Tavistock Country Club
|Golf Professional||Patrick A Butkus||(610) 999-2975|
|General Manager||Colin H. Mack-Allen||(856) 429-1866|
|Superintendent||Victor Frederico Jr||(856) 429-1866|
|Architect||A.H. Findlay, J.G. Harrison & Robert Trent Jones|
|Tee Sheet||Front 9||Back 9||Course|
Feb. 8, 1921 was a historic date in the annals of New Jersey law. The Wallworth bill was passed in Trenton, creating a borough form of government for tiny Tavistock. The significance of this development was not lost on the metropolitan dailies. Trumpeted a New York Herald headline: “New Borough Makes Golf Safe for Sabbath Playing.” The Philadelphia Public Ledger wryly predicted that the official symbol of the new borough would be a brassie.
1943 photo of Tavistock clubhouse
The formation of the Tavistock Country Club was atypical.
By 1920, Haddon Country Club, which had been founded at about the turn of the century, was struggling. Despite the fact that most people worked six days a week then, the New Jersey “Blue Laws” forbade playing sports on Sunday unless it was approved by local option. In Quaker oriented Haddonfield the state law was strictly enforced. Two other circumstances further compounded the problem for the club. First of all, the lease on the club ground— for which the club paid only $700 a year—had just two more years to run, and the owner now put a sale price of $75,000 on the property. At that time Haddon Country Club had 140 members, each of whom was paying annual dues of $25. Additionally complicating the situation was the Volstead Act—Prohibition meant no bar revenue.
Frank B. Middleton, president of the club and a senior executive of the Camden-based Victor Talking Machine Company (it would become RCA Victor), came to the rescue. He quietly purchased 180 acres of farmland in Centre Township, bordering on Haddonfield, then sold the tract to 28 of his Haddon Country Club friends for $22,000, accepting promissory notes for the entire amount.
The next step was to find a way to circumvent the Sunday “Blue Laws.” Senator Joseph Wallworth, a delegate to the state legislature from Camden County, was easily enlisted in the cause: he was already a member of the new club, which was incorporated on Dec. 14, 1920. Wallworth introduced a bill that would create the autonomous borough of Tavistock on the 180-acre parcel of land. The wording did not disclose the bill’s purpose. Catching the House unaware, the bill passed unanimously despite the fact that two of the legislators were clergymen. What should be noted is that the Speaker of the House at the time, T. Harry Rowland, had, like Wallworth, already signed up as a member of the new Tavistock Country Club.
Predictably, a furor arose, with preachers vehemently denouncing the scheme from their pulpits, but the new Tavistock Borough prevailed, seceding from Centre Township and electing Frank Middleton its first mayor on March 21, 1921. Six councilmen, a tax collector, and an assessor, all running unopposed, were also elected. There were 19 votes counted, 10 from occupants of the farm houses in the new borough, the other nine courtesy of club members who, stretching the truth, gave Tavistock as their residence. The new borough contracted with Haddonfield to provide police and fire protection, sewer and water services.
So confident were Frank Middleton and his founding friends—the other four names appearing on the country club’s certificate of incorporation are David Baird, Jr., William M. Nash, George H. Hall, and J. Edward Fagen— in their ability to create a true golfing haven that even before they got the law on their side they had hired Alexander Findlay to lay out 18 holes.
For Tavistock, Findlay designed a 6,500-yard par-72 course that was described by an overly enthusiastic reporter as “the finest inland golf course in the country.” If, in fact, it was something less than that, the Findlay design was still quite a good one, taking full advantage of the gently rolling and partially wooded terrain. By the time the cornerstone for the $60,000 clubhouse was laid, on June 22, 1921, the course was ready for limited play and the club had some 200 members, most of them from Haddon Country Club.
The borough borders were altered in the late 1950s when the state acquired some Tavistock land for I-295. Robert Trent Jones was brought in to revise the course extensively.
The late Samuel E. Fulton, a patriarchal figure who was club president for a good 30 years and the borough’s longtime mayor as well, used to joke that the town, with its four homes and population of 11 or 12, was so clean that the birds flew upside down when they passed by. Fulton took his civic responsibilities seriously, but not too seriously. He liked to assign a “city job” to every adult resident. On one occasion, when one of the houses was about to get new occupants, he vowed, “We’ll find an office for the head of the incoming family even if we have to make him commissioner of wharves, docks, and ferries.”