Look Back: Early Days of Hingham’s South Shore Country Club

Into the Swing of Spring at South Shore Country Club

By John Galluzzo

Golf is a year-round pursuit in Massachusetts, with players eagerly hitting the links whenever the weather turns mild enough. But that was not always the case. The average mean temperature as recorded at Blue Hill Weather Observatory in Milton has risen nearly five degrees since 1880, meaning that the first tee shot of spring were more of a ritual back then. Such was the case in the early days of Hingham’s South Shore Country Club.

The popularity of golf grew at a time when industrialization was outpacing agriculture across the United States. Farms and orchards gave way to golf courses across New England with heavy construction booms at the beginning of the 20th century and the post-World War I years. The South Shore Country Club arose from the land of Samuel Hubbard Litchfield, owner of one of the largest agricultural properties in Hingham. Before him, the land belonged to Dr. Ezekiel Hersey and his wife Sarah Langley, known by local historians as Madame Sarah Derby.

Wayne Stiles designed the South Shore Country Club course, which was paired with an equally impressive clubhouse. As the club came together in the 1920s, the founders turned to architect Harold Field Kellogg, whose Batterymarch Building in Boston was the first Art Deco building in the city’s history. Completed in 1923, the clubhouse was open to members, but in order to ensure the club’s financial viability it also hosted functions for outside groups. Derby Academy held one of the first events in the space in 1925.

The golf club’s rear façade faced the course. Players could relax at the clubhouse and sip a cool drink while watching their fellow members wrap up their final shots of the day. When 25 South Shore businessmen gathered to create their own club in 1921, this was exactly what they had in mind.

The interior of the club had an elegant look. Of special note in this image is the depiction of a ring-necked pheasant on the far wall. In the 1920s (this image is circa 1925) the bird was a symbol of the outdoorsman’s life and was hunted extensively in Hingham. The species is now nearly extinct in Massachusetts.

One of the club’s crowning moments occurred on June 19, 1962, when pro golfers Arnold Palmer and Gary Player met in the third of their World Tour matches. Hundreds of spectators crowded the edges of the fairway (one woman was even struck by a ball) and cheered as Player birdied five of the last seven holes to take the match 69 to 67.

While some women did golf in the early days of the sport, the club offered additional amenities for those who chose not to. The handwritten note on the back of this image states that if a woman did not want to play “she may park here in the ladies’ room or on the piazza overlooking the course.”

Over the years the South Shore Country Club has expanded to become a central gathering place for the local community, offering dining, bowling and a swimming pool in addition to golf.

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