The Expansion of Golf: 1945- Present
World War II brought new setbacks for country clubs: a loss of members who were mobilized for war, a lack of materials as golf balls and clubs were recycled for the war effort, and the difficulty of getting to the golf course when gas was rationed.
But war’s end brought about another golden age for golf, as the rising standard of living and mass suburbanization opened up the game to a wider segment of the American population. During this era, many country clubs expanded their courses and clubhouses, as well as creating programs for children and teenagers that would encourage families to spend their time at the club. Public and daily-fee courses also grew during this time. President Eisenhower shared his love of golf, and the business world continued to value it as a way of promoting networking and making deals with clients.
At the Country Club of Fairfield, the postwar years were times of celebration. As Ira Warner was fond of announcing at dinners on the beach that preceded the popular Father-Son Tournament: “The gods do not subtract from the allotted span of men’s lives the hours spent on the golf course.”
The Patterson Club had been founded in 1929 as a social club in downtown Bridgeport for General Electric managers. It was named after C. E. Patterson, a GE executive who had been a great supporter of the club from its beginnings. General Electric was one of the city’s largest manufacturers, making appliances and electrical equipment at its large plant on Boston Avenue. In 1945, the company purchased Quasset Farm in Fairfield in order to provide golf facilities for the club. The former owners, Carlton and Winthrop Palmer, had trained horses on the 163-acre estate, and its barns were modified to provide a clubhouse.
Under the direction of premier golf architect Robert Trent Jones, members and workers cleared 60 acres of woodland and swamps, buried five miles of farm stonewalls, and dug five artificial lakes, which dot the layout. Neil Martin, who had rebuilt a golf course in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia while serving with the U.S. Army’s 16th Armored Division during the war, oversaw the construction. The designers agreed that the golf course should have Scottish-style rolling greens and fairways that “make it difficult for the good golfer and just the same for the average golfer.” The golf course opened in June 1947 with an opening round played by national champions Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen as well as GE’s president, Charles Wilson, and chairman, Philip Reed.
The club soon attracted members, both from the community and from the ranks of General Electric. In addition to golf, a schedule of social events – card game nights, cocktail hours, dance nights, and women’s club lectures – as well as the construction of a pool in 1956 added to the appeal. Over time, community members came to outnumber GE employees at the club, and in 1967, GE sold the club to its members.
The club has continued to thrive, hosting the Connecticut State Amateur and Connecticut Open tournaments in the 1990s. In 2005, the design firm of Rees Jones (son of original course designer Robert Trent Jones) developed a plan to renovate the golf course, and in 2010 the club celebrated the opening of its new clubhouse, which was designed to echo the look of the original Palmer farmhouse. This summer, the Patterson Club will be hosting the 2015 Connecticut Open finals from July 27-29.