George C. Thomas Jr.

Full Name
George Clifford Thomas Jr.
Year of Birth
1873
Year of Death
1932 (aged 58)
Place Born
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Place Died
Beverly Hills, California, USA

“Thomas never accepted a fee for his services as a golf course designer, yet he was acknowledged as a master of strategic design and course routing. In California, his bunker-style was grand in scale, defined by intricate sand-faced flashed between jagged peninsulas of grass. For drainage purposes, Thomas often made creative use of barrancas and swales.” Keith Cutten

Educated at Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, then the University of Pennsylvania, George Thomas joined his father’s investment banking firm, Drexel & Company, after completing his studies in 1894. He married Edna Ridge in 1901 and they had two children, George Clifford III and Josephine Moorehead.

It’s not known if George was much of a golfer, but he was certainly recognized as a national authority on rose breeding, of all things, writing several books on the subject. It’s hard to imagine that this horticultural interest led to his involvement in golf course design but, whatever his motivation, he set out his first 9-hole track in 1904.

Through a family friend, he got the chance to design the public Marion Golf Course on Buzzards Bay in Plymouth County, Massachusetts – some three hundred miles to the northeast of his home – and that's where the seeds of his architectural career were planted, with this rudimentary course remaining in play to this day.

George then fashioned his first 18-hole layout on the family’s estate to the north of downtown Philadelphia and this course, originally named Mount Airy Country Club, was sold to Whitemarsh Valley Country Club in 1908.

His next design project was at Spring Lake Heights in New Jersey, where Spring Lake Golf & Country Club acquired a 150-acre property for Thomas and the Scottish professional George Duncan to lay out a new 18-hole course (according to the club’s website).

It stretched to more than 6,000 yards and featured an enormous par five 4th hole (now the 3rd hole) measuring in excess of 600 yards, known as “Hell’s Kitchen”. Another Scotsman, David Aitcheson, assisted wi...

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Featured courses designed, remodelled and added to by George C. Thomas Jr.

Bel-Air

12th California - Best in Area

Bel-Air Country Club is a throwback to The Roaring Twenties and the course here is one of the finest layouts that came from the remarkable George C. Thomas design stable. Tom Doak reckons Bel-Air may well be the most spectacular routing ever conceived.

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Los Angeles (North)

3rd California - Best in Area 18th USA Ranking 18th North America Ranking 31st World Ranking

The location for the Los Angeles Country Club makes it possibly one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the world. It’s therefore fitting therefore that North course does full justice to the land...

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Ojai Valley Inn

96th California - Best in Area

Designed and constructed by George Thomas and Billy Bell in the early 1920s, the golf course at Ojai Valley Inn has changed quite a bit over the decades, most notably by a Jay Morrish major renovation in the late 1980s.

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Riviera

5th California - Best in Area 21st USA Ranking 21st North America Ranking 37th World Ranking

There are few courses with no weaknesses, but the Riviera Country Club can take the moniker. It’s a truly remarkable golf course routed across less than ideal terrain.

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Spring Lake

50th New Jersey - Best in Area

Formed in 1898, Spring Lake Golf Club operated a 9-hole course up until a new 18-hole George C. Thomas Jr. layout arrived in 1911. A. W. Tillinghast substantially modified the course seven years later and this is the one that’s still in play today.

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Stanford University

43rd California - Best in Area

Among American collegiate golf courses, only Yale is regarded as a better layout than Stanford University. Tom Watson and Tiger Woods developed their games here whilst playing on Stanford golf teams.

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Whitemarsh Valley

33rd Pennsylvania - Best in Area

Squeezed into a tight and rather hilly property, the course at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club hosted the Philadelphia Open between 1963 and 1980 and five of its holes utilise the Wissahickton Creek as an intimidating water hazard.