Contrary to popular belief, the oldest sports club in Turkey is Istanbul Golf Club.
It was established in 1895 as the "Constantinople Golf Club", at a time, when Constitutional Monarchy was declared during the reign of Abdulhamit the 2nd while the Balkans and Eastern Anatolia was occupied by the Russians, Cyprus by Great Britain and Tunisia by the French as the Ottoman Empire started disintegrating.
Its founders were the British and American citizens living in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire at that time. Sir Henry Felix Woods (Woods Pasa), who arrived in Istanbul in1869 with a military mission and then rose to the rank of Admiral in Ottoman Navy, and Ernest Thompson, a Scottish national, who introduced golf to Istanbul, are just two of the prominent founders.
The club changed its name to "The Bosphorus Golf Club" with the declaration of 2nd Constitutional Monarchy in 1909, an ensuing new "Associations Law" in 1911. There is another reorganization to the club as the new Republic is declared.
After the proclamation of the Republic in 1923. The British Ambassador Mr Waugh and US Ambassador Mr. Ravndal along with the 60 founding members, change the name to "Istanbul Golf Club" according to the laws of the new Republic of Turkey's laws. The bylaws are changed at the same time to allow Turkish Citizens' membership along with foreigners and minorities, who were the only members to that date.
At a meeting in December 17, 1925 Nusret Bey was admitted as a member and became the first Turkish member of the Club.
Due to changes in the legal system, the bylaws were changed one more time to this current form in 1947. At this time the founding members were recorded as; British Ambassador Sir Hugh to Knatcbull, US Ambassador MacMurray, New York Times, Turkey representative John Wilson Kernick, general manager Henry Arlond and Resat Kemal, a Turkish citizen.
The golf courses that the club utilized in the past have a common thread. Even though the locations differ, throughout the club's entire history, their neighbors were always military outfits in the form of Cavalry, Camp or Academy.
The Archery's practice range, "Arrow Square" was the club's first 12 hole course. However, the double duty that the course had to carry was problematic. US Ambassador Joseph Grew describes a "bad day," when Ottoman Cavalry Regiment seized half the course;
"During a round with 1. Katib Belin an Ottoman officer came to the golf course and informed us that the government had allocated half the playing area for Cavalry training and that henceforth we could not play golf here. In fact, the cavalry was always training freely in the area, especially on the grass we had nurtured. However, the fact that the club had spent a considerable amount of money and effort on the course and had started to fence the legally rented area with barbed wire, without a doubt angered the Cavalry and caused the decision to be made. "
Following this, the efforts, which lasted till 1914, to take back the seized course remain fruitless and the club moves to a new 9 hole course in the hills of Bebek.
In 1920, an empty lot, this time in a very remote area of town in those days, next to a military camp is located . A new golf course with nine holes is built and the club moves once again. In 1922, with financial help from the British Embassy, the course is expanded to 18 holes and the first clubhouse is built.
This area is now called Maslak-Levent and would be the location for IGK for the next 92 years.
In 1923, the land reverts to the state treasury with the proclamation of the Republic and the same year the land lease agreement is signed.
But as the saying goes, "history repeats itself" and in 1929 the area which is next to a military tent camp named as "Istanbul Maslak 137-elevation hills" is requisitoned by "National Defense Ministry " to expand and built a more permanent structure by the military.
Prime Minister at the time Ismet Inonu rejects the transfer;
The course, which is an important aspect of the golf sport to be kept free of aspects of military occupation ..." and relays his decision allow the Istanbul Golf Club use the course to the relevant ministries.
The opeartions continue smoothly until 1955. Upon Cavalry Academy re-requisitioning the land in 1956, the 6th Menderes Government files a decree;
"The Levent farm land which contains a golf course and is currently occupied by the Cavalry Academy, is the subject of abolition of allocation to National Defense Ministry..." With this decree the course is allocated to the use of Istanbul Golf Club again.
In the same year, In spite of the fact that Fahrettin Kerim Gokay, the Governor and the Mayor of Istanbul sees fit to give the land to the IGK, the National Defense Ministry wants to build 1000 housing units and Istanbul Technical University wants to build a campus at the same location. The land problem continues without a final solution.
