Brooklawn Country Club was formed in 1895, with $100 budgeted for establishing a 9-hole golf course, $300 allowed for building six tennis courts and $250 set aside for constructing a baseball diamond. The following year, Brooklawn became one of the first twenty-six clubs to join the newly formed USGA.
Tom Morris, Old Tom’s grandson, was Brooklawn’s first professional, and he was followed as a club employee in later years by Gene Sarazen, who got his first job in golf by “cleaning jobs and sweeping up” around the clubhouse. Honorary club membership would come the Squire’s way further down the line.
There have been several major tournaments played at Brooklawn down the years: the US Junior Amateur Championship in 1974, the US Women’s Open in 1979, the US Senior Open in 1987, the US Girls’ Junior Championship in 2003 and the US Senior Women’s Open in 2020.
In the book The American Private Golf Club Guide, Daniel Wexler describes Brooklawn as “an A.W. Tillinghast redesign of an earlier member-built layout on a tree-lined, fairly compact property (which) may not occupy a spot on Tillinghast’s top shelf, but it’s a fine, classic layout well worth seeing.”
In more recent years, Ron Forse has been gradually restoring the layout and the architect commented as follows: “The strength of this place is amazing. It was the next-to-last major design work Tillinghast ever undertook. And it shows off – or showed off – his talents at the peak of his career.”
As a high school student, I was fortunate to play a rival school at Brooklawn multiple times. At the time, I did not have the appreciation for golf architecture that I did today, yet even then, it left a big impression. Notable holes included:
• #2: A downhill par three with gorgeous bunkering that welcomes both an aerial shot, or a right-to-left runner. Options abound.
• #9: Another downhill stunner with a large fairway bunker on the right, preventing you from going for the most aggressive tee shot and best angle on some days.
Of the 210 courses I have played, Brooklawn still to this day stands out as the most well-conditioned course I know. It is also among the most exclusive. The routing is very compact, and at points, things get a little blasé when holes run in parallel. That said, the course makes the most of the land it is upon. If you are invited to play, hop on the opportunity. In my opinion, it is not worth going out of your way to see.