One of my favorite authors is Andy Andrews. He’s a great storyteller, and wrote “The Traveler’s Gift,” “The Noticer” and “The Butterfly Effect,” to name a few. A central theme in his stories is one simple concept: Your life matters. What you do today – or don’t do – has a direct impact on the world, much like ripples in a body of water. And the ripples three men and two horses made nearly 100 years ago has tidal waved into the Club we enjoy today.
Before you can look at how our Club began, it’s a good idea to see what it originally was. Luckily, one of our founders and first president, Claude Holmes, wrote an account of the first year of the Club. Mr Holmes attributes the Club’s existence to two horses. Yep. Horses.
Holmes said had it not been for the lack of work for his two horses, Dick and Ben, the Club would not be standing today. Dick and Ben were, as Holmes puts it, “victims of the machine age, and since there was no unemployment insurance or county welfare for horses out of work, what to do?”
This was about the time when society was trading the Industrial Age in for a new modern society. Holmes said these were “the good old days, the Roaring Twenties, the Days of the Tango, the Charleston and the Texas Tommy… We had finished ‘Making the World Safe for Democracy’ and ‘America’s Noble Experiment’ was with us.” He goes on to say bootleg whiskey was the rage, but here, in Woodbridge, the “darling of this grape country was, of course, wine.”
It was an exciting time. But, perhaps, not for two workhorses that now, thanks to modern technology, found themselves “out to pasture.” And that’s exactly what our Club once was – a pasture for Dick and Ben. Holmes leased the land we now golf on from the Thompson-Folger Company in January 1924 for use as a pasture for his two horses.
Holmes goes on in his story to tell us that because of the Noble Experiment (what we know of today as the Prohibition), many of the locals were becoming vintners, and evenings of socializing and tasting everyone’s appellations was becoming quite popular. One such Saturday night – just two months after Holmes had leased his pasture – he and a few others were at the home of Em Herrick, enjoying his 1922 Zinfandel, when the guys began discussing the game of golf.
One thing led to another (and I’m sure the excellent zin had something to do with this), and Holmes found himself challenging Herrick and Doc Hare to a game of golf on his pasture. “The fact that there was no golf course at Woodbridge seemed to have been overlooked at the moment, but after sleeping on it and being practical folks, everyone arrived Sunday morning with the proper equipment – shovels, rakes, lawnmowers, brooms, wheelbarrows, etc.”
Thus, the beginning of Woodbridge Golf & Country Club (and newfound work for Dick and Ben).
Reading through his account, the three men and two horses worked for three weekends on the pasture, creating fairways and greens in their free time. Finally, on the third Sunday at about 2:30pm, the group decided the pasture had transformed enough into a golf course to begin play, and Herrick had the honor of the first tee off.
The men didn’t stop there. As you can imagine, word got out about the new Woodbridge golf course. Within a couple of weeks, membership had doubled to six – including one man, Ted Elwert, who didn’t even play golf, but joined to socialize. Interest continued to grow that spring. By June, Holmes and the group decided to make things official. A meeting of all those interested in golf was called, and 30 more locals showed. They knew they were on to something. They had a hunch their local demographics were interested in more than wine – they wanted recreation, entertainment, camaraderie, activity… they wanted to play golf in their own “backyard.”
Work began right away on electing directors and committees, and establishing an official organization. On July 24, 1924 – about seven months after Holmes had leased his pasture for his horses – Woodbridge Golf & Country Club was incorporated (the group, by the way, got the land owner, John Thompson, to agree to donate the land with the agreement that it “was to remain for all time a place of recreation.”).
So many ripples in so little time! From the evolving of society’s technology, to the Prohibition and rise of wine tasting parties… the need to house two horses and a casual conversation between three friends… the beginning of a casual game of golf amongst friends and the realization that the sport was growing in popularity – enough to respond to the needs of the local demographics and create a golf and country club.
From a very humble pasture.
Perhaps, if the Industrial Age had never ended, the Club wouldn’t be here today. Or, was it the 18th Amendment that led to the birth of our Club? What if Holmes, Herrick and Hare ignored the overwhelmingly positive interests of the community surrounding the pasture? What if the guys had decided to keep their course to themselves, and not seek out new members? What would our club look like today had they not incorporated as “Woodbridge Golf & Country Club” but as just a golf club instead?
Holmes thanks six additional members and his two horses for being instrumental in creating this Club. It’s clear, they worked for the love of the game. I can only imagine the sense of pride those hard-working locals had, knowing, if it hadn’t been for them, the Club would not be what it is today. It makes me wonder… what are the ripples we are creating today, and how will they impact the future of the Club?
Holmes ended his story with a message to you: “To you present members, may I suggest that when the competition is really rough, you remember this: Yours is the Lucky Club; you had two horses ‘in the Beginning.’”