The Springhaven Club
|The Springhaven Club|
600 South Providence Road
Wallingford, PA 19086
Architect: Ida E. Dixon
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Delaware County got its first club when The Springhaven Country Club, as it was initially called, was formed in October of 1896. No founding father here. A "founding mother" is closer to the truth.
Eleanor Reed toured Europe in the summer of 1896, saw golf being played in France, tried it herself, fell under its spell, and returned to her home in Media eager to organize a golf club there. Fortunately, several of her neighbors— Dr. Casper T. Miller, who had also recently played in Europe, and Henry and Ida Dixon, who had been introduced to the game some months earlier in Bermuda— were equally enthusiastic. Others, doubtless on blind faith, became believers. A parcel of pasture land (at Providence Road and Jackson Street in Media then) known as "Springhaven Farm" was leased from a dairy farmer. Included was an old springhouse to serve as a locker room. The club took over not only the farm but the name, and the Springhaven Country Club was launched. Its first president was George T. Butler. Eleanor Reed Butler was its first secretary.
The green committee laid out the nine-hole course, which had a total length of 2,940 yards and almost certainly the most exhausting start in American golf. The first hole measured 600 yards and the second hole 520 yards. Each was a par 5 1/2. In an age when a 160-yard drive by an inexperienced amateur—all Springhaven members in 1896 were inexperienced amateurs—was considered little short of herculean, these opening holes must have seemed an endless slog. In any event, the other seven holes (240 yards, 200, 434, 384, 176, 133, and 253) were what one would expect, but that start must have been demoralizing.
The club’s fee structure was typical. An Active Member paid an initiation fee of $10 and annual dues of $15. Family Membership, which included sons and daughters under 17, required a $15 initiation payment and $30 annual dues.
Springhaven’s stylish clubhouse, 1907.
Membership increased rapidly, and the simple facilities were soon outgrown. Late in 1903, what is the present property of the club, in Wallingford, was purchased. Here, on essentially level terrain, an 18-hole course was laid out. According to The Architects of Golf, by Geoffrey S. Cornish and Ronald E. Whitten, it was Ida Dixon who was responsible for the design of the course, making her the first female golf architect in America, probably in the world. Mrs. Dixon would serve as president of the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia from 1911 through 1916.
Built at the same time was the splendid clubhouse (broad brick terraces; a two-story high assembly hall with beamed ceiling, an open fireplace, and a musicians’ balcony; a dining room with an open fireplace and "fitted china closets;" a cardroom; a taproom with rustic inglenook; a billiards room; locker and shower rooms; guest rooms and suites for visiting golfers). When the new Springhaven Country Club was officially dedicated on July 9,1904, the Chester Times reported that "the elite of Delaware County were in attendance," the ladies attired in the height of current fashion, a number of members arriving in that daring new contraption, the motor car.
The new Springhaven also boasted a golf professional, its first. His name was Horace Rawlins, and he is an historic figure in American golf. In 1895, at Newport Golf Club, Rhode Island, he won the inaugural U.S. Open Championship, shooting 91 in the morning and 82 in the afternoon to edge Scottish-born Willie Dunn, the favorite, by two strokes. Young Rawlins—he was then 21, English-born and reared—was awarded the top prize of $200 but had to hand back $50 in order to pay for the gold medal he received to commemorate his victory. Professional golfers were held in generally low esteem in those days. They were widely viewed as little other than hard-drinking ex-caddies. Horace Rawlins, however, seemed to have served Springhaven well, selling equipment and giving lessons till 1909.