The Country Club of New Bedford, a Willie Park Jr. design, has a proud history which began at the turn of the nineteenth century and paralleled the city’s economic evolution.
In the waning days of a very wealthy whaling industry, golf arrived in New Bedford.
New Bedford’s first golf course was laid out by William Campbell, a Boston professional golfer, on the Hawthorn farm. Located on what was considered the city’s outskirts in 1897, the course was a short flat nine hole links design. The Hawthorn Club was officially incorporated in 1898 and quickly became overcrowded as the popularity of the game gained momentum. This original location was in what has since become the city’s West End bounded by Hawthorn, Allen and Brigham streets. The fourth boundary was simply described as woodland, which eventually became today’s Rockdale Avenue.
Textiles began to replace whaling as New Bedford’s primary industry around 1900 just as the Hawthorn Club felt itself becoming overcrowded. Several Board members, prominent businessmen from the emerging industrialized economy, began searching for another venue to accommodate the growing membership of the city’s first golf club .
In 1902 approximately eighty-six acres of land was located in nearby Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The site selected was another working farm which had recently been sold to a group of investors hoping to establish a trotter racetrack on the site. When that deal fell through, our original incorporators swept in and secured the property.
The “golfing professional” from the Hawthorn Club, Mr. David Findlay, proceeded to lay out a nine-hole links course as reported by the Boston Herald. The new location offered a much more varied terrain including a hillside, valley, ledge outcroppings, marshland and a stream. Tenant farmers were allowed to harvest their crops, some stone walls were removed, an orchard was cleared, the land was “prepared” and tilled fields were sown with grass in preparation for the new golf course.
In 1902 the Country Club of New Bedford was incorporated. A short ride from the city by horse, bicycle or horse and carriage, the founders envisioned a true country club experience. A “state of the art” clubhouse was constructed, landscape designers Olmsted and Olmsted from Boston we’re hired, plans were put in place for tennis courts, lawn bowling, croquet courts, a trap shooting range and for the stream to be dammed up in winter for a skating pond.
By 1915 the new golf course also became overcrowded and members petitioned the Board of Governors to expand the golfing facility to eighteen holes. In 1917 the Board consulted well know designer Donald Ross about this possibility. No further action with Mr. Ross was taken and it can be inferred from the Board of Governors Minutes that the Club did not own sufficient acreage for an eighteen-hole design. Soon after this consultation the United States entered the First World War and the project was delayed.
In 1921, the Board of Governors began a search for more land. The Board of Governors Minutes reveal that they even considered relocating the golf course once again. An additional thirty-eight acres was ultimately secured in February of 1922, across Slocum Road, which allowed the desired expansion project to proceed.
On March 28, 1922, the Board proudly announced the official hiring of world renowned golf course architect, Willie Park Jr., in New Bedford’s Evening Standard newspaper. It was noted that Mr. Park was currently finishing a project on the outskirts of Chicago (Olympia Fields North Golf Course) and that he would return soon to begin construction.
Willie Park Jr. was the world’s first “golf course architect” and a true entrepreneur. He was a two time Open Champion, the first man ever to write a book on how to play the game of golf and a golf club and ball designer. He had designed golf courses throughout Europe before coming to America in 1895 to play exhibition golf and to design his first course here. He has been labeled “the man who brought golf to the world”.
By 1922 his fame as a golf course designer was well established in Europe and he had offices in both New York City and Toronto. His reputation for innovation included being the first designer to move a golf course away from the coast - as was typical of his time in Scotland and England. His design at Sunningdale was the first golf course entirely sown from seed and he simultaneously designed Hunterscomb - the first project to link surrounding real estate to a newly developed golf course.
Our current eighteen-hole layout was constructed in 1922 - 1923 to replace the original nine-hole links course. It incorporates many of Park’s innovations in golf course design - including his wonderful undulating green complexes, his penchant for following the natural contours of the terrain he encountered, his typical three par threes with artificial hazards to distract the eye, his desire to lay out a course with opportunity for players of all abilities to enjoy and his intent to challenge better golfers to execute thoughtful shotmaking and planning while approaching his greens in order to score.
Construction of the eighteen hole layout at CCNB was completed by September 4, 1923, as evidenced by New Bedford ‘s Morning Mercury’s sports page reporting on the results of the President’s Cup at CCNB. The article concluded with the following statement: “Most of the new holes are now in use and the course is coming along nicely.”
The Country Club of New Bedford’s layout and greens have remained relatively untouched from their original forms for almost one hundred years and represent a wonderful example of a Willie Park Jr. design.
Of course play and camaraderie on this marvelous track is what draws us all to our golf course. Casual rounds with friends new and old predominate, but competition gets serious at times as well.
The annual August Fourball competition is a time honored tradition at CCNB. Members take great pride in knowing that our Fourball is the longest continuously run competition of its kind in America. What began in August of 1931 as a simple three day event for members and their guests has evolved to become our signature tournament - one without comparison in all of New England.
Now a six day tournament, the Fourball has sixty-four two man teams and has spawned a five day Satellite tournament played simultaneously by thirty-two additional teams! Over the years guests have included outstanding golfers from around the country.
The Country Club of New Bedford Women’s Invitational Fourball Tournament was initiated in 1979. This five day tournament was a milestone for women golfers and continues to be the leading event of its kind in the region.
The Country Club of New Bedford even holds a part in the history and evolution of modern golfs balls. In 1930, member Phil Young missed a putt on our eighteenth green. Insisting that the ball had not rolled true and thinking that it’s core was not correctly centered, he had a friend X-ray the ball. When the X-ray proved him correct he convinced fellow member Fred Bommer, an executive of the Acushnet rubber company, to start a golf ball division.
The result of that partnership was the birth of one the most respected golfing manufacturers in the world - the Titleist corporation. To this day, every Titleist golf ball produced is X-rayed before it is sold!
The members of the Country Club of New Bedford are proud of our heritage and especially of the wonderful golf course we are privileged to play. It is our hope to leave it well positioned and well taken care of for future generations to enjoy.