GREENFIELD, Mass – Golf has been around for a long time so several golf clubs have celebrated their 100th anniversaries, but the Country Club of Greenfield is turning an incredible 125 years old this season.
The first round at what was then known as Greenfield Golf Club was played on Nov. 7, 1896, just four days after William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan for U.S. President.
The CC of Greenfield is one of the oldest golf clubs in New England and most clubs that have been around for anywhere near as long are private. The CC of Greenfield is semi-private – with members and daily fee players.
“It’s something that we’re very proud of, to make it this long in an industry that has had its ups and downs,” club president Tim Farrell said. “The golf industry is a difficult business, but because of the dedication of the staff that we’ve had over the years and the pros we’ve had over the years, we’ve been able to work through difficult times.”
Those difficulties include a fire destroying the clubhouse in October of 2011. It has since been rebuilt with more modern conveniences, including much needed air conditioning.
Farrell, 49, pointed out that the club is one of the oldest continuously operated businesses in not only Greenfield, but all of Franklin County.
Alex Findlay, who historians have called the father of American golf, designed Greenfield Golf Club’s nine holes. Findlay immigrated from Scotland to build what is believed to be the first golf course in the U.S., a six-hole layout in Fullerton, Nebraska, in 1887. In addition to a designer, he was an excellent player and club maker.
Findlay’s many other designs include Hyannisport Club and East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, site of the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship.
William J. Devine Golf Course in Boston opened earlier in 1896 and is considered to be the second oldest public course in the U.S., trailing only Van Cortlandt Golf Course, which opened in the Bronx, New York, on July 6, 1985.
Unlike William J. Devine and Van Cortlandt, however, the CC of Greenfield moved from its original location. The club has been located at 244 Country Club Road in Greenfield since 1901. Architect Ralph Barton helped the club expand to 18 holes. Among Barton’s other designs were courses at Yale, at Dartmouth, in Bermuda and nearly a dozen in New Hampshire.
Head pro Kevin Piecuch realizes that when people think of the oldest courses in the state, the CC of Greenfield wouldn’t come to mind for most.
“No,” he said. “We’re tucked away here in the western part of the state. You know how that goes.
For the 100th anniversary, the club held a tournament and a clambake. Golfers dressed in period correct clothing and hit hickory clubs off sand tees. Automobiles from the turn of the century were also on hand.
Any celebration of the 125th anniversary will be pushed off until the fall in the hope that COVID restrictions will have ended by then. Nothing has been scheduled yet. The club does plan to sell 125th anniversary golf shirts.
Piecuch, 54, is only the club’s third head pro since 1928, following Mac Sennett (1928-1969) and James “Bucky” O’Brien (1969-2013).
Since Piecuch began working at the club as an assistant pro in 1992, there have been only two club presidents, Brian Luippold and Farrell. Since 1987, the club has had only two superintendents: Bob Uggucioni and Chris Reed.
“So longevity is kind of a theme around here,” Piecuch said.
Some big names have played the CC of Greenfield. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor played when she was in the area to give a commencement address. In 1932, the year he won both the U.S. Open and the British Open, Gene Sarazen shot a 1-over 73 at the CC of Greenfield in a match with Sennett. Others who have played the course include: 1928 U.S. Open champion Johnny Farrell, Boston Bruins legend Eddie Shore, former PGA Tour golfer Rod Curl, country music superstar Vince Gill, and noted golf instructor Bob Toski, whose nephew, Billy Fisher, is a member.
More importantly, CC of Greenfield caters to its members and daily fee golfers.
“It’s a laid-back place,” Piecuch said. “If you’re looking for fun and to have a good time, this is the place to come to. We’re a low-key, blue-collar club.”
Farrell admitted he was nervous about the club’s future when courses were shut down for several weeks by the pandemic last spring.
“In March and April of last year,” he recalled, “I was like, ‘I just don’t want to be the club president if we don’t make it to 125 years.’ That’s not a stat you want, but we had a great year and we’re looking forward to a lot more of those in the future.”
In the club’s 75th annual Invitational Four-Ball last year, 96 teams played and there was a waiting list of 14 teams.
“It’s a welcoming place,” Farrell said. “People from all walks of life have enjoyed the country club over the decades. It’s also a place rich in history and rich in tradition. There have been families who have been members for decades, multiple generations. ”
Piecuch said he expects the club this year to have 285 members, close to the all-time high of about 300 during the centennial year of 1996.
Memberships cost $1,650 or less and a membership with a cart costs $2,350. For daily fee players, it costs $55 to ride on weekdays and $60 to ride on weekends.
With parkland and links style holes, the course plays 6,337 yards from the back tees to a par of 72.
So will CC of Greenfield last for another 125 years?
“Oh yeah, I guarantee it,” Piecuch said. “It’s a special place.”