George A. Crump (1871-1918) was the architect and driving force behind the creation of Pine Valley Golf Club, considered by many to be the No. 1 golf course in the world. Crump, who primarily lived on the grounds of Pine Valley during its construction, was a complicated figure whose efforts to build the course became his life’s work. Beginning with finding the land on which to build the course, developing its layout, and later saving the fledgling club from financial challenges, Crump’s impact was immeasurable. The only course ever designed by Crump, Pine Valley was designed with his single mindset to challenge the best players and allow no forgiveness to those less skilled.
Born in Philadelphia, Crump’s family relocated to New Jersey; first to Camden and later Merchantville. An accomplished player, Crump won the 1901 and 1912 Patterson Cup and competed on Philadelphia teams in intercity matches with New York, as well as the triangular Lesley Cup matches between Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
Through his competitive connections, Crump developed friendships with many top local players who sought to build a golf course that would be a true, championship challenge. In 1913, on their behalf, Crump purchased a parcel of land in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens 14 miles southeast of Camden where Pine Valley would be built. While the other stakeholders organized the club, Crump focused on designing and building the course.
By 1914, holes 1 through 10 and 18 were completed; holes 11, 16, and 17 were finished in 1915. But, it was not until 1919, the year after Crump’s death, when holes 12 through 15 were built. Years of cost overruns and construction issues delayed the process and led to major financial problems for the club. Crump himself played the largest role in preventing the club from failure; by some accounts, he spent more than $250,000 to support the club with no expectation to be reimbursed.
On January 24, 1918, Crump took his own life in his home in Merchantville. It is believed that the years of setbacks while building Pine Valley led to the erosion of Crump’s personal wealth and well-being, and ultimately, his demise. Shortly thereafter, Crump’s brother-in-law, Howard Street, led a group including architects Harry Colt, C.H. Alison, brothers Hugh and Alan Wilson, as well as a handful of members who collaborated to bring Crump’s unique vision to a conclusion. In 1922, after an additional round of revisions had been completed, the golf course opened in its perfected state, essentially as it exists today.