One of the oldest golf clubs in America, The Country Club of Rochester was founded in February 1895, by a group of golfers, members of the Genesee Valley Club, who wanted to form a family club. Land was purchased on the Brighton Road (East Avenue) near the corner of Elmwood Avenue in the Town of Brighton. A farmhouse on the property served as the first clubhouse until 1902, when it was destroyed by fire.
The first golf course had nine holes, laid out on either side of the Brighton Road. Each hole was given a descriptive name, in the British manner, and these names persist as designations for the guest rooms in the present clubhouse (Hub, Stonewall, Hickory, and Blue Point).
As interest in golf grew, the original course was changed and expanded. Donald Ross, Scotsman, and pre-eminent golf course architect of his time, designed what is essentially the Country Club course that we play today, followed in recent years by Robert Trent Jones and Arthur Hills. A Master Plan restoration was completed in 2004 by Golf Course Architect, Gil Hanse.
In the very early days, the Club's reputation was enhanced by the feats of the Thistle Golf Team, a group of Country Club members who competed in the League of the Lower Lakes. The League included teams from clubs in Toronto and Hamilton, in Canada; Buffalo, Cleveland, and Syracuse. According to reports of the day, the Thistle Team competed in great splendor, wearing scarlet jackets and white linen knickers.
Later, more of the games lustre adorned the Club through the fame of the incomparable Walter Hagen, one of the greatest of professional golfers, and certainly the game's most colorful player. Hagen grew up in Brighton, near the Country Club, where he was first a caddie and later became club professional. In the Hagen Lounge, there are memorabilia marking Walter Hagen's golfing achievements, and The Hagen Lounge perpetuates his name.
Sam Urzetta, who won the 1950 National Amateur Championship, and played on two Walker Cup Teams, was head professional here for thirty-seven years, longer than any man before him. Sam is, along with Walter Hagen, probably the finest golfer ever to come out of this area. His eldest son, Michael C. Urzetta, and a dedicated staff, now handle the professional duties. On three occasions, the U.S.G.A. has recognized the Club through its sponsorship of the course for the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship (1962) and U.S. Women's Open Championship (1953 and 1973).
After a fire in 1902, the Club built a handsome new clubhouse, now fondly remembered by many older members for its classic design. This building, designed by architect Claude Bragdon, remained in service until 1970, when the present clubhouse was built on the same site.
Sports activities today feature golf, tennis, swimming, skating, hockey, platform tennis, fitness workouts, and cross-country skiing. An era of equestrianism, which included riding, polo, drag hunting, a widely acclaimed horse show, came to an end when the club stables were closed in the late 1950's.
In 1995, our centennial year, the members took a look back at 100 years of Club history, celebrating with a long series of commemorative parties and special events.
Our challenge today is to preserve and protect this vision, and the many traditions we cherish, while recognizing that nothing stays the same. We have done it for all these years, we will do it in the future. For down through the years it has been the wonderful membership and staff that have made possible all that we have here. May it always be so.