The Story Of The Milwaukee Country Club

Looking at the Milwaukee country club might take you back to a time when golf was different.To a time long before the famous Milwaukee brewery tours. The traditional look and feel of the holes is something that’s slowly beginning to fade away in modern golf architecture. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get anything less than an amazing experience in Milwaukee. As a matter of fact, it is the classical atmosphere, the danger of the water, and the tree-lined greens that really make this one of the best country clubs there is.

Humble Origins.

As a club that has been around since the 19th century, the Milwaukee Country Club has certainly seen a lot of changes. Most of those changes have been for the better. It was originally in a different location and wasn’t much to look at. It was located on a flat pasture with clay soil beneath the grass. It wasn’t until 1898 that the course grew large enough to have 9 holes, but the location was still less than ideal.

Milwaukee Country Club

The problem with playing golf on flat, clay pastures is the imminent risk of flooding and the standing water that remains left behind. A brief period of rain can leave you unable to play golf for days. Not only was there no run-off in the original course, but the clay soil kept the water above ground and in way of the golfers.

As the game of golf grew more popular in the country, more was learned about the best places to build courses. The owners of the Milwaukee Country Club realized their course would have no future in its current location. It was in 1909 that the owners were able to purchase the land where the club is located today. That is around ten miles from downtown Milwaukee. Close enough to the city for convenience, but still far enough away to avoid distraction.

While the new location still retained some risk of flooding because of the nearby Milwaukee River, it was a significant improvement over the previous location. The course was slightly larger than 108 acres and most of that was located high above the river. The soil was a sandy loam, which meant water drained away much faster than before.

Most would agree that new location was perfect. Today, people still believe so. A few holes are subject to flooding on occasion, but that’s become part of the charm. The river has become a key part of the club. It often punishes golfers, but they are more than willing to take on the challenge.

Even recently, in modern times, some of the trees have been removed to provide golfers with a better view of the river. The club just wouldn’t be the same without it. That is only one of the many architectural changes that have taken place in the past century.

Milwaukee Country Club 1

100 Years Of Improvements.

The location itself was superb, but the club still had a long way to go to become the architectural powerhouse that is today. Golf architecture was improving at a fairly impressive rate. During the early 1900’s there were a lot of setbacks, but by the 1910’s there was a lot more known about the subject and the club saw significant improvements. However, it wasn’t until the 1920’s that the most important changes would come. That was the decade known as the Golden Age of Architecture.

It was also around this time that the course extended to a full 18 holes. This effort was led by Alex Robertson. He was assisted by golf professional Tom Benedelow. The course was significantly smaller at this time. The entire 18 holes existed where today only 10 holes are located. The result was a course that felt somewhat cramped.

An additional 77 acres were purchased later in 1924 in an attempt to remedy the cramped situation. The new land acquired is today where holes 5 through 11 are located. It also happens to be a favorite with modern golfers. A new architectural genius, Walter Travis, came on board to help improve the course. He was by far the most successful golfer to work on architecture at Milwaukee, but much of his course was removed shortly after completion.

Walter proved to be very effective when it came to building features for the course. Unfortunately, his routing skills did not prove as useful as the club owners would have liked. Walter had accomplished many other architectural feats in the world of golf, but his work at Milwaukee would not be remembered among them.

This was bad news for the Milwaukee Country Club at the time. Golf was more popular than ever. Those with money wanted to golf at the finest of clubs and Milwaukee was being overshadowed by other clubs. That is until Charles Hugh Alison saved the day.

The Great Work Of Mr. Alison.

Most would agree that Charles Alison is responsible for keeping the club afloat. He came on-board in 1927 after the clubhouse was moved lower to open up a new area for the course. Alison liked what he saw and would use his great architectural skills to make something of it. He also understood the important role that the Milwaukee river should play in the overall experience of the game. To him, it wasn’t just something in the background, but rather a feature of the hole.

Alison exceeded in one very important area where Travis had failed: routing. The playing corridors that Alison designed are still in use today. In fact, the modern course that so many love is primarily the work of Alison. There are still some corridors built by Travis that remain. In particular, there is the 15th and 16th.

Alison was responsible for bringing together the amazing beauty of the venue with a course that was worth playing. It was refreshing and challenging at the same time. There are more than 6,800 yards of golf with a par of 72. The course is ranked as number 48 in a list of the top 100 courses in the United States. An impressive site that was once only 9 holes played in a pasture. While the Milwaukee breweries may be attraction that brings most of the tourists to the city, the Milwaukee Country Club is a great spot to check out as well.