On June 4th, 1900 a meeting was called at the old Maxwell House Hotel's Commercial Club to organize the Nashville Golf Club. Membership was still informal and there was no charter. Martin J. Condon was elected president, and the course at Cherokee Park Pavilion was chosen as the site for the new club. By October, there were 65 Nashville Golf Club members.
Cherokee Park's tenure as the home of golf in Nashville was short-lived. On New Year's Day,1901, the Cockrill stable burned to the ground and the Cockrill farm was placed at auction. It would no longer be available for golf.
On March 22,1901, members of the Nashville Golf Club again assembled at the Maxwell House, this time to discuss a new location. More than 100 people attended this meeting.
An offer was presented at the meeting. Nashville landowner Lenord Whitworth was willing to sell the club 10.8 acres of land and lease it another 36 acres at a total cost of $2,600. The 46 acre tract was located on the Whitworth's estate, which fronted the Richland Turnpike and ranged south and east all the way to historic Natchez Trace.
On April 9, 1901, the group ratified the charter creating the Nashville Golf & Country Club. The Club begin with 150 members.
On April 19,1902, one year and ten days after the club was created, the clubhouse was completed.
In 1910 a development was taking place that would divide the club. Luke Lea offered the club leadership a tract of land in a remote section Belle Meade, and the leadership turned the offer down. Lea returned with a second offer. This time he proposed to give the club 267 acres of land at the very heart of the Belle Meade property. The membership was split and it wasn't until September 11, 1911 that a vote was held. Sixty-four of the members voted to remain at the orginal site, 123 members voted to move to Belle Meade.
In 1916, the new club in Belle Meade opened. A friction began to develop between the two groups. Things became so hostile that the members of the established club went to court, filing suit to legally bar the Belle Meade location members from playing golf at the orginal course. The lawsuit was ultimately settled, but in the settlement the name Nashville Golf and Country Club was declared off-limits to both clubs. They would have to take new names.
When World War I ended the members who had remained with the original Nashville Golf and Country Club decided to start a new club.
On October 27, 1920, the Commercial Club at the old Maxwell House was again filled with golfers, this time 68 prospective members of the new club. The first president would be Edwin Warner and the club would be called Richland Golf Club.
On December 20, 1920, just five weeks after Richland's formation, Edwin Warner and the other club leaders reached an agreement with the Nashville Golf and Country Club to purchase 10.8 acres of land and clubhouse for $22,500. The club also leased 92 acres, including the land that had served as the original 18-hole course. To design the new course, members enlisted the services of Donald Ross.
The new course included considerable new land and the members were very excited to begin play as the winter of 1921 proceeded. On January 25, 1921, the first of the new club certificates was sold, with Certificate Number One going to W.H. Washington. By the end of that year, the club had a full complement of 300 members and a waiting list.
On May 7, 1921, Richland Golf Club officially opened its doors.
The first clubhouse was a beautiful old clapboard building with a veranda running all the way around it, remembers Richland member Horace Hornberger. In 1932, the clubhouse was 30 years old and had become an institution, looking out across Elmington Park to West End. Two years later, however, the city of Nashville approached the Richland members with a request that would mean the end of the beloved clubhouse. The city needed to build a high school to serve the section of the city near the golf club. In 1935, the old clubhouse was razed and construction began on West End High School.
The sale of the original clubhouse meant that the members would have to build a new clubhouse and the course would have to be redesigned. The Kirkman estate, which controlled the old Ryan home located on 10 acres in the middle of the Richland course, agreed to lease the Ryan home to the club for use as the clubhouse. At the time the course was redesigned, plans were also made to add new tennis courts.
The first Nashville PGA Invitational Golf Tournament was played at Richland in September 1944. The winner of the tournament was Byron Nelson. The second Nashville PGA Invitational Golf Tournament was won by Ben Hogan and the third tournament was won by Johnny Palmer.
With the addition of a swimming pool in 1947, Richland was becoming a country club, offering a new activity that was ideal for children and teenagers.
A new clubhouse was completed in 1951 and, with a few renovations over the years, remained until the club moved to the current location.
The 1950's were the heyday of the club. Some well known employees at that time were Pearline Ray (pictured below left) who had worked at Richland since 1917 and was well known for her fried chicken and chess pie, Bob Chatwell, the doorman with the tophat, white tie and tails who welcomed many members and guests to the club and a young Air Force veteran named Billy Hancock (pictured below right). Billy joined the staff as a waiter and three years later became maitre' d. In 2006, the Richland members honored Billy for 50 years of service to Richland and he is still a part of the Richland team today.
Over the years, the club continued to grow and change. The course had to be redesigned because of the construction of I-440. In 1977, the clubhouse was refurbished and a new tennis complex was constructed.
In 1980, Richland was host to the U.S. Women's Open, which was won by Amy Alcott.
About the same time, developers approached the club's board of directors about relocating the club and build a new club and in return they would be given the opportunity to develop the site. Several locations were considered for a new club; the Burton Farm (now Burton Hills), a tract of land in Williamson County near Highway 100 near Edwin Warner Park in the vicinity of Vaughn and Hicks Road and farm land along Granny White Pike. One of the incentives for moving to the Granny White location was that Jack Nicklaus had been contacted and he had expressed interest in designing the new course.
On September 24, 1985, 366 Richland members met and, with a vote of 292-74, authorized the Board of Directors to enter into an agreement with CRC Equities for the purpose of building a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, new clubhouse, tennis facility, and swimming pool on a site located on Granny White Pike near Old Hickory Boulevard..
A grand open house for the new club was held on September 30, 1988.
In July of 2001, a renovation and expansion of the clubhouse began. This project gave Richland over 14,000 additional square feet including the new Tap Room downstairs along with the Pool Grille, aerobics room and a state of the art fitness center. Upstairs, the new additions included a new Presidents' Room, Golf Pro Shop and the Waxo Green Grille. The family dining room was renamed the Jack Nicklaus Room and continues to be the main gathering place for families for weekly dining.
The club also boasts an array of private meeting rooms including the Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Johnny Palmer rooms which are adjacent to the Richland Room. These rooms are often combined together to form the Richland Ballroom which hosts large business functions and private wedding receptions among a plethora of other events. Off of the Richland Room is the Hancock Room, named in honor of Billy Hancock, the club's Maitre d' for over 55 years.
The site of the new Clubhouse and golf course located on Granny White Pike has much historical significance as well. The property is located on what was once part of the core battlefield of the closing cavalry action from the 1864 Battle of Nashville. While excavating to build the new Clubhouse and course, old bullet fragments and other Civil War artifacts were found. Tee markers are replicas of the bullets used in the Civil War. You can also find two replica Civil War cannons on the Golf Course near holes 8 and 9.
THE WITNESS TREE
This stately Burr Oak, dating to about 1610, is the oldest tree on the Richland property. It witnessed the buffalo walking single file along present-day Granny White Pike to the Great French Lick. It was cover for the Creek and Cherokee and Chickasaws; John Rains, one of Nashville’s earliest settlers, killed over 30 bears in the cane just north of here in the early 1770’s. This tree witnessed Colonel Ed Rucker’s Confederate cavalry fighting around it in the fierce fighting of the Battle of the Barricade. And, on the same night of December 16, 1864, General James Wilson’s victorious US Cavalry camped under its branches.
It now proudly stands watch over Richland Country Club at No. 9 gold tee and is a tribute to those who came before us. These carvings, by nationally known wood turner Ken Gaidos, are from one of the branches that was recently removed. Each carving is highly unique and made available through the Richland Board of Directors and the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.