Birth of a Club
The story of the club’s founding has been well documented. Several accounts have appeared over the years, most of them based on two chapters from Marjorie Kaschewski’s The Quiet Millionaires and the newspaper Jerseyman. The club traces its roots to a meeting at the Elm Street home of Mrs. Henry Hopkins, where a group of ladies of “impeccable precedents” met “to start the ball rolling,” according to Kaschewski.
"At a meeting held at the residence of Mrs. Henry Hopkins on Tuesday, April 10, the “Morris County Golf Club” was organized. . . .The Club House will be situated on Madison Avenue, on property adjoining the Punch Bowl. A golf course will be laid out; also tennis courts and croquet grounds. The architect, Mr. Robert C. Walsh, hopes to have the Club House ready to turn over to the members on Decoration Day.
-Jerseyman, April 13, 1894
The New York Times noted the birth of the club on April 23, 1894:
"Morristown, the home of many of New York’s best-known business men, is to have a Country Club, thus following the lead of those places which aim to be much gayer, but do not succeed in being as pleasant a place of residence as this old-fashioned town in the hills of New Jersey. The clubhouse, soon to be erected, will be situated on a very pretty piece of property, adjoining a curious and famous depression in the land which from time immemorial has been called the “Punch Bowl.” Besides the golf course, there will be tennis courts and a croquet ground."
The club leased approximately 20 acres, half of it smooth meadowland, the other half the Punch Bowl, 100 feet in depth, which traced back to Colonial times, although of unknown origin. The site was located just a two-minute walk from the railroad station. (Today, it is occupied by a parking lot behind Jersey Central Power and Light.)
Indeed, it was the Punch Bowl, with its steep hollows and long grassy swales, its sporty appearance and infinite possibilities, that inspired the start of golf in Morristown.
Construction of the clubhouse was rushed to completion. The club’s formal opening day festivities took place on June 16, 1894, an occasion unfortunately marred by intermittent downpours.
"Society dressed itself in its best on Saturday to attend the opening of the Morris County Golf Club, but many were disappointed when the rain came down fast and heavy and prevented them from going out. Notwithstanding the weather, the reception room of the Club House was well filled and all who were present passed a very enjoyable afternoon. Golf was tried between the showers, and many who had previously talked against the game became converted and decided to try it. The hall is just right for dancing and the married couples as well as the younger set are looking forward with much pleasure to many dances during the summer and fall."
-Jerseyman, June 22, 1897
Golf grew quickly in popularity that first summer, as noted in the following article:
"The social as well as the sporting future of Morristown, N.J., this summer is going to be the game of golf. Residents of that popular locality, not to be outdone by Newport and Southampton in the pursuit of the old Scotch game, have not only erected a handsome clubhouse and laid out admirable links, but are also playing the game with enthusiasm.
A year ago most of the Morristown people would probably have dismissed with an incredible smile the idea that within 12 months a flourishing golf club would be in their midst. It was the ladies at Morristown who took the initiative in the matter, and so, of course, there was no stopping.
The grounds consist of about 60 acres, and have been leased from John D. Canfield for five years with the privilege of purchasing at the expiration of that time. This latter act depends largely upon how strong a hold golf will keep upon those who are enthusiastic over it, but judging from the rapid growth the game has had here during the past few years, it is almost safe to say that golf has come to remain permanently."
-Jerseyman, July 6, 1894
By comparison with other clubs, the early growth of the Morris County Golf Club was astounding. Late in 1894, Outing Magazine noted that there were 400 members, a fact corroborated by the Jerseyman. The ladies conferred honorary membership on local clergymen and admitted 200 men, mostly husbands and fathers, as associate members, believing they would “make good caddies.” The Jerseyman described the club’s membership structure in detail:
"The club here is the only one in the country organized and managed by women. The membership of the club is divided into four classes—regular, limited, associate and honorary. The regular members number 32, and are the actual managers of affairs. The limited members number about 200 ladies, who have no voice in club affairs. The men constitute the associate membership. There is an advisory committee composed of gentlemen which is associated with the executive committee composed of ladies."
-Jerseyman, November 3, 1894]
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