Fairfield Golf & Country Club History

In the spring of 1892, Dr. James Frederic Clarke stopped in Chicago on his way back home from a medical meeting in Philadelphia. He there saw some golf clubs displayed in a State Street window. Having just become interested in this game through reading an article in Harper’s Weekly which told Satan played golf, the doctor purchased a wooden driver and three balls with which to inoculate his home town.

After arriving in Fairfield, Dr. Clarke melted the tops from seven empty tomato cans with the help of his nephew Charles C. Sampson, making them ready to be set into the ground as “holes” for the new game. After office hours, equipped with the club, the balls and the tin cans, these two novices fared forth to play.

At the Post Office the experimenters met Mr. Robert B. Louden who joined the expedition and farther on the way Mr. Charles J. Fulton and Mr. J. Wilbur Dole were drafted for the game. These five men proceeded down Main Street to Lamson’s pasture. The cans were sunk into the ground and golf began in Fairfield.

Early golfers hitting the links

Early golfers hitting the links

Shortly thereafter on May 16, 1892, a golf club – and arguably the first golf club west of the Mississippi – was organized. Because this first golf club played near the banks of Crow Creek, the Indian name of that stream, Kahgahgee, was taken for the name of the club. Dr. Clarke wanted to name the club for Satan who by way of Harper’s Weekly had inspired the adventure. Mr. W.G. Ross, one of the charter members, refused to belong to a club with such a name. Mr. Ross was always compromising with evil. He never would take a bridge prize, for the use of bridge prizes was gambling.

It is not possible to give a complete list of the original members of this golf club. Mr. Robert B. Louden and Mr. Wilbur Dole, though of the original five first experimenters, did not join the club until several years later. Dr. and Mr. Clarke, owners of the only club, had to be present. C.J. Fulton, Walter and Florence Lamson Slaqle, Mrs. Fanny Welday, Miss Anna Cottle, John G. Spielman , Miss Kittie Voorhies, W. G. Ross, and Miss Carrie Lamson (Ross and Lamson would marry the following year) were among the first players.

In the beginning there was only the one club, a driver, that would be shared by the players. The original club had been preserved in part but was unfortunately lost in the 1954 fire of the later clubhouse. Each member owned a ball. Eventually, everyone bought a driver of their own, but it would be some time before more refined clubs like lofting irons and putters were acquired. With more clubs, balls, and members, groups of five or six began playing together. One of the popular pastimes of the day was a “cross country drive.” Starting from the golf grounds, balls were driven to a designated point three or four miles away. The winner was the player with the lowest score when the group arrived at that spot.

The golf course began on South Main Street where a house now stands at 605 South Main and extended to Crow Creek Road (now known as South Park Street). There were seven holes heading east with each hole having its own name – Alpha, Diagonal, Long, Range, Stumpie, Grassie and Omega. The play was from Alpha East to Omega and then returning west over the same course. This made fourteen holes and the grass, the trees, the sloughs, the stumps, combined to make it an “extreme sport” of sorts. The area was known as Lamson’s pasture. No one thought of paying rent. Ward Lamson, the owner, had always allowed it to be used as a common for nature lovers and neighborhood children. The new golf club also included two of Lamson’s daughters.

The holes that were to the west of what is now D Street meandered through where the development on Harrison Avenue now exists.

Mrs. Clarke, early in the club’s history, made and presented to her husband a fine score book, bound appropriately in Scotch plaid. This score book contained the scores on February 25th of Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Ross, the two best players of the club.

Mrs. Ross East 6 10 22 16 8 8 12 Total 82
Mrs. Ross West 17 10 13 20 27 10 10 Total 107
Grand Total for Mrs. Ross 189
Mr. Ross East 9 6 8 8 9 10 7 Total 57
Mr. Ross West 10 9 7 17 12 8 8 Total 71
Grand Total for Mr. Ross 128

So why 14 holes? At a discussion at the member’s board meeting in St Andrews in 1858, one of the members pointed out it took exactly 18 shots to finish a bottle of scotch, so once the scotch was out, golf was over. Apparently it only took 14 holes to run out in Fairfield, and the club’s tradition of generous pours began.

By 1896, the Kahgahgee Golf Club had twenty members and a written constitution in which Article ii stated, “The chief object in life of each member of this club shall be to beat the record; to engender envious misery in others and to discuss the exploits and wonders of the game with any benighted mortal who at the moment is available.” The dues for having this privilege? $.50 per year. In 1897, a series of friendly golf matches with Washington, IA Golf Club began by presidents Herminie Stichter of Washington and C. J. Fulton of Fairfield.

On August 14th, 1900, the Kahgahgee Golf Club was reorganized. A written constitution was adopted and definite rules were promulgated, one of which was that only members of the club were allowed to be on the grounds and play on Sundays. Evidently sinfulness must be kept within the club.

The membership at this time was limited to 40 – there were actually but 37. The charter members of the reorganized Kahgahgee Golf Club were: Mary W. Blair, Alice B. Booker, Dr. J.F. Clarke, Mrs. J.F. Clarke, R.J. Fry, C.J. Fulton, Mrs. C.J. Fulton, Prof. Geo. D Gable, Mrs. Geo. D. Gable, L.0. Gaines, E.A. Howard, Mrs. E.A. Howard, Nat Howard, Fred Hunt, Day Hunt, Gifford Hunt, R.W. Lamson, Mrs. R.W. Lamson, V.A. Lamson, Mrs. V.A. Lamson, Beatrice C. Leggett, R.B. Louden, Mrs. R.B. Louden, J.S. McKemey, Mrs. J.5. McKemey, Chas. R. Richardson, W.G. Ross, Mrs. W.G. Ross, H.G. Shriner, Mrs. H.G. Shriner, Fanny B. Weldy, Kittie Wilson, Pres. Hinitt, Mrs. Hinitt, Prof. J.E. Johnson.

