The Land Trade For The North Course
1949 - 1952
The first indication that the North Course might be on the verge of significant change came in May 1949 when a real estate agency offered to buy the entire course for an unspecified client. This offer was discussed by the Board in May and was summarily rejected.
The real estate agency may or may not have acted on behalf of Prudential Insurance Company, which only recently had acquired land along Morris Turnpike between Canoe Brook Road and the Passaic River, thereby becoming the club’s neighbor. Prudential planned to “improve” this land by building a large retail shopping center, and to convert other land further to the north into an upscale single family housing development. Prudential’s immediate concern was whether to undertake the difficult task of filling in the lower part of its property, or to purchase adjacent land from Canoe Brook.
On December 23, 1949 an offer from Prudential was presented to the Canoe Brook Board at their meeting. From The Club’s perspective, there was the likelihood that Prudential would develop the land next to the seven holes west of Canoe Brook Road, erecting unsightly buildings that would destroy the aesthetics of the golf course. The club feared that the combination of the new buildings there and the housing development to the north would leave little, if any, room for later expansion of the North Course. There was the additional threat that Canoe Brook Road would be widened into a four-lane highway.
The offer from Prudential was negotiated over several months in extreme secrecy. Their offer was to acquire the approximately 46.44 acres west of Canoe Brook Road in exchange for equal acreage east of the road. The western acreage was considered to feature Canoe Brook’s weakest seven holes. Prudential also offered to cover the club’s expenses in building replacement golf holes on the newly acquired land and lease the original seven holes back to the club for $1-per-year until they were completed. The land acquired by Prudential has since famously become and been named The Mall at Short Hills.
Golf Professional Harold Sanderson enlisted the services of Alfred Tull. That Tull’s style nicely complimented that of Canoe Brook’s remaining eleven holes was not a surprise, he worked as a superintendent under the North Course’s designer Walter Travis before holding similar positions under A. W. Tillinghast and Devereax Emmet.
On April 28, 1950 the design for the new holes and revised North Course layout was approved by Canoe Brook’s Green Committee and Board. The new holes opened for play on July 1, 1952, which today play as fourteen through seventeen, to rave reviews from Members and golf critics alike. As Members of the day liked to say, Canoe Brook now boasted a championship North Course “undivided by highway.”