During the first two decades of the twentieth century a prosperous, suburbanizing America was building golf clubs all up and down the east coast. Garden City was no exception, and one of the most distinguished of these new clubs was born there out of sheer necessity.
The original, Central Section of the village had its Garden City Casino; and when the growing community expanded westward into Garden City Estates, a new clubhouse rose on North Avenue. All residents of the Estates section were automatically members, but the club, although a social center of the community, had no golf course, and members had to use the increasingly crowded public Salisbury Links nearby. In 1916 Salisbury became a private club—Cherry Valley—and many longtime players there were excluded.
George Tarbell, head of Garden City Estates (and also the builder of the very handsome Westchester County Club) moved quickly; before that same year of 1916 was out, he had organized the Garden City Country Club. The new club leased the estate of a prosperous local resident, and approached Walter Travis to design a championship 18-hole golf course.
At the time he accepted the commission Travis was one of the most famous golfers in America, and he had been designing courses since 1899. The course opened on June 1, 1917, and played at 6,408 yards. It soon became an acknowledged classic, and although trees were planted on the relatively bare terrain during the early 1930s (club records show they cost eight dollars each), it is a tribute to Travis’s vision that the modern course still closely resembles the original one—especially after a careful and thorough rejuvenation by the architect Brian Silva.
As it did everywhere, the Great Depression hit the Garden City Country Club hard and, with it and Cherry Valley both hovering near bankruptcy, there was serious talk of a merger. It never happened, because neither club’s membership was willing to move to the other’s premises. The crisis was resolved in 1938 when a former club president, Maurice A. Gilmartin, bought the entire property for $175,000 and set in motion a complete financial reorganization that saved the institution.
Today the club is just emerging from an ambitious restoration that has left its historic architectural core intact while improving or replacing many later additions that did not live up to the founders’ original ambitions. And so the Garden City Country Club moves, with the unique blend of vigor and serenity that has distinguished it from the beginning, toward its second century.