BHCC was designed and built in the early part of the Boom Period in 1924. Its incorporators read like the "Who's Who" of Western Massachusetts. Some were members of the Pittsfield Homestead Company, Inc., which purchased hundreds of acres of land from then extinct Allen Farm for the purpose of creating new industry, new homes, and a general improvement of the surrounding areas.
With financial backing from influential members of the community and also from the General Electric Company, 120 acres of land was purchased on December 22, 1924 for $25,000. A.W. Tillinghast was hired to design the new 18 hole golf course. Please read Tillie's letter to the Board of Directors describing his first experience at the proposed site. Since it was active farmland, there was no problem raising lush turf grasses from the fertile soil.
The challenge lay in shaping land contours into satisfactory teeing and putting surfaces. Tom Peters was the first golf professional, and Tom Nocker the greens keeper. The early membership consisted of 306 founding members. A picturesque and practical clubhouse, started in August 1927, was quickly completed.
During the first few years, the game itself could be somewhat difficult, but the membership enjoyed what they called "cross-country" golf, which consisted of passing those holes under construction and playing those nearly completed. Some holes were played twice to ensure an 18 hole round.
In 1928, the completed 18 hole course was finally ready. The organization grew, strengthened, and improved until the Great Depression hit. With most people out of work and some working only a few hours a week, there was little family money left to spend on recreation. Membership dropped and activity diminished, while improvements and capital purchases were practically eliminated. Those hard times knit the membership into a tight loyal group that made the club's problems its own. Incredibly, those dark days were only a harbinger of even darker days to come.
In March of 1941, the clubhouse burned to the ground. Seventy five members less affected than others by the Depression, joined together and signed obligations to the bank, committing to build a new clubhouse from their own funds if Berkshire Hills defaulted. By mid-summer, a rambling new country style house was completed. Then, with the organization heavily in debt, but surviving, Pearl Harbor was bombed and World War II began. Some fifty members served in the military from an already depleted roster. After great debate, these men recommended that the club continue to operate and maintain the grounds as efficiently as possible. The justification for this was to keep the equipment in top working condition in case it might be of some assistance in the war effort by contributing to the construction of air fields, landing strips, etc. Also, since golf is a healthy sport, which can benefit the physical development of young men, it was found advisable to proceed for their sake, as well as for the rehabilitation of returning veterans.
Having weathered its most difficult and threatening storm, the problems of BHCC in the post war years were insignificant in comparison. With good solid management during this period, the organization flourished. Improvements included new locker rooms, and new modern greens equipment as well as the buildings to house it. Additional land was acquired to provide more elbowroom from adjacent housing. Finally, a significant amount of landscaping and course beautification was accomplished. By the mid 1950's, the corporation was completely out of debt with all mortgages paid off.
During the 1990's, the construction of a new much larger clubhouse with beautiful picturesque views was seriously discussed, and by 2009, this magnificent dream became the reality of BHCC today.
[reference: Golfweb Library & "The Course Beautiful" by A.W. Tillinghast
Architect, A.W. Tillinghast
A.W. Tillinghast, also know as "Tillie", was a leading figure in shaping golf's first 50 years in America. He considered himself to be the "Dean of American Golf Course Architects". His design principals formed the foundation for the development of the modern golf course and fueled the growth in popularity of the sport in North America. Some of his golf courses are Baltusrol, Quaker Ridge, San Francisco, Somerset Hills and Winged Foot, to name a few.
For the first 30 years of his life, he engaged in a variety of activities of the well bred, one of which was golf. He frequently traveled to St. Andrews to take lessons from the old great Tom Morris and competed with moderate success in the U.S. Amateur between 1905 and 1915.
In 1907, he laid out his first course, Shawnee-on-Delaware, in Pennsylvania, at the request of a wealthy family friend. Tillie had found his calling and with great pop and panache, laid out and detailed magnificent golf courses during golf's golden age of the 1920's.
Tillie was a prolific writer and speaker and for a timed served as the editor of Golf Illustrated magazine. The depression destroyed his chance to create more golf courses and he died in poverty in his daughter's home in Toledo Ohio.
While many of Tillinghast's courses disappeared entirely during the depression or have been severely altered by time, others remain so well distinguished that they are treasures of the game. Tillie's intentions were clearly known as he spoke and wrote his feelings about design. Tillie knew every hole must be unique, yet remain sound and rhythm.
Golf courses cannot be designed by committee. Tillie's eccentric behavior and bombastic way with the wealthy allowed his true talent to shine through. Most of his holes are gorgeously balanced, beautifully bunkered, and yet blended into the whole of the golf course. Tillie's work is to be studied and treasured.
To summarize, Tille wrote,