Until October 1, 1900, the Kahgahgee Golf Club had no home. On this date they purchased a log cabin from a farmer for $25.00. This was razed, moved to the golf grounds and erected by the club members at a general all day picnic. Later a machine shed was added on the north side of the cabin at a cost of $28.00 and still later a pergola was built on the south front. This was covered with vines. In 1901 there was a permanent investment by the club of as much as $75.00. The location of this log cabin club house was one block south of the present Washington school and on the west side of D Street – approximately at what is now 700 South D Street.

These were exciting times for the club. The first lawnmower was purchased in February 1901 to replace the sheep. It was probably only used on the greens. Animals still roamed these pastures and to keep them from breaking their legs in the holes, squares of fencing were put around the greens. The players crawled through the wires to finish each hole.

At a meeting on February 25th, membership was increased from 40 to 50. The following month, the Kahgahgee Golf Club entered the Iowa State Golf Association, and a junior membership was added for children of members for a membership fee of $.50 per year.

The annual dues for the year about 1901 were $2.00, which actually met the expenses. There were, however, times of special needs as in September, 1900, when the captain of the green was ordered by unanimous vote to add one more link to the course at an expense not to exceed $2.00. In April 5, 1901 there was a special assessment of $1 for each member apparently to meet the club’s expenses.

In its early life the subject of rental of the golf grounds was ignored by the club. Cattle, sheep, golfers and the general public lived together in harmony in these pastures. In May, 1901, the club formally leased the Front Pasture” and Parkinson Hill” for reportedly $75.00 a year.

On September 9th, membership was raised to 75 and five members were chosen to manage the club and elect new members – Dr. Clarke, Job E. Johnson, R. Day Hunt (Ward Lamson’s grandson ), and two of Lamson’s sons in law, E.A. Howard and W.G. Ross. Pure democracy ended at the Club.

At a meeting on January 24, 1902, someone was “elected to care for the grounds. The male membership could focus more on golf, but the women were still expected to work primarily in keeping the clubhouse clean.

In the days of the log cabin clubhouse, played started from the nearest, or “Home” hole, and all the holes were re-named. The holes with the best view of the old Lamson and new Fulton homes on South Main were called “Lamson” and “Fulton.” “Gable Hole” was named for George D. Gable, a mathematician at Parsons College. “Charley” was named after two rivals, Charles Heer and Charles Raines.

In front of the cabin almost every summer meeting night burned a big bonfire. On January 22, 1903, a committee of three was appointed to “arrange for a social rally once a month.” Dr. Clarke, Mrs. Alice Booker, a talented entertainer, and Miss Kitty Wilson, Senator James F. Wilson’s daughter, took charge of the project. This would lead to “social rallies” every two weeks that included club picnics which became of feature of the club for years to come. These early club picnic suppers were more or less potluck dinners.

Early in October, 1910, the official minutes note that the golf club met at the log cabin for a “house warming”, and this was the beginning of this cabin life. A resolution was that night passed that each member contribute a chair to the cabin furniture. The collection of chairs thus provided was varied in design and antique in period dating. An oil stove was provided for cooking and a wood stove for heating the cabin. A Mr. Scott donated a fine black mantle piece but this was an ornament only – there was no fireplace chimney.

On July 20, 1914, the club incorporated under the name of the Fairfield Golf Club. The articles were then amended in April, 1919 under the same name.

The Club continued to grow and built a frame clubhouse in 1919 in the same location that the current clubhouse resides. The clubhouse soon became the center of dances, bridge parties, and other social events. The club became, as Dr. Clarke later wrote, “just like 10,000 other golf clubs which provide means of ‘resting the tired business man,’ of beating the Bogey score; of developing a picturesque vocabulary and of destroying the veracity of thousands of once truthful office secretaries, who now unblushingly tell clients every day of the important afternoon engagement of their employers.”

In 1921, the Golf Club bought the grounds on which it played. The following year, the club re-incorporated, probably due to a statutory requirement, and again under the Fairfield Golf Club. On May 16, 1950 (the club’s 58th birthday), new articles were filed changing the name to Fairfield Golf & Country Club. It was incorporated for a 50 year term, probably a statutory requirement, and then 50 years later on July 18, 2000.

A fire destroyed the 1919 built clubhouse on December 29, 1954. The building was underinsured. President Millard Roberts of Parsons College came up with a win-win plan to help rebuild the clubhouse and the club’s first pool. He thought offering prospective faculty members contracts including memberships in the Fairfield Golf & Country Club would be an asset to lure these candidates by assuring them social status in the community. There were a number a members willing to contribute to the cause. Roberts suggested that these members contribute the money to a special fund at Parsons making it tax deductible. Roberts would use the funds to buy memberships for the faculty at a slightly discounted rate. The club would use the money to build the new clubhouse and pool. Once the money in the fund ran out, Parsons paid for the memberships they promised their faculty. Within a year after the fire everything was built, membership boomed, and the club became the lively social center of Fairfield.