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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Dubuque Golf and Country Club. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

DUBUQUE GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB. Considered the first of its kind in Iowa, Dubuque Golf and Country Club was founded on November 21, 1899, but the inspiration may have come in 1898. Elizabeth Bradley had acquired a love of golf while a student at Smith College. She enlisted the aid of her friend Ann Connolly and Frederick Ezekiel BISSELL, then on vacation from Harvard, to form a local golf club. They laid out three fairways using hand mowers. (1)

By the early 1900s, the first nine holes were laid out on pasture owned by William L. BRADLEY, Sr., Elizabeth's father. The course with a total length of 2,800 yards was known as "the old nine." The original clubhouse was constructed on the farm orchard and a croquet court was added nearby. The original articles of incorporation were signed by Lester C. BISSELL, Frederick's father; Charles Harvey BRADLEY, Elizabeth's brother; George A. BURDEN; W. P. Bingham; Eugene P. Kiene; James Merrill BURCH; Maurice Lee; J. R. Lindsay; A. J. Parker; Eugene Ryan; and Horace Torbert. (2)

In 1902 a new corporation, The Country Club Company, was formed with a capital stock of $10,000. Shares cost $100 each. Land was purchased and leased to the Dubuque Golf Club for $303 annually. The articles of incorporation of this new company included Frank W. Coates, Lester Bissell, Maurice BROWN, James Merrill BURCH, George A. BURDEN, Alfred TREDWAY, Harry Ennis TREDWAY, Peter KIENE, William LAWTHER, Sr.; and Thomas CONNOLLY, Ann's father. (3)

Dubuque Golf and Country Club House

In 1903 at a cost of $3,000, a new clubhouse was constructed with seven rooms and screened porches. Annual dues of ten dollars did not stop two hundred people from quickly acquiring regular and associate memberships and a long waiting list of potential members being created. (4) A golf tournament entrance fee of one dollar was also assessed. Frederick Bissell, an enthusiastic gardener, planted many of the trees. Athletic facilities were expanded to include a SWIMMING POOL and tennis courts. The flagpole was donated by the parents of Arnold Peaslee, a casualty of WORLD WAR I. (5)

The first of many golf tournaments was held in 1904. DUBUQUE ENTERPRISE for ten cents announced the fourth annual Iowa State Golf Association tournament would be held in July at the Dubuque course and provided a guide on how each hole should be played.

In 1906 the grounds became the potential site of mining activities. A Superior, Wisconsin syndicate began negotiations for land which had not already been contracted for by the DUBUQUE ORE AND DEVELOPMENT COMPANY. The Wisconsin company planned to drill shafts and install pumps to remove water. If the quantity of LEAD ore proved valuable, a mill would be erected. The Dubuque Ore Company intended to use extensive drilling. It was questioned whether the club would take royalties from the syndicate, go into the mining business itself, or exercise its option to purchase the land rather than lease it. (6)

In 1920 the nine hole course expanded to eighteen following the 1914 authorization of $3,500 to purchase more land. The new course was laid out by Tom Bendelow who had designed an estimated seven hundred courses around the United States.

Dubuque Golf and Country Club caddy badge from 1956. Photo Courtesy--Bob Reding

Just after WORLD WAR II, the Dubuque Golf Club, the non-profit organization, purchased the Country Club Company. The new corporation adopted a new name--The Dubuque Golf and Country Club. (7)

The 1940s witnessed a great deal of growth in the organization and facilities. The first of two new tennis courts were built and the central part of the present clubhouse was constructed. In 1954 a major renovation was made to the clubhouse. In the late 1950s, land was purchased and four more tennis courts were added. The old swimming pool, constructed in 1936, was replaced by a new one in 1966. (8)

From December 1994 until April 28, 1995, the clubhouse was modernized and expanded with all heating and cooling updated. Among the additions were three new banquet rooms, a porch overlooking the pool, a reconfigured bar and new locker rooms. Since 2000, improvements and additions to the athletic facilities, landscape, parking lots and clubhouse continued with the culmination in the construction of a state-of-the-art aquatic center. (9)

In May 2015 the club announced its purchase of the WeatherBug Outdoor Alerting System with lightning detection sensor, the first of its kind in Dubuque. The system could detect any type of lightning within a 10-mile radius of the club, giving peace of mind to both the staff and the golfers on the course. (10)

Due in part to a membership of which an estimated 500 members were under the age of 18 and the need to maintain a broad-age range of members, the transition from a seasonal to a year-round operation was announced in July, 2020. The organization's "365 Project" phase one included an outside patio for dining and a fire pit. These had been completed prior to July. Phase two, which was under construction, included four outdoor tennis courts on top of a 13,000 square-foot structure. This housed two indoor tennis courts which could be used as PICKLEBALL courts during the winter. The outdoor courts were adjacent to three more pickleball courts. Although the club currently had six outdoor tennis courts, two were to be removed for the construction of a larger parking area. A 4,000 square-foot lodge was planned to include a bar and living room, golf simulator with a teaching and putting area, tennis shop and restrooms. The "365 Project" had been approved by a 99% approval vote of the membership. (11)



1. Grimm, Maud. "60-Year Old Institution Outlines Its Limit," Telegraph-Herald, November 22, 1959, p. 6

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. "Golf Club Opens," Telegraph Herald, April 20, 1903, p. 5

5. Grimm

6. "Mineral Land in Much Demand," Telegraph Herald, January 26, 1906, p. 3

7. Grimm

8. Grimm

9. "New Aquatic Center-Dubuque Golf and Country Club," Telegraph Herald, June 29, 2014, p. 18

10. Hanson, Brad. "1st-in-Iowa Lightning Detector Keeps Dubuque Golfers Safe," KWWL Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/29077867/2015/05/15/1st-in-iowa-lightning-detector-keeps-dubuque-golfers-safe

11. Mehl, Annie, "Country Club Hope Renovations Will Make It a 'Year-Round' Facility," Telegraph Herald, July 11, 2020, p. 3A