Fernwood Country Club, is a Public, 9 hole, par-3 golf course located in Roseland, New Jersey.
Designed by Roger G. Rulewich, Fernwood golf course first opened for play in 1967.
The greens are small, allowing for short game practice at target golf; they are well contoured, offering a variety of putting options. Men and women share the same tee boxes.
Blue / Red tees: par-27, 1,200 yards.
The course closed in 2011.
And now.....the story
Roseland's Fernwood closes after 50 years
BY LORIE RUSSO GREENSPAN editor Apr 8, 2011 1
ROSELAND – By all accounts Bunny Dockrell had a deliciously sarcastic sense of humor, evidenced by the signs often posted around the pool she and her husband owned.
Writer Debra Galant, a patron of Dockrells’ pool, recalled in a 1998 column in the New York Times that Bunny’s signs were “somewhat cranky and generally dire,” describing one in the ladies’ locker room that warned not to leave possessions unlocked because “we have villains.”
But the one that caught Galant by surprise was another referring to rumors that the place was up for sale: “In view of the uncertainties of life,” the sign read, “we ask that you take your chairs, tubes and wretched noodles with you on our last day here.”
The site, formally known as Fernwood, where numerous summer picnics took place,did not go up for sale that year, although the pool has since been filled in.
Another sign graces the entrance today, alerting visitors that the Fernwood Club Par Three Golf Course has also closed – after 47 years.
This brings to an end the vision and ambition of John Loftus Bolton Dockrell, who purchased the property in 1946 on which not to open a pool or golf course – but a factory.
“My father was one of those genetically defined entrepreneurs,” said Margot Dockrell in an interview last Thursday to discuss her decision to close the golf course.
But in saying good-bye it seems logical to also open a door and take a step backward to get a sense of the site’s history – before the golf course, pool, tennis courts and assorted entrepreneurial endeavors of Bolton Dockrell remolded this place.
Open Air Beginnings
The Fernwood site can trace its historical roots to 1907 when a building on the property was used as a fresh air home for women and children coming in from Newark. They came into Caldwell via trolley and were carted in a horse and buggy the rest of the way. With the onset of the Depression this foray, run by a coalition of charitable organizations, ended.
Dockrell bought the property after World War II with the intention of manufacturing gas grills in the building with two partners.
“He immediately took the top story off the fresh air home; it was illegal to manufacture in any wood building higher than two stories,” Margot Dockrell said. “This radical surgery gave what we have always called the factory the look similar to that of someone whose head was cropped out of the top of a photograph, an odd proportion that it retains to this day as my home.”
The two partners ran off with the capital, after which Bolton Dockrell tried other schemes, which often left the family needing money to pay for things like property taxes.
“My parents married in the 50s and for the first few years of their life together, the sheriff visited regularly to past a for sale sign on the front doors of the factory, for back taxes,” she said. Her father, she added, would “cheerfully tear it down, and go back to whatever harebrained scheme he was involved in at the moment.”
Once he had the idea to become a gyro copter distributor (a gyro copter is technically a propeller attached to a seat) and kept a gyro copter in the fresh air home, next door to where the family lived, which was a “creepy” building in which wild animals lived, she recalled.
“He had pontoons on it and someone towed him on a motor boat and then he’d take off. It was like para sailing. He crashed all the time.”
Other business ventures included personalized pencils, bottle openers and metal ashtrays for corporate gifts. Getting the prescient idea that Americans one day would drink wine with the frequency of martinis, he planted a row of grape vines but then, Dockrell said, “DeGaulle devalued the franc without warning, lowering the cost of a decent bottle of French wine to well within the reach of wine drinking Americans. It was during this furious plowing of grape vines that my father hit on the idea of a swim club.”
Swimming, Tennis And Golf
Originally called the Vineyard Club, Dockrell’s plan was to enlarge the swimming pool left from the fresh air home. One evening during the construction a thunderstorm came up quickly which acted to submerge the tractor he was using to dig out and expand the pool. “By the time they dug it out of the mud the deep end of the pool was several yards longer than planned, Dockrell recalled, “giving the pool one of its many peculiar dimensions.”
Although the senior Dockrell eventually renamed the facility Fernwood, envisioning much more on the site, including an area for a wedding reception, the pool was always either called Dockrell’s or “the pool” by Roseland residents, who became members for reduced rates, giving it the feel of a community hangout. Tennis courts were also added, giving the place a resort feel.
In 1967, the family added the par three golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Associates.
“The Fernwood Club provided thousands of area residents with their first experience of the pleasures – and frustrations – of golf,” Margot Dockrell recalled. “Many quickly moved on to high school and college golf teams, competitive full size courses and elegant clubs, and there were also undoubtedly those who discovered they agreed with Mark Twain, who deemed golf a good walk spoiled.”
Growing solemn, she added, “It was never profitable and an unending source of maintenance costs and worries. It was so pretty and had been so difficult to build that my mother could never bear to close it when the pool shut down.”
Dockrell said her mother managed the club until 1999 when ill health, Bolton Dockrell’s death and new operation codes all conspired to draw the operation to a close.
But the golf course was kept open.
The township had expressed interest years ago in acquiring the property, Dockrell said, and rezoned it in the 1970s for conservation/recreation use, which devalues its eventual selling price.
“I would like to see it go to the town but I would love for them to pay me for it – I have three children,” she said.
The property, she added, has had a history of serving the disenfranchised and many times the Dockrells welcomed various organizations on the site to swim and play golf for free.
She added, “I would like it to end not as a housing development but if I can’t sell it at market value I would like this property to continue its legacy of being for the public good.”
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