All About The Country Club at Brookline
Think of how many country clubs there are in the United States of America. Are you ready to learn all there is to know about the oldest one of them all?
Simply titled “The Country Club,” the private golf facility in Brookline, Massachusetts, is one of the 5 founding clubs of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and has thus been the home of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.
The final day of the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club is one of the most unforgettable days for American golf fans, and we promise to share the highlights with you when the time is appropriate. However, the first order of business is to properly introduce the course and tell you how and why it came to be.
Once you have the foundation for the club’s earliest days, we’ll transition into what the 18-hole layout is like and discuss the signature holes.
We’ll hit on all 3 of the U.S. Opens that have been contested at The Country Club, as well as touch on the collection of U.S. Amateurs that have been held here.
We’ll leave you with some information and tips about the surrounding area in case you are planning on heading to the Boston area in 2022 when the U.S. Open returns to The Country Club at Brookline. Who knows if the drama will be as plentiful as it was back in 1999 at the Ryder Cup, but we sure can’t wait to find out!
Go ahead and get acquainted with the property with this table of key facts below before jumping into all the good stuff.
The Country Club at Brookline – Key Facts
- Brookline, Massachusetts
- Year Opened
- Owner/Operated by
- Course Designer
- Willie Campbell, Alex Campbell
- 7,033 yards
- Host to
- U.S. Open (1913, 1963, 1988, 2022), The 1999 Ryder Cup, U.S. Amateur (1910, 1922, 1934, 1957, 1982, 2013)
- Official Website
The Oldest Golf Club in America
We hinted at the fact that this was the first private country club established, so it’s time to elaborate on that. The year was 1882 when the club was formed, although golf wasn’t even considered in the early going.
The Country Club was originated as a social club with an emphasis on equestrian activities, not a place for people to come whack a white ball around trying to land it in a little hole.
The golf course was constructed 11 years later in 1893, the year before the formation of the USGA. Originally called the Amateur Golf Association of America, this collection of individuals are the ones responsible for creating what we know today as the governing body of the rules of golf.
This organization deemed The Country Club, along with four others, as the 5 founding clubs of the country. It’s no surprise that the venue has been chosen to host multiple USGA Championships, as you’ll learn more about in sections below.
The early stages of golf at The Country Club in Brookline didn’t go over so well with many of the members, as they thought that golf got in the way of the important activities, such as riding horses.
Remember, for the first 11 years of the club’s existence, golf was completely and entirely absent. Membership dues were just $50 for the year, and there were already plenty of things to do.
Polo fields, tennis courts, a bowling alley, and an area designated for skeet shooting were among some of the activities that took place at The Country Club in Brookline. Once the golf course was built and its routing started interfering with the horse racing, some folks became quite upset.
The golf and horse racing courses were too close for comfort, as horseback riders had to sometimes contend with golf balls literally flying over their head.
It would take time for the game of golf to gain appreciation in Brookline, as it certainly didn’t happen overnight. The more time that went on, the more golf clubs started popping up, and the more the sport started becoming accepted.
Lost in this discussion so far is who was responsible for laying out the outline of the golf course and what kinds of characteristics are featured. If you were thinking that all 18 holes were built at the same time, you would be sorely mistaken. In fact, it was a trio of unnamed members who actually designed the first 6 holes in March of 1893.
The next move was to bring in a head golf professional, and they did so in 1894 by hiring Willie Campbell. Willie was a Scotsman who had mild success as a professional golfer but had a keen eye for what makes a golf course great.
During his first year, he expanded the track to 9 holes, but there wasn’t enough land to do much beyond that.
Finally, in 1899, enough land was purchased to start laying out a back 9. It was around that time that golf ball technology was increasing, thanks to the release of the Haskell ball in 1902. This meant that the current layout at The Country Club needed to be lengthened, so more amendments were made.
For more on the design elements and what the track is like, just keep reading below.
The Clyde and Squirrel Nines
Before we start describing the 18-hole layout that has been featured at past championships, we should alert you that there are actually 27 holes on the property.
The Primrose Course is a 9-hole course that was designed by the great William Flynn, the man who executed Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. In fact, Flynn had his hand on the redesign of some of the holes we are about to unveil; he just hasn’t always received the credit he deserved.
The Clyde and the Squirrel are the titles of the two 9s that most associate with when they talk about the Country Club. Contrary to the belief of some, this is not the exact layout that is used when big tournaments come to town.
