The History of
Burlington Golf Club
Burlington Golf Club is the oldest continuously operating golf club west of the Mississippi River. It traces it roots to 1898, when Charles C. Clark and Jackson Garrett organized friends to purchase land for a private golf club on the north edge of Aspen Grove Cemetery. From the house and first tee (near the cemetery's present main gate), a nine-hole course emerged south of Sunnyside Avenue in time for play to begin May 30, 1899. Documents filed June 7 made it the first incorporated golf club west of the Mississippi; the stated object was "to encourage athletic and outdoor sports, particularly the game of golf."
Membership was capped at 200 (a limit that didn't last long). Serving under Clark, our first President, were Garrett, Secretary; H.W. Chittenden, Captain of the Green; and H.W. Perkins, Treasurer. Directors were Mabel G. Millard, Ruth C. Sherfey and E.W. Danner.
The Club hired a golf pro in 1903, added a sanctioned tennis court in 1904 (and in 1929 became the permanent home of the Tri-State Tennis Tournament), and bought and improved three holes' worth of land north of Sunnyside in time to host the 1905 Iowa State Golf Tournament. As the city grew, crossing Sunnyside became risky, so members acquired enough new acreage to install a full nine holes on the north side. A large house on the new property was - and with numerous additions and alterations, still is - the Clubhouse. Through the years, the Club's other "athletic and outdoor sports" included lawn bowling, trap shooting, shuffleboard... and in 1952, swimming.
From the beginning, members appreciated the social side of their club, too. It soon took over the prestige the Burlington Boating Association had enjoyed as the community's top social center. And by 1911, the Club was offering meals. Dinners with roast beef, ham, lamb or chicken and all the trimmings cost 50 cents; service was country style at a single long table (although the stewardess would set up a second if enough guests showed up).
But golf remained the focus, and for decades the membership dreamed of an 18-hole course built to USGA tournament standards. That became reality in 1968, when the Club purchased the public Crystal Springs Links to the east plus some additional land to the north. After hiring a professional course architect, members happily endured reconstruction for the next several years.
Speaking of professionals, the Club is unlikely to ever match the service of golf pro Bonnie Weaver. Except for wartime army duty, he served from 1918, overseeing our golfers, the course, and frequent Clubhouse and other renovations until a stroke sidelined him in 1964. Yet he isn't our longest-tenured employee: Melvin "Happy" Mosena, Weaver's assitant, served for 49 years!
Today, Bonnie and "Happy" would surely notice the Club's continued emphasis on quality and value - but they'd scarcely recognize the Clubhouse, expanded and remodeled from top to bottom in 1992. They'd be proud that the same year, the Iowa Golf Association rated our course the state's best - but they'd also notice that with a new master plan, we're making it even better. They'd have to admit that our professional staff perhaps eclipses even their own efforts to serve the membership - but they'd likely be speechless after tasting the quality cuisine prepared under the guidance of our culinary team.
Where is all this leading? We have no crystal ball. But wherever we can improve on today's social, recreational and dining opportunities without sacrificing our tradition of exceptional value and member satisfaction, you can be sure to find Burlington Golf Club going in that direction.