When I was about 15 – years – old, my next door neighbor – who was four years older than me – used to invite me over to hit “whiffle” golf balls. These were plastic balls with holes in them so they wouldn’t go so far. He lived on the corner of two streets, and we’d tee off in his side yard. Several years later, I bought a set of cheap clubs and a bag. I went to several driving ranges to practice my drives (long game), and practiced my short game on the putting green. As time went along, I found some friends who liked to play on small, public courses. This was my early exposure to golf.
When I got married in 1976, I discovered that my father-in-law was a starter and ranger at Bruce Golf Course on King Street. He’d make sure people teed off and moved along quickly so people wouldn’t get backed up on the course. People called him a genius at managing the large number of players. He was also a great player, having competed in the Town Tournament several times.
Luckily, he took me out and showed me a lot of things I could only learn from a pro. Bruce Golf Course (now known as the Griffith E. Harris Golf Course) is the only public course in Town. The Town had an opportunity to buy what is now Innis Arden Golf Course, but the deal fell through. This would have given the Town a course in the eastern part of Greenwich (Innis Arden) and a course in western Greenwich (The Griff). Some of the pressure would have been taken off the Griff since less people would be vying for start times there. The Griff is considered one of the best public golf courses in the country.
GOLF IN GREENWICH
Today, there are 8 private clubs and 1 municipal (public) course. The private courses are: Burning Tree, Fairview, Greenwich CC, Innis Arden, Milbrook, Round Hill, Stanwich and Tamarack. Griffith Harris is the municiapl course. At one time, we only had one private course in Town – the Greenwich Country Club. This was in the 1920s.
This particular period was important in American history. We were just coming out of World War I, Prohibition would start and the Stock Market would crash. The population was only 25,000. The Greenwich Country Club and Field Club were the only recreational facilities for the mid – country and back – country people. While the Field Club offered tennis and squash, the Greenwich CC was the only golf course. It was getting crowded with out-of-towners traveling to town. People had to sign up for starting times a week in advance. Women weren’t allowed on the course until late Sunday afternoons. Children were not allowed on the course, so families couldn’t spend time together.
Enter Colby Chester. He was a Greenwich resident and President of General Foods. Colby realized that recreation facilities were limited in town. There was a need for a social center in Greenwich with a broad range of athletic activities. He organized a group of business leaders to locate property for a new golf course. A meeting was held at the Field Club in July 1922, and some articles of incorporation were put together for the Round Hill Club. A Board of Directors was elected, and a Chairman of Greens Committee was organized under H. Arnold Jackson.
GOLF COURSE ARCHITECT
Australian Walter J. Travis was the architect chosen to design the Round Hill Club. He was 60-years-old, and had been interested in golf since he was 35-years old. He played at a community course in Garden City NY. In the early 1900s, Travis won a national amateur championship three times, and became the first foreignor to become the British Amnateur Champion in 1904. If that weren’t enough, he was the first man to win a championship with a rubberwound ball, and was known for his theories on how to play the game. His methods are still used today. It’s not surprising that he designed some of the most “punishing” golf courses in the country.
Mr. Harry Fisher – a club member who had donated a considerable amount of land to the north – chose the location for the Club House. He even gave a righ-of-way to the site (Club Road) and asked for a stone wall at the north boundary. This allowed for the placement of the third hole in its current site. Delano and Aldrich Architects from New York were chose to design the building. Construction of the road and building was completed by the O’Brien and Kinkel Contractors of Mt. Kisco. Six tennis courts were included for the membership. A trapshooting field was built, and riding stables for those who liked to horseride. There was even an indoor riding stable. The Club opened in 1924.
PRESENT DAY AND THE FUTURE
The Round Hill Club is one of the most prestigious golf courses in the country. On occasion, it’s the site of some important tournaments. Many important Wall Street leaders belong to the Club, as well as Fortune 500 executives. Looking at history, the Club has survived lean times due to the determination of its directors. Since there are other country clubs in Greenwich, some of the demand for more playing time has been met. The accessibility of golf courses in Town is a plus for those considering a move to Greenwich.
Although there may be more residential building in Town in the future, I believe the Round Hill Club will be around for many more years to come. The Town has a very good Plan of Conservation and Development to protect open space and the character of the Town. Furthermore, the Directors of the RHC are proactive in building and protecting the club. I don’t benefit directly from the private country clubs; but I believe private golf courses help make Greenwich what it is today. They attract business leaders to Greenwich, and these individuals help determine finances, policies and services.
May the Round Hill Club (and all other courses) have a long and successful history here in Greenwich.
Gates, J; Round Hill Club 1922-1979; No publisher data, no date data, Greenwich CT, 1979.