The Composite Course, also known as the Anniversary or the Open Course, is the 18 holes they utilize when they need to add length to the golf course.
In order to achieve this, 3 ½ holes from the Primrose Course are converted, replacing 3 holes from the Clyde/Squirrel 18. The rest remains untouched, and with a few simple changes, an additional “Championship Course” is created.
The exact changes are that the 9th, 10th, and 12th holes are taken out and swapped out.
The first hole of the Primrose Course (played to the 2nd green), as well as the 8th and 9th holes, are traded in. In a nutshell, that’s the makeup of the Composite Course.
When you look at Golf Digest’s rankings of the top 100 courses in America, you’ll notice that the Clyde/Squirrel Course is rated as the 16th best in the country. This ranking is generated from the original 9-hole layout of the Clyde and the Squirrel 9s, not the Anniversary Course that you have seen on television or at previous U.S. Opens.
The experience of playing the Clyde/Squirrel Course is as good as it gets. Carts are not permitted unless you have a medical condition that requires the use of a buggy.
Golfers are equipped with a knowledgeable caddie that will carry the bag and read the greens, along with any other help or assistance players are seeking.
You’ll need all the help you can get trying to decipher the subtle undulations that are present throughout the green complexes, so listen to their recommendations carefully.
To continue painting the picture of what the track is like, take a look at our favorite holes.
The 3rd Hole
Around 450 yards from the back tees, this hole is no bargain for even the low-handicap players. Those that bomb the ball are actually at a disadvantage because the further you hit your tee shot, the more narrow the landing area becomes.
The fairway is pinched in so tightly that anything more than 300 yards from the back tees is almost certainly going to wind up in tangled rough. This poses a major issue when trying to hit the green in regulation, as running the ball up between the 5 sand traps that protect the green is hard enough from the short grass.
The 5th Hole
You know a golf course can’t be considered championship-quality unless there are some brutally-difficult holes on site. Once a golfer walks off the 4th green at the Clyde/Squirrel, he or she knows that this course is no joke.
If they had trouble on the 3rd hole, they’re going to need a lot of improvement and perhaps even some luck to succeed on the 5th.
It’s one thing to play a par 4 that is stretched out to nearly 500 yards, but it’s another to play a hole of that length that is completely blind off the tee. Players will have to trust the word of their caddies as they line up off the 5th tee, as the landing area cannot be seen.
To the dismay of those that are hoping to run up their approach shots, they will, unfortunately, be relegated to going with the “air route.” The end of this fairway concludes with two large bunkers that cut off any direct line towards the green.
Then, there are more bunkers and rough to negotiate. The green slopes from back to front and from right to left, which is brilliant when you consider that the hole is actually a dogleg right.
Everything a golf hole needs to be considered a demanding test is right here. The only good news about playing the 5th hole at The Country Club is that players will at least have a birdie opportunity looming once they arrive at the 6th.
The 6th Hole
We all love drivable par 4s, so here is your daily dose. At The Country Club, the 6th measures around 320 yards, depending on where the flag is located. However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds thanks to the hole playing severely uphill.
Bunkers are strategically scattered short of and around the green, causing players to think before they reach for the big stick.
Go ahead and pull the driver and get as close to the putting surface as you can, but just be willing to pay the price if you are offline. It’s still probably the correct play, as laying back with an iron off the tee leaves you hitting an uphill approach that is blind.
Whatever club players decide to hit off the tee, they’d better be accurate. Otherwise, this drivable and scorable par 4 turns into a hard par, if not a bogey or worse.
The 7th Hole
Widely considered as the signature hole, the par-3 7th hole has everything you want and are looking for. The 7th is the only hole that remains from the original 6 that were laid out in 1893, increasing its relevance for those who are keeping track.
Bunkers guard the green left and right, and the putting surface is multi-tiered. The green is perched in a way that leaves players in precarious positions if aren’t on target. It is by no means the toughest hole at The Country Club, but it’s hard to imagine one with more tradition.
Speaking of tradition, let’s segue right into what has created much of tradition at The Country Club: the three U.S. Opens that have been played here.
Three U.S. Opens at The Country Club
We presented the origins of The Country Club as well as depicted what the property is like. Clearly, this place is more than capable of hosting a major, so let’s get right to it.
Interestingly enough, in all three instances in which the U.S. Open has been played at The Country Club, we have seen the tournament go into a playoff.
