A. W. Tillinghast



The 50th anniversary "Tee Leaf", a journal of the Ridgewood Country Club published in 1940, states that an English immigrant named Rosencrantz persuaded local residents to lay out a two hole golf course in 1890 in the little village of Ho-Ho-Kus.  The popularity of the new pastime lead to the founding of the Ho-Ho-Kus Golf Club in 1893.  By 1897 the course was lengthened to nine holes. The golf course was rudimentary at best with land leased from a local farmer named West  to compensate him for his loss of income from the hay he could no longer grow. West was elected the club’s first honorary member on March 26, 1898.  According to the 1901 Golf Guide, the course played at 2,169 yards. Annual dues at the time were $10 for men, $5 for women. The greens fee was twenty-five cents.


By the turn of the century there was unrest at the club. Most members lived in Ridgewood and found the golf course, about a mile and a half away, not readily accessible. Also, there was general dissatisfaction with the quality of the course. After several attempts to lease the adjacent land, on February 27, 1901, a five-year lease was secured on two properties on Maple Avenue. The lease was $900 per annum.  The Ridgewood Golf Club opened in 1901 with a nine-hole course of 3,019 yards.  One of the club’s first official acts at Maple Avenue was to join the United States Golf Association on August 5, 1901. In later years the club also joined the New Jersey State Golf Association (1903), the Metropolitan Golf Association (1907), the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association (1908) and the United States Lawn Tennis Association (1909).  By 1908 the Ridgewood Golf Club boasted 167 regular members. Unfortunately, in 1908 the members were forced to concede right of way for a trolley line through the site. The club determined to own, rather than lease, its land.


The Ridgewood Country Club was conceived in February of 1910 as a consolidation of the Ridgewood Golf Club and the Ridgewood Country Club. It was legally incorporated on April 14 of that year. The reorganized club’s first major action was the purchase, on September 22, 1910, of a 102-acre parcel that was partly in Ridgewood and partly in Glen Rock, bisected by Lincoln Avenue. Work began on the new golf course in May of 1911. Sixteen holes were ready for play by August 30 1913. The remaining two holes were completed by the time the clubhouse opened two months later. Donald Ross, one of the preeminent golf course architects of the century, visited the club on May 26, 1914 suggested several improvements to the original design, and is said to have called the site “one of the most beautiful spots for a golf course in America.” The three-story clubhouse eventually included a high-class restaurant/café, a grillroom, a dancing pavilion, ten bedrooms on the second floor, a billiard table, two bowling alleys, and a cigar stand downstairs. The members also enjoyed tennis, archery, trap shooting, curling, ice-skating, skiing, and tobogganing at the club. The two tennis courts, which were located within twenty-five yards of the clubhouse, were flooded and frozen over for the winter, creating an artificial ice rink where the club’s hockey team played.


The club’s move from Lincoln Avenue to its present home was some four years in the making. There was talk of change as early as 1925, but it was not until May 26, 1926, that a committee was appointed to consider the pros and cons of the Lincoln Avenue site – clubhouse and golf course. The committee completed its work over the summer of 1926 and reported back to the stockholders on September 27. They found that although the golf course was picturesque and readily accessible, the many narrow, parallel fairways posed a constant source of danger to the members, while the extreme “billy goat” slopes were hard to maintain. At approximately 6,000 yards, the course could not be considered championship caliber. In addition, the Lincoln Avenue clubhouse was seriously lacking in locker room and kitchen space. 

With help of “expert advice”  from club professional George Jacobus and A. W. Tillinghast, one of the preeminent golf architects of the 1920s who had already designed notable courses at Quaker Ridge, Baltusrol, Winged Foot and Somerset Hills, the committee selected a 257 acre tract in Paramus as a new site. Tillinghast was enthusiastic about the gently undulating, beautifully wooded landscape, calling it the equal of any golfing property in the Metropolitan district. On August 9, 1927, the club purchased the so-called Proctor property and on August 30 entered into an agreement with Tillinghast to design and build a twenty-seven-hole golf course. Tillinghast received 10 percent of the construction costs as his fee. To design its new clubhouse, the club turned to Clifford C. Wendehack, who like Tillinghast was one of the leading practitioners in his field during the 1920s. Wendehack chose a "Norman" building style because of his perception that the property was similar in appearance to that of northern France. Construction started in late August of 1928 and progressed smoothly until the clubhouse and course were opened in 1929.  The club now makes great efforts to maintain and restore the Tillinghast and Wendehack design features of the property.