In 1960, the allocation of land to the National Defense Ministry and the resulting disputes are postponed rather than solved with short-term lease agreements. With a following allocation of land to Military Academy Command, and due to its plans for new facilities, the course is reduced to 9 holes.
IGK Maslak course, in spite of being admired by all foreigners due to its unique central city location, witnesses history repating itself once again. In 2012, 92 years later, the club loses it course once again as its lease is not renewed as the land is to be used for "non-sports purposes".
IGK's Eternal President Mustafa V. Koc purchased the land in Riva in 2015, finalized the plans and the permitting process to solve the course problems of the Club once and for all. We are eagerly waiting for our new course with the deeply held conviction that it will carry both our club and our eternal president to eternity.
Founded by the British and Americans, the club has served as the social hub for expats and minorities for years. It has also become a venue where the ambassadors, the Military Commanders, International business executives and foreign correspondents shared and discussed political, economical and social issues.
Among the prominent members of the period we can count Sir Adam Block, Havilland De Sausmarez, Admiral Bristol, the US High Commissioner in his capacity as ambassador 1919 -1927, Roland Lindsay, the British Ambassador between 1926-1934, Sir George Clerk, British Consul 1924-1926, Alexander Helm,the British Council, Franklin Bell and his wife Missouri Bell from Gary Tobacco Company , tobacco merchant P.E. King, the New York Times reporter J. W. Kernick, and Joseph C. Grew, the first American ambassador to Turkey.
The annual Sausmarez Cup, started in 1905 by Havillan DeSausmarez , one of the prominent members of the period, is the longest running and still continuing tournament in the club.
With the increase in Turkish membership, starting with admission of Nusret Bey in 1925, the first Turkish member of the IGK, along with ambassadors, local and foreign big business executives, journalists, politicians and army commanders who came to watch or participate in the tournaments, the clubs became a social hub where sports, economics and politics were always on the agenda.
It is rumoured that Atatürk's used his visits to IGK to discuss the current issues with foreign ambassadors. It is also said that he tried his hand at the golf swing with the British Ambassador, Sir Percy Loren, who was a close friend.
The club directors through the years boasted pillars of society such as Kemal Dervis' father Riza Dervis (the founder of Dervis Cup), Remo Aliotti, Orhan Eralp, Lory Burla, E. H. E. Jones, R.P. Bullen, G. Hattisen, Adnan Benjenk, Kamuran Sertel, Rahmi Koc, Orhan Aker and Rene Somek.
Rahmi Koc, who became a member in 1965 upon his friend Eli Aciman's suggestion, chronicles those days in his memoir; "…I became a member in 1965. The course was larger at that time and one could play 18 holes. Facilities were modest and membership consisted mostly of non-muslim friends. They controlled the club. French was the second most used language after Turkish…"
From the day it was established, British and U.S. Ambassadors took turns in club presidency. J.W. Kernick, the N.Y. Times correspondent carried the torch between 1941- 1951 and between 1956-1960, prime minister Adnan Menderes became the president of the club while British and U.S. Ambassadors were relegated to vice presidency.
In later years, the president was predominantly Turkish. Tayyar Cullu, Prof. Sinasi Erel, Yekta Teksel, Prof Altan Onat, Selim Egeli and Mustava V. Koc were the Turkish presidents.
Golf In Turkey and IGK
IGK the oldest sports club in Turkey, was instrumental in cultivating many golfers. These golfers, in return, contributed to spreading the sport to the rest of the country by forming new clubs in other locations.
Golf was not regarded as a sport for many years in Turkey. Only in 1969 it was acknowledged as a sport under the umbrella of the Tennis Federation, and a fiddling one at that time.
During this time, IGK acted as Turkey's window to the outside world. For years, as a club and through its members, IGK represented Turkish Golf outside Turkey's borders and was the only port of call for foreign golf enthusiasts.
Turkish Golf got a voice in 1996 when Turkish Golf Federation was formed under the leadership of the club president Mustafa V. Koc and our member Raif Bilir as the founding president.
Today, through its tournaments and sponsorships, Turkey is well known in the world of golf. Especially the Antalya region with its multitude of world-class golf courses and resorts, has become a golf destination that golf enthusiasts love to visit and play.
As the oldest sports club in Turkey, at IGK, we are proud of our history of over 120 years as well as our contributions to the sport. We expect to continue our contributions for many years to come.