The first time the USGA came to Brookline to host the U.S. Open was in 1913, but this was after the 1902 Women’s Amateur and the 1910 U.S. Amateur were held at the same venue. After positive reviews about the course, it was time to bring the National Championship of professional golf to The Country Club.
As one of the 5 founding clubs of the USGA, it was never a question of if a United States Open would be held at The Country Club. It was only a matter of when. The answer came in 1913.
You have probably heard of the name Francis Ouimet, but if you haven’t, we’ll fill you in. In 1913 at The Country Club, Francis Ouimet became the first amateur golfer to win the U.S. Open in the 19-year history of the event.
Francis had just turned 20 years old a few months prior to achieving this feat, making it all the more impressive. So how did someone who had just graduated from his teenage years suddenly win the U.S. Open? How did someone who topped his opening tee shot overcome the nerves and rally to win the title?
Well, Francis did have one thing going for him that the professionals in the field didn’t. Ouimet was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. His roots were deeply ingrained at The Country Club, as he was born into a home that was located directly across from the 17th hole.
Since his family didn’t have the means to join the club, Francis got his start by caddying at age 11. He became a good enough golfer that he was invited to play in the 1913 U.S. Open as a 20-year-old. This was his chance to prove to the rest of the golf community how talented he was.
Apparently, the USGA shouldn’t have given him that opportunity on the course he knew best, at least not for the sake of the pros who were in the field. Because here is what happened next. Getting the invite to play was one thing, but actually winning the tournament? Nobody thought that was possible.
The event was held on a Thursday and Friday in September, with 36 holes scheduled to be played during each day. When the 72 holes had been completed, Ouimet found himself tied atop the leaderboard with two heavyweights.
Ted Ray and Harry Vardon, the two pre-tournament favorites, were heading to an 18-hole playoff the following morning.
Perhaps they didn’t give Ouimet the respect he deserved, but that didn’t stop the native of Massachusetts from bludgeoning the two professionals during the Saturday morning playoff.
Vardon and Ray shot 77 and 78 respectively, coming up well short of Francis’s 72. The golf tournament was over, and the amateur golfer who grew up across the street from the golf course was being crowned champion. Pretty special stuff.
Ready for another U.S. Open playoff at The Country Club at Brookline? That’s exactly what we are going to deliver to you, because the 1963 U.S. Open went down to the wire, and we saw another 3-man playoff.
This time, it would all be professional golfers, including a giant in the sport. In order for Jacky Cupit or Julius Boros to capture the 1963 U.S. Open, they would have to fend off Arnold Palmer in the Sunday morning 18-hole playoff.
But back to the start of the week…
It had been exactly 50 years since the first U.S. Open was held at the exclusive club at Brookline, and good vibes were circulating in the air. The first two rounds of the golf tournament provided a stern test, as nobody was under par at the halfway point.
However, the conditions on Thursday and Friday paled in comparison to what the players faced on Saturday during the final 36 holes.
By the time the 3rd round had come to an end, 5-over-par was now leading. Fast forward to 18 holes later, and the three aforementioned men were tied at 9-over-par. Before you shake your head at how high these scores were, you should understand just how tough Clyde/Squirrel track was playing.
The cut landed at 10-over-par, and names that missed the weekend included the Golden Bear himself Jack Nicklaus, as well as former U.S. Open champs Cary Middlecoff and Tommy Bolt.
Thankfully for the players, by the time the playoff arrived, the weather had cooperated. Birdies were out there to be had. Despite the easier conditions, it would be the 43-year-old Julius Boros who would emerge as the only man who broke par during the playoff. His 70 was enough to beat the 73 and 76 from Cupit and Palmer, and Boros had won his second U.S. Open.
We then had some waiting to do until the tournament would return to the venue, which it did in 1988.
It took another 25 years for The Country Club to host yet another U.S. Open, but the time came in 1988. Until Brooks Koepka won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018, the last time a player won consecutive U.S. Opens was Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989. The first of Strange’s triumphs came right here, at this very golf tournament.
The scoring conditions were favorable in 1988, as 8 men posted rounds in the 60s on day 1. By the conclusion of Friday’s second round, defending U.S. Open champ Scott Simpson was at 7-under-par and leading Larry Mize by a single stroke. Strange was lurking at 5-under-par, while Nick Faldo had positioned himself at -3.
