The History of Fairfield's Fairways
Golf has deep roots in history, going back at least to 1457 in Scotland. But the modern game took hold in the United States in the 1880s, thanks to the efforts of a few English and Scottish immigrants who taught the game to Americans. Golf caught on quickly among America’s elite, who saw it as healthful, accessible and affordable (compared to sports like hunting, yachting, or racing), and admired its Old World traditions. With increased wealth, a new acceptance of sports and leisure, and the spread of trolley systems that made it easy for city dwellers to reach open land, golf quickly took hold. Country clubs, which began to spring up around the country during the 1890s, offered golf and other sports as a popular respite from the strains of city life.
Brooklawn Country Club, founded in 1895 by leading businessmen from Bridgeport, provided a social and recreational home for the city’s industrial leaders and their families. A group of manufacturers led by I. DeVer Warner and Archer and William Wheelercreated the club for the purpose of “promoting indoor and outdoor sports in the City of Bridgeport and to provide its members means for the enjoyment of same.” For location, they leased the Clapp Spooner estate off of Brooklawn Avenue. The farm house became a clubhouse, and barns were converted into lockers, a game room, and a dance hall. Aiming to serve “the best social element in Bridgeport,” the club became known as the rendezvous place for the city’s “society folk.”
Always conceived as a family club, Brooklawn attracted members quickly. With its proximity to the city (including new trolley service), members could easily move between their downtown offices and the club, playing a mid-day round of golf and then returning to work. The club also spurred residential development in the Brooklawn Park neighborhood, as leading families from the city’s business, professional, and government worlds built impressive homes at the country club’s doorstep.
Although golf was originally second to baseball and tennis in the club’s budget, it quickly became the club’s main emphasis. Golf at Brooklawn began with a 9-hole course and an annual budget of $100, but soon expanded. A prospectus for the club noted golf’s phenomenal rise in popularity: “The sport is fascinating alike to both sexes, to old and young, it furnishes a means of exercise of the most pleasing nature. It involves no sudden and violent exertion, but yet is invigorating and healthful.” Brooklawn was among the first clubs in the country to join the United States Golf Association (USGA) in 1896, only a year after the organization had been founded to promote the sport of golf and organize championships. The club was also a leader in championing golf in Connecticut, hosting the first club championship and helping to organize statewide and regional golf associations.