Theodore Havemeyer, a wealthy sportsman whose family owned the American Sugar Company, played the game of golf on a trip to Pau in the south of France in 1889 and returned to his summer home in Newport, RI excited about its future. In 1890 he and his friends rented some property on the old Castle Hill Farm and played golf on a primitive course. He convinced a few pals from the summer colony's social elite, men such as John Jacob Astor IV, Perry Belmont and Cornelius Vanderbilt II, - to purchase the 140-acre Rocky Farm property for $80,000 and establish the golf club in 1893. At the time of the club's founding, Newport was at the peak of its prestige as the favorite summer colony of America's wealthy elite. The city had thus established one of America's earliest golf clubs since the sport was played almost exclusively by the rich when it was first introduced to the United States. The primitive course that they played upon in 1890 was bought roughly 30 years later and is where the 2nd through 8th holes currently are on. 
Anxious to host national competitions, Havemeyer invited the country's best amateurs to his new course for a championship in 1894. That December, Havemeyer held a meeting at New York City's Calumet Club with representatives from four other clubs: St. Andrew's Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY; Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton on Long Island, New York; The Country Club in Brookline, MA; and the Chicago Golf Club. These clubs agreed to form the Amateur Golf Association, the forefather of the United States Golf Association. In October 1895, Newport Country Club hosted both the first U.S. Amateur Championship and the first U.S. Open. In 1995, in celebration of the U.S. Amateur Championship centennial, the club hosted the 1995 U.S. Amateur Championship, which was won by Tiger Woods. To this day, the U.S. Amateur champion is awarded the Havemeyer Trophy. It was also the venue of the 2006 U.S. Women's Open, which was won by Annika Sörenstam. On April 25, 2017, the USGA announced Newport Country Club would be the site of the 41st US Senior Open in June 2020.
A nine-hole course was designed in 1894 by William Davis, the club's first professional, and later expanded to 18 holes in 1899, again by Davis. This 2nd nine was long thought to be designed by Donald Ross, but a recent discovery (2013) of an original scorecard (1899) rebuked Ross' work. This information is in the recently written club history. In 1923, A.W. Tillinghast, famous for such designs as Winged Foot Golf Club, Baltusrol Golf Club, Bethpage Black and the San Francisco Golf Club, was hired to remodel the course layout. Since 1995, restoration on some of the course has been completed by Ron Forse.
Whitney Warren designed the classic, Beaux Arts style clubhouse on a largely barren farm overlooking Brenton Point in 1895. Warren's only other major Newport project at the time was a home for his sister, Edith. This mansion, which overlooks Bailey's Beach and completed in 1900, was called High Tide. Michelle Wie stayed here for the week of the 2006 U.S. Women's Open. The clubhouse went under extensive renovation in 2005.
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U.S.G.A. rules govern all play.