The course was playing as its usual par 71 and was tipped out at a shade over 7,000 yards. While the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club didn’t feature a 3-man playoff like the 1913 and 1963 editions produced, the fans at Brookline were again treated to an 18-hole playoff on Monday morning.
The difference was that only two men finished the tournament tied atop the leaderboard at 6-under-par. Both were very accomplished players.
First, we had Curtis Strange. Curtis was destined to do great things on the PGA Tour ever since his days of dominating college golf at Wake Forest University in the mid-1970s.
The former Demon Deacon golfer had already won 14 events on the big stage, including the Memorial Tournament just 3 weeks earlier. Strange had finished 4th in the 1987 U.S. Open, so seeing him get into contention was no surprise.
His opponent in the playoff was well-known golf commentator and Hall of Fame player Nick Faldo.
However, the 1988 championship at Brookline was just the second time that Nick had appeared in a U.S. Open, finishing 55th in his only other appearance in 1984.
When Faldo and Strange began the playoff, the two foes were more than familiar with each other’s games. After all, they were pitted against each other in a Saturday afternoon four-ball match at the 1987 Ryder Cup (won by Faldo), and they had played alongside each other in the final pairing the day before.
Curtis played steady, matching 3 birdies with 3 bogies for a total of even-par, 71. Faldo was a bit loose, and the 5 bogies he made over his final 8 holes were his demise. His round of 74 wasn’t enough on the last day, catapulting Curtis Strange into the winner’s circle.
A 4th U.S. Open Is on Its Way
Being that the last U.S. Open held at The Country Club was back in 1988, there’s a good chance that you either don’t remember or perhaps weren’t even born when Curtis Strange outdueled Nick Faldo in the playoff.
The good news is that the U.S. Open is returning to Brookline in 2022. If watching it on television isn’t enough, you can grab tickets and be a part of the festivities. Because of the fact that the golf course is just 9 miles from downtown Boston, we are expecting it to be quite the raucous scene in 2022.
USGA executive director Mike Davis stated the following.
“We’re in for a real treat. It will be a wide U.S. Open. The course will have generous fairways and it will be firm and fast. And it will be great to take the U.S. Open to the second-largest city in the country.”
As great and entertaining as it is to watch a major championship play out from the comfort of your own home, this might be an event you want to check out up close and personal.
If the drama is anything like it was the last time an admired golf tournament took place at Brookline, missing out on the action is a mistake we don’t want to make.
The 1999 Ryder Cup – An Instant Classic
The last “admired golf tournament” that we were referring to above is the 1999 Ryder Cup. Worthy of its own individual page that is dedicated to this epic comeback, we will do out best to summarize the key points and give you all the highlights.
Here are the facts about the week. The buildup for the 1999 Ryder Cup was enormous, and fans around the world couldn’t wait for the action to get underway. When you consider how tightly contested the previous 6 Cups had been, it’s not surprising that the golf community was on pins and needles.
Captained by Ben Crenshaw, the Americans had a roster that was absolutely stacked. It included not just Tiger Woods and David Duval, the top-two-ranked players in the world, but not a single one of the 12 members of Team USA were ranked outside the 28th position in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
When you compare that to the European squad that had just 6 of their 12 players ranked inside the top 44 in those same rankings, you can understand why the Americans were thought of as the heavy favorites.
Despite what the rankings showed on paper, the Europeans jumped out to a commanding lead after the first day, holding a 6-2 edge on the leaderboard. The afternoon four-ball was dominated by team Europe, winning 3 of the 4 matches, while halving the fourth.
Captain Mark James and his 12 men were in an even better position to retain the Cup after splitting the 8 available points on Saturday. Heading into Sunday’s all-important singles session, the Euros were holding a 10-6 advantage on the scoreboard.
Needing to manufacture 4 of the 12 available points on Sunday, it appeared that a 19-year-old rookie named Sergio Garcia was going to lead his team to the victory.
And then, the final day of the 1999 Ryder Cup ensued.
You really should do yourself a favor and press play on the video below. It’s a short, 3-minute snippet that highlights the entire week, focusing on the incredible comeback on the final day.
To quickly review what took place, we must begin by telling you how the day got started. You have to understand the torrid pace that the Americans got off to when the bell rang on Sunday morning.
Team USA won the first 6 matches right out of the gate, and they weren’t even that competitive. Tom Lehman got the party started with a 3&2 victory over Lee Westwood, followed by a 4&2 win by Hal Sutton over Darren Clarke.
