Course History

Archival photo of women playing golf at Nehoiden's present day seventh fairway.

Nehoiden Golf Club’s founding can be traced to the dawn of golf in Massachusetts, in the 1890s. Since the establishment of Wellesley College in 1870, its founders, Pauline and Henry Fowle Durant, believed in the importance of physical exercise for women, as a necessary complement to the demands of a rigorous academic education. With the ambition to expand the athletics program at Wellesley, the Director of Physical Training, Lucile Eaton Hill, introduced golf to Wellesley College in 1893, with the formation of a golf club.

While the golf club gained instant zeal among the students, it had practiced without a formal course in its initial years. Finally, in 1894, the original course was laid out by Mr Arthur Hunnewell, the architect of the first private golf course in Massachusetts and a resident of Wellesley, and Dr Walter Channing, a noted Boston psychiatrist and member of The Country Club. The growing fervor of golf at Wellesley was closely followed by the papers: in June of 1897, the New York Herald wrote that, “for certain temperaments and for certain kinds of weariness, it has been found that a quiet game is the best sort of a tonic.” The Sunday Herald also published a piece on the golf course, quoting the 1900 College yearbook: “On any fine and sunny afternoon, the observer may see short-skirted maidens brandishing sticks with a menacing air or wildly rooting up turf in their enthusiasm.”

In June 1900, with the expansion of the College, the Wellesley Golf Club successfully petitioned the trustees to build a nine-hole course across Washington Street on College-owned land. As a result of its expansion, the club became an unique organization on campus that operated semi-independently from the College, with the club president being a town resident, the vice president on College faculty, and membership that included students, faculty, and town residents.

In the late 1920s, the College began planning further upgrades to the course. In 1927, Wayne Stiles, a distinguished golf course architect who designed more than 60 golf courses in the northeast, including the Wellesley Country Club, the Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, and Woodland Golf Club in Newton, drew up a master plan for a new 18-hole layout. Stiles’ vision included two holes on the south of the Sudbury Aqueduct, a few holes between Waban Brook and Washington Street, and another hole that started near today’s 9th green and played downhill, through the parking lot.

In the same year, the Joint Committee of Nehoiden approved a name change of the course, from “Wellesley Golf Club” to “Nehoiden Golf Club”. The name originated from William Nehoiden, a Native American born in Unquity (the Milton area in present day) in 1635, during the English settling of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Nehoiden was close to John Eliot, a missionary who founded several Christian villages in the area, including Natick. While reasons for the name change of the course are uncertain, it was most likely to complement the nearby Lake Waban. Lake Waban was named in the 1850s for a Native American tribal leader, whose name means “the wind” in Algonquian.

Over the decades, Nehoiden Golf Course maintains a strong tie with Wellesley College. Many College employees are members of Nehoiden. The Wellesley College Golf Team continues to practice and participate in intercollegiate competitions on Nehoiden, and over 100 students of the College choose to take golf classes for physical education every year.

This brief history is taken from The Nehoiden Centennial Historical Committee’s work, Nehoiden Golf Club and the History of Golf at Wellesley College. If you’d like to learn more, the book is available for purchase through our golf office.