some spine-tingling shots of your own.
San Francisco Horrors
Lincoln Park Golf Course offers a dramatic sweeping view of the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge, but strange chills and odd breezes have been known to frighten more than a few golfers. The course was built on top of Golden Gate Cemetery, which is home to more than 1,000 corpses, and patrons here swear that ghosts have hindered their shots or made perfectly struck balls disappear into the big blue beyond never to be seen again.
Now you’re probably asking, “Why in the hell did someone build a golf course on top of a cemetery?” Well, the answer is simple – bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. The cemetery and surrounding land were considered extremely valuable, and in 1909 the city repurposed it for use as the new Lincoln Park Golf Course. Wealthy families simply moved the remains of their loved ones to alternate cemeteries, however, poor residents were forced to leave their loved ones behind. Today patrons of the course are welcomed by a variety of ghosts, but as you can imagine – many of these restless spirits are a bit perturbed.
Hell Hath No Fury like a Woman “Ghost” Scorned
If you love a good horror story, you will not be disappointed one bit with this terrifying tale. According to legend, a woman named Doris Gravlin agreed to meet with her estranged husband one evening in 1936 on the seventh hole at Victoria Golf Club in British Columbia, Canada. Five days later a caddie found her body along the course shoreline. And when police also found her husband’s body a month later, their deaths were ruled a murder-suicide.
Since then, reports are well-documented of a woman wearing a white gown (like the one Doris wore on that tragic night) angrily rushing towards golfers only to vanish at the last second. Others have professed feeling a clammy hand grabbing their shoulders on days when security cameras have confirmed strange, unexplainable glows floating around the course. One golfer even contends he saw Doris walking around on the course, and only after completely boxing him in did she disappear. I confess, if I ever tee it up at Victoria Golf Club, I’ll be sleeping with the lights on that evening.