The hits kept coming for Europe, as Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III each pummeled their opponents. Same with Tiger Woods and David Duval in matches 5 and 6, as neither match went past the 16th hole. Just like that, the Americans had not only erased the 4-point deficit, but they were now miraculously leading the Ryder Cup.
The most memorable moment from the week is captured in the video above when Justin Leonard astonishingly holed a 50-foot putt on the 17th green. This putt not only won him his match versus José María Olazábal, but it was the putt that clinched the victory for the American squad.
If you are wondering why Leonard and his teammates were running around the green going absolutely bonkers, you just have to imagine the scenario. The biggest team match in the sport, and your team just completed a historic comeback for the ages.
If you can’t understand the sheer excitement and exhilaration that came pouring out of these men, you just don’t know how significant the Ryder Cup is. We have seen some of the most unbelievable and captivating moments in golf take place at the Ryder Cup.
The 1999 event was as unforgettable as any.
Host of 6 U.S. Amateurs
The 1999 Ryder Cup is undoubtedly the most remembered golf tournament to have taken place at The Country Club. But that doesn’t mean we should just push aside the 6 U.S. Amateurs that have been contested at Brookline and not give them at least a mention.
You have to go all the way back to 1910 to learn when the first U.S. Amateur was held in the Boston area. Look at the table below to get a quick glimpse of what went down each of the 6 times the event has been hosted at The CC.
|U.S. Amateurs Played at The Country Club|
|Year||Winning Player||Runner-Up||Score of Final Match|
|1910||William C. Fownes Jr.||Warren Wood||4&3|
|1922||Jess Sweetser||Chick Evans||3&2|
|1934||Lawson Little||David Goldman||8&7|
|1957||Hillman Robbins||Dr. Frank M. Taylor||5&4|
|1982||Jay Sigel||David Tolley||8&7|
|2013||Matthew Fitzpatrick||Oliver Goss||4&3|
The Ultra-Private Country Club Right Outside of Boston
The Country Club is located just 10 or so miles west of the heart of Boston, but don’t get it twisted. Locals in Beantown don’t have the privilege of getting to experience the perks of The CC in Brookline unless they are members.
If you are looking to acquire a membership, we wish you luck. We hope you are someone very special. Otherwise, you will likely be left on the outside looking in.
For example, legendary Patriots QB Tom Brady is about as loved and admired as any single person in the state of Massachusetts. He and his wife are worth an excessive amount of money, and their popularity is through the roof.
So why was Tom Brady denied a membership to The Country Club? How could a golf club turn down someone so famous and someone so respected?
The answer is because it’s private, and they can do whatever they so please. The club had held out as long as they could on accepting Brady and his wife before finally admitting the New England star a couple years after they had first applied.
It was the excessive amount of paparazzi and attention it could potentially bring that was holding the authorities back.
So How Can You See The Country Club?
The best way a golf fan can experience the pristine golf course is to head to the U.S. Open in June of 2022. Hey, maybe you can even qualify for the Championship, and you’ll have earned your way out there as part of the field!
If you come up short in your attempts, not all is lost.
Those who are planning on attending the 2022 U.S. Open in Brookline will have to balance watching golf with sightseeing around Boston. Whether that’s a baseball game at Fenway Park or a stroll down Freedom Trail, your opportunities to have a blast are endless.
Don’t forget to try an original piece of Boston Cream Pie from Mike’s Pastry or a classic bowl of Boston Baked Beans at Marliave, an eating establishment that has been serving up locals since 1875. That’s back before The Country Club was even built!
A Few Thoughts to Take Away
We know that was a lot of information, but that’s what happens when you are trying to describe the oldest country club in the United States.
Combine that with the fact that it has been the site of three U.S. Opens and arguably the most memorable Ryder Cup, and it won’t take long to realize why we went into such detail.
It’s easy to find bits and pieces of data about The Country Club. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to track down video highlights from September 26th, 1999, the final day of the ’99 Ryder Cup.
But we wanted to organize everything important into one centralized location. The result is this guide that you are reading now. Our goal was to wrap everything up that’s relevant about Brookline and deliver it to you segment by segment.
All that’s left is for you to start making plans to get within the vicinity of Boston in June of 2022 so that you can watch the best players in the world tackle the test that we have described. Will it be another playoff like the first three occasions?
Only time will tell.