The Little Club - History
The history of The Little Club and its land goes back to the early island days when Henry Phipps — who had partnered with Andrew Carnegie in starting the U.S. Steel Co. — moved his family to Florida.
The Phipps family was key in the development of the island, and in the establishment of Gulf Stream as a favored destination for the wealthy and influential.
It was Howard Phipps who came up with the idea of buying up the land and using it for polo grounds. The polo operation was an immediate success, drawing large numbers for the matches.
This success presented a problem: more people and more development.
Pretty soon, magnificent homes were being built to serve the community. They were also squeezing out the polo fields.
After World War II, polo gained so much popularity that new fields were built by a team of prominent citizens; Mike Smith, Stewart Iglehart and George Oliver. The polo grounds blossomed during those years and into the early 1950’s, however, with continued population growth — and continued real estate possibilities — that team lost interest. The land was sold to developer Henry Pope. From 1958 to 1964, Pope built homes on what used to be the southernmost polo fields.
The northernmost field had a special destiny all its own: The Little Club.
With polo now gravitating elsewhere in the county, the land that once comprised the northern polo field held the town’s interest, however, town officials weren’t sure of what they wanted.
Re-enter Stewart Iglehart who formed a partnership with retired insurance magnate Mel Dickenson. The partnership was based on a single idea: golf. Iglehart believed that the old polo field would make a perfect par 3 golf course.
Realizing the potential, the team of Iglehart and Dickenson devised a solid financial plan and approached Gulf Stream residents with the idea. Before long, they had 35 residents willing to put up $10,000 each.
The duo established a corporation, which they named Oleander after the street that Dickenson lived on. It is believed that the name “The Little Club” came from Iglehart’s wife, Linda, who intended it to be in contrast with the Gulf Stream Golf Club, the existing “big club”.
Gentleman Joe Lee was engaged as the golf course architect and The Little Club opened in 1968.
Emily J. Minor – The Coastal Star
Elizabeth Matthews Paton – LC Member 1978-2009, Historian, Author “The Little Club, 1968 – 1998"