A century of golf at Picatinny Arsenal

By Eric KowalJuly 29, 2021

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Picatinny Arsenal service members, employees, family members, and friends are celebrating 100 years since the origin of golf on the northern New Jersey military installation.

The official start of golf at Picatinny began in 1921, when Maj. J. H. Pelot (Commanding Officer) authorized Capt. Hartrick to establish a four-hole course on the installation’s parade grounds.

Hartrick established a green in each of the location’s four corners, but it was the materials used to produce the tools required for game play that set Picatinny’s course apart from others.

Shortened cartridge cases were used as golf cups that collected the player’s ball when it would eventually find its way into the hole. Flag staffs were made from bamboo fishing poles, and flags were cut from cartridge cloth.

As the course continued to develop, more and more players would test their skills. Picatinny would eventually have a new par 30, 9-hole course that stretched 1,936 yards in length.

Captain J.P. Harris, one of Hartrick’s original playing partners, returned to Picatinny for a second assignment in 1942, this time with the rank of major.  During his stay on the Arsenal, the golf course had almost doubled in size, reaching 3,088 yards in length.

Years later, Harris would again return to Picatinny (1948 to 1953), but this time assigned as the installation’s Commanding Officer. It was during his last tenure on post that the final 9 holes would be added, making Picatinny Arsenal’s course 18-holes by 1957.

The main funding source for the project was through member donations, some reaching as high as $500. A six-member project committee insisted on arranging the holes so that golfers had to cross Green Pond Brook, creating a water hazard and increasing the difficulty of play.

Over the years, minor adjustments would be made to the course to fulfill infrastructure and mission requirements. The most recent major change to the course was undertaken in 1963, when construction of Buildings 92 and 94 compelled the relocation of the 600-yard 14th hole. The change was completed in 1965, resulting in the current modern layout with engineering and research offices overlooking the course.

Michael Brown, Picatinny Arsenal Golf Course Superintendent, has seen the course continue to grow in the 29 years he has been employed on the installation.

“I love the career I chose here at Picatinny,” Brown said. “My first year, 1992, I was as a tractor operator. The next season I applied and secured the Assistant Superintendent position,” he said.

“I worked under Chris Kunkel, a great mentor, for the next 12 seasons, and then was asked to assume the Superintendent role in 2004.”

Kunkel passed away in 2019, serving for more than 40 years on the Arsenal, before retiring from his position as the Business and Recreation Chief for Picatinny Arsenal’s Family Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Directorate, which oversees the installation’s golf course.

At the course’s Pro Shop, players can shop competitively priced apparel and goods from brands like Adidas, Ahead, Callaway, FootJoy, Straight Down, Sun Mountain, TaylorMade, Titleist, as well as branded Picatinny Golf and military apparel for men and women.

The PGC Golf Pro, Chris McDermott, offers various programs for golfers as well as the organization of private and club-hosted outings. Opportunities for junior golfers are also offered.

The course halfway house, Gunpowder Grill, provides a daily offering of breakfast, coffee, fresh burgers and other grill items, while the 19th Hole, Sam Adam’s Pub, is available for private gatherings until it returns to daily lunch service.

Nestled on the 18th hole of the Picatinny Golf Course, is The Club at Picatinny, a popular event venue. Its services are available to the public and the Picatinny community alike. Weddings, private parties, showers, banquets, etc. can be booked at The Club: theclubatpicatinny.com

Shaded outdoor dining is available at both locations for golfers to enjoy after their round. Golf is an increasingly popular sport that provides the Picatinny community with extensive recreation, healthy competition, and networking opportunities.

Memberships are available to all active, retired and honorably discharged military, active and retired DOD civilians, DOD contractors and the general public.

Visit PicatinnyGolf.com for information on memberships, the event schedule, tee times, and more.