It all started in 1926 with the "Golf & Country Club District"
B.E. Taylor, Community Builder and Realtor, bought much of the available land west of Telegraph Road and south of Fenkell Ave. The property belonging to Burt Farms would become the recreational jewel of the area. The Golf and Country Club District would be created from these farmlands. The "District" would consist of upscale houses on spacious lots along with a Donald Ross-designed Championship golf course.
Taylor announced the development in the February 21, 1926 Detroit News Sunday edition with a full-page advertisement with the headline that read, "This Club House will be built this year". The ad focused on the amenities of the clubhouse and the 170-plus acres that the Donald Ross golf course would be built on, but the last statement the reader saw would be a solicitation for purchasing lots, building houses or simply investment opportunities.
1926 - Construction begins on the club house & golf course
Early summer of 1926 saw the construction on the clubhouse begin, while at the same time Donald Ross was designing the golf course. The clubhouse was completed later in that same year. Simultaneously, the golf course was being built with the rolling hills and meandering river only partially giving way, since both play a part in how the course would challenge the legions of new members trying their skills on this unique layout.
June 4, 1927 The Club's Grand Opening
With the clubhouse's final coat of paint, furnishings in place and staff ready to serve, the golf course also got its final nod of approval. All was ready for the Club's Grand Opening. Invitations were sent out to new and prospective members to attend an informal Saturday evening dinner dance to be held on June 4th, 1927, followed the next day by an afternoon tea.
June 9, 1927 "Unofficial" opening of the Donald Ross designed golf course
With much anticipation, on Thursday, June 9th everyone was invited back to the unofficial opening of the golf course for play. That same afternoon, the ladies held a bridge tea, and to complete the day, a dinner dance for members and guests offered dancing and socializing well into the night. Later in the same year, the Club received both its USA and Golf Association of Michigan Charters.
The growth of the "Golf Club District"
As the years passed, this "Golf Club District" grew rapidly and today it remains the most desirable residential area in Redford Township. Along with golf, Taylor's developers carried out their plan for a total recreational facility.
There was canoeing on what was called Lake Como west of Inkster Road, and horseback riding along a bridle path that surrounded the entire property, with stables located across Ross Drive south of the 17th tee. In the 1930’s, a toboggan slide was built where today's swimming pool is located. Toboggans would speed down the snow packed structure across from the 10th and 18th fairways, over the Rouge River and came to a stop on the 16th fairway.
Tennis enthusiasts were not to be ignored as Taylor's developers built courts where the chipping and putting greens are located today.
1945 - First shareholders & the beginning of a private country club
In May of 1945, the B.E. Taylor Company agreed to sell the Club to its members. Although no records exist detailing either the terms or purchase price, a mortgage was applied for and granted. The interested members who led the transaction and re-incorporation included A.Z. Schmina, Dennis Boyle, James A. McIntosh, Burt Burman and Joe Dragoon. Until October of 1950, the Club had been re-incorporated under the name of the Western Lands Company and, after securing a new mortgage for $35,000, it then became, as it is known today, the Western Golf & Country Club. Those charter members now held one share of stock as their portion of ownership.
The Board of Directors vision for growth
At this point in time, the Club was now under the stewardship of its own Board of Directors who charted the future path for not only the Club, but also those many members who would join in the coming years. In 1945, 118 Charter Members were already on board. Today's roster has grown to over 300. It is noted that those charter members paid $250 for their membership plus $16 monthly dues for 8 months of the year. From the 1950s on, the Club's Board of Directors embarked on the many issues facing them for future growth. They were well aware that golf clubs were becoming more desirable to prospective members, and to remain competitive for these new applicants, improvements and additional amenities were a must.
On June 19, 1952 a new swimming pool and pool house opened. The Albert Kahn-designed, and R.E. Daly constructed swim facility measured 35' x 75' and was surrounded by a generous deck. Immediately, the swimming program was active and remains so today as evidenced by Western's full calendar of swim meets. The Club also decided to put the golf course to the test for the State's top golfers for the second time by submitting a bid for the 1951 Michigan Open. Upon acceptance of their bid, the Club would host the first of many district, state, and professional competitions. The Board was still on its charted course for the club's future.
Golf Tournament History
By 1954, its roster showed 300 active members whose participation in the activities began to shape the culture that represents Western Golf & Country Club today. Western has been the site of many notable matches and tournaments throughout its history beginning with its inaugural match on April 28, 1927. In 1928, U.S. Open Champion Johnny Farrell lost a match to British Open Champion Walter Hagen. Mr. Farrell, who held the course record of 71, had earlier teamed victoriously with Gene Sarazen against Western's pros Jimmy Kinnear and Stanley Hancock in a best ball match.
On the eve of the Hagen-Farrell match, Hagen wrote a letter to the Club in which he stated "It is my opinion that the Western course is a very excellent test of golf, both for finesse and accuracy." Two other notable winners participated in matches during Western's early days; one was two time PGA Champion Leo Diegel, and another was Mike Brady, the unexpected winner of the 1922 Western Open held at Oakland Hills, just ten miles north of Western, in Birmingham, Michigan. Western has been host to the Michigan Open on two occasions. Marvin Stahl won the first in 1939 and John Barnum won the second in 1951. The Motor City Open was held at Western in 1956 and was won by Bob Rosburg in a playoff with Ed Furgol. The winning score was the highest of any PGA event during the previous 15 months, and it attests to the difficulty with which Western can play, even for the pros.
The Western Open was held in 1960 and, once again, a playoff was needed to determine its eventual winner. Stan Leonard defeated Art Wall on the first playoff hole. Historically, Western has had its share of trials and tribulations, much like any private club. It has changed continually as growth was addressed. But it must be said this Club has faced and has overcome all challenges presented during it's 80 year history. From the 1950s forward, its growth and reputation in the District has flourished.
By definition, history chronicles people and events. In the case of Western, its history goes beyond the Club as an institution; it is really defined by its people - those who were responsible for its inception, followed by the visionaries who took the Club private; to where it is today and all of those who are currently bound by the common cause that is for the good of Western.