| Club History || |
The origin of Rolling Green calls to mind the genesis of Sunnybrook and of Gulph Mills. In each instance the founders were already members of excellent clubs that offered a lot more—tennis, swimming, regularly scheduled social events—than just golf. It was precisely the "more" that these avid golfers sought to escape.
In 1920, Joseph E. Haines, a past president of Springhaven Country Club, began to sound out fellow Springhaven members about founding a new club, a golf club for golfers. The first meeting was held in October at Springhaven—in fact, many subsequent meetings were held at Springhaven. There were 15 in attendance that evening. Land acquisition, the necessary membership development, and funding arrangements took very nearly four years.
Rolling Green’s clubhouse, which opened in late summer of 1926
It was in October 1924 that the club acquired four adjacent tracts of land, 150 acres all told, off State Road in Springfield Township, Delaware County. William W. Turner was elected the club’s first president, serving in 1924 and 1925. In 1926, Joseph Haines—"Uncle Joe," as he came to be known—succeeded Turner. He held office for the next 11 years. Edwin D. Glauser and Ward Hinkson were also extremely active in club organization and administration during the formative years.
In May 1925, the firm of Toomey and Flynn was awarded the contract to design and build an 18-hole course. The first regular membership meeting was held on Nov. 16, 1925. Because the club had no clubhouse—in fact, the awarding of the clubhouse design and construction contracts was a principal topic of discussion at this gathering—the membership actually assembled once more at Springhaven. The large-spirited attitude of the Springhaven Club toward these "renegades" is one of the endearing aspects of the Rolling Green story.
The golf course opened for play on July 31, 1926. The board prohibited sand boxes and water buckets; instead, the club supplied paper tees. The course was—and is—a jewel, one of Toomey and Flynn’s outstanding achievements.
Aug. 26 was designated "Springhaven Day" so that members of that consistently supportive club might play in a body as guests of the Rolling Green membership. It was on Sept. 18, 1926, that both course and clubhouse were dedicated in ceremonies marking the formal opening of Rolling Green Golf Club. A local newspaper account of the occasion noted: "The original purpose of the club’s founders was to omit all social frills that enter into the life of a country club, and make it a shrine where the skill and ingenuity of the lover of the game could have full play." The demand for such a club was accurately gauged. Before the course and clubhouse were even completed, the membership was closed. In fact, the 335th membership stock certificate (335 was the limit) was sold on August 9, 1926, for $1,050, $450 above par value.
The club’s first greenkeeper, Joe Ryan, held that post for a little more than 30 years, retiring in 1957. His home was a stone house, circa 1740, near the 13th tee, that is thought to be the fourth-oldest dwelling in Delaware County. The beauty of Rolling Green—majestic hardwoods and evergreens, fruit trees, hundreds of flowering dogwoods—is, by and large, a tribute to Ryan, whose reputation among his fellow greenkeepers was such that in 1938 he was elected president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
In season, Joe would have a tub of apples or pears waiting for the members on the 13th tee. And on a Sunday morning he often waited for the president’s foursome to come through so he could accompany them the rest of the way. One Sunday, on the tee of the par-3 16th (it was then a small area and riddled with divots), Joe stated emphatically, "We wouldn’t have trouble growing grass on this tee if members would hit the ball on the upswing." One of the foursome replied, "Joe, I’ve been trying all my life to hit an iron slightly on the downswing." Joe answered, "Well, it’s never too late to learn to hit it right."