Harvard Facilities: The Country Club
The Country Club
In 1882, J. Murray Forbes and a group of his Boston Friends agreed to establish a club where gentlemen could pursue their interest in horse racing. Lawn tennis and a bowling alley would also be available, plus occasional dining and, sporadically, afternoon music for the ladies. The club (named after a social club that Forbes encountered while in Shanghai), was not formed with any thought of the Old Scottish links game.
America's first country club is still the site today for
In the Brookline countryside, these men found a site of approximately 100 acres that included the Clyde Park Hotel and a racetrack. The property was rented for five years then purchased by the 400 members, who decided that the pleasures of their sporting club were worth the 5 ½ mile trip from Beacon Hill.
In 1892, Florence Boit, returning from a visit to France, brought back golf sticks and several golf balls. Three members of The Country Club (TCC) tried out the new sport, became immediate converts, and that autumn requested that the club’s executive committee appropriate $50 for the laying out of six holes on the Clyde park grounds. The following spring, an exhibition was presented in order to interest other members in golf. Members were quickly fascinated by the sport and ten sets of clubs were immediately ordered. The club’s first championship was played in 1893, with H.C. Leeds winning the 18-hole competition (three times around on the course) with a score of 109.
Interest in the game was so strong that three holes were added and, in 1894 Scottish golf professional Willie Campbell was hired to come to America and teach the game to TCC’s members. Campbell, who helped redesign the course, suggested that a herd of sheep be purchased to serve as a low cost grounds maintenance crew. Also in 1894, The Country Club joined with four other clubs to form the golfing organization that became the USGA.
In 1899, the TCC course was expanded to 18 holes, which did not please all members, for animosity was growing between the equestrians and golfers. Riders, irritated by the now-constant danger of being struck by golf balls, took their revenge by leaving the horses’ hoof prints on the greens and chasing the maintenance crew around the property.
By 1902, TCC’s layout was considered sufficiently challenging, causing “Golf” magazine to state (vigorously by the then-President Teddy Roosevelt), “The course is a capital test of golf, for a good player will find that he has had use for almost every club in his bag before he has completed the round.” And, walking off the 18th green, “the question that occurs to even the best player is: ‘How on earth did I make such an absurdly bad score? There’s nothing difficult about the links.’ The secret lies largely in the fact that the course is extremely well laid out.”
In the fall of 1902, the U.S. Women’s National Championship was played at TCC. The competitors all wore floor-length skirts, which became an even greater inconvenience when saddened by the week’s heavy rain. Genevieve Hocker, who had one drive measured at 193 yards, won the title before a crowd that numbered in the thousands.
An additional nine hole course, named Primrose, was built at The Country Club in 1927, but not until the 1963 Open was the present championship course configuration used. To create a longer, more difficult layout, No.2 was switched from a par 4 to a par 3, and No. 9, 10, and 12 were eliminated in favor of Primrose holes 1 & 2 (combined), 8 and 9. For the 1913 Open, the course measured 6,245 yards, and for the 33rd Ryder Cup, 7,033 yards.
On the current layout, 12 out of 15 holes (minus the three par 3’s) are doglegs. TCC is often described as a ‘second-shot course because the approaches to the small greens are critical. Francis Ouimet, captain of the 1932 U.S. Walker Cup team warned both teams before the competition began, “Gentleman, this is a very subtle-course.”
Golf’s popularity eventually wore down the equestrians, who staged their last race day at The Country Club in 1935. In recognition of the club’s origins, the racetrack remained in place (circling the 1st and 18th fairways) until 1969.
Along with The Ryder Cup, TCC has hosted three Opens, five U.S. Men’s amateurs (1910, 1922, 1934, 1957, 1982), three U.S. Women’s Amateurs (1902, 1941, 1995), the 1953 Junior Girls’ Championship, the 1968 Junior Boys’ Championship, and the 1932 and 1973 Walker Cups, which were both won by the U.S. squads.
The Country Club is set to host the 2013 US Amateur on the 100th anniversary of Francis Ouimet’s US Open victory.
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