Founded in 1898, the Country Club of Birmingham was first located in North Birmingham as a driving club for horse-drawn buggies. Originally, club members wanted a place to show prize horses and shiny rigs, but eventually expanded its facilities to include tennis, baseball, 10-pin bowling, a bicycle course and a rustic golf course.
In 1899, club member Robert Henry Baugh, an engineer and a sportsman, transformed a 2,200-acre meadow near the club into the first golf course in Birmingham. He created nine 10-foot-square areas, placed tin cans in them for holes and called them “greens.” Since few members had ever played golf, it was Baugh who provided a one-man exhibition.
Golf’s popularity eventually took off and the club merged with the Birmingham Golf Club and relocated to the Highland Avenue-Lakeview Area, where in 1903 a hilly, nine-hole course was laid out by Canadian Nick Thompson, who had come to Birmingham three years earlier. In 1906, the club added nine additional holes and changed the greens from sand to grass.
When the club moved to its current location in the mid-1920s, noted architect Donald Ross was hired to create a pair of 18-hole courses, both of which will be used for the U.S. Mid-Amateur. The West Course, which opened in 1926, will serve as the venue for the match-play portion of the championship. Among the stellar players to emerge from the Country Club of Birmingham was Hubert Green, the 1977 U.S. Open champion.
Besides the 284 acres used for the two golf courses, the club used the remaining eight acres to construct a clubhouse, picnic area and riding field. The architecture firm of Warren, Knight and Davis completed the English Tudor-style clubhouse on the high ground between the two courses in 1927.
The Country Club of Birmingham has a deep history starting with its first club president, Henry Key Milner, who was related to Francis Scott Key, the composer of our National Anthem. His father, Willis Julian Milner was a pioneer in Birmingham and officer of the Elyton Land Company that laid out much of the city and suburbs, including South Highlands and Lakeview Park.
Besides being a golf pioneer and the club’s second president, Baugh was the former president of the Birmingham Baseball Club and president of the Birmingham Gun Club. Another club president, Robert Jemison, developed Redmont Park and Mountain Brook Estates in the city through his real estate and insurance company.