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History of the
Memphis Hunt & Polo Club
The Memphis Hunt and Polo Club was organized in 1923 by the charter members R.L. Jurden, Hugh Fontaine, William B. Chapman, Sam P. Walter and Homer K. Jones. In the fall of 1924, the club leased a clubhouse located two miles south of Park Avenue on the west side of West Cherry Road. The facility consisted of a tudor style house, X-shaped horse stable, two clay tennis courts and a polo field. The initial membership was sixty members, and the activities included polo, tennis and skeet shooting. The club flourished with its reputation for fine dining and an active social calendar. In 1930, the leased property was purchased by the club.
In these early years, the game of polo was popular. The club’s team competed regularly against the finest polo teams from around the country. The stable could house sixty horses, and there was a full staff of attendants. However, the economic conditions of the depression era made it financially difficult for the members to maintain their horses, and the polo match schedule was cancelled. By 1936, the club was strained financially to remain open. The deserted polo field was planted in vegetables which were sold to raise cash for expenses, and the club ultimately survived the depression era.
On a Sunday night in July of 1952, the clubhouse caught fire and burned to the ground. While the fire department responded, the building could not be saved as the nearest water hydrant was over a half-mile away. Fortunately, the staff members sleeping in the clubhouse were able to escape. The cause of the fire was never determined, although faulty electrical wiring was suspected.
By this time, Memphis’s suburban growth had enveloped the club’s property, and the decision was made to move the club further east. A new site for the club was chosen on a heavily wooded piece of property located at 650 South Shady Grove Road.
The land was purchased, and the clubhouse construction was started in the spring of 1953. Using the proceeds from the sale of the Cherry Road property, the members hired noted architect, Walk C. Jones, Jr., and Sam Stevenson as contractor for the new clubhouse. During the period of construction, the members rented a temporary clubhouse that was a log cabin located on the home place of club member Mickey McFadden at 2788 Germantown Road South.
The new facility was completed and formally opened with a membership dinner on January 29, 1955. The Club’s annual membership meeting is still held on or about this same date. That evening much conversation was about the massive oak mantel over the taproom fireplace which was carved by renowned woodworker, Leo Barthol. The mantle’s enigmatic Latin phrase translates as “Yo, Bacchus’s greatest crime is to destroy all worries.” Although there was no polo field on the Shady Grove site, the membership enjoyed a magnificent neoclassical style brick clubhouse, four clay tennis courts, access to a fishing lake and a swimming pool with bath house and snack bar.
As the club prospered, it developed a prominent reputation for the quality of its food and dining service. In 1985, an indoor tennis facility containing two courts was built on the north side of the property. In 1990, the original bath house and snack bar on the west side of the pool area was torn down to make way for a new pool house and a reconfiguration of the swimming pool. The new pool house was designed by architect John Millard with completion in May of 1991. The membership opened the facility with a poolside dinner reception. In October of 1999, construction of a new wine cellar was begun with John Millard again serving as architect. The handsome room was completed and dedicated at the Board of Directors dinner on September 28, 2000.
The club is located at 650 South Shady Grove Road in Memphis, just east of I-240 and south of Shelby Farms Park.
Use by Non-Members
All non-members must be accompanied by a Polo Club Member when using the clubhouse or athletic facilities. This also applies to banquets, receptions, cocktail parties or other events where the sponsoring member must be present. The only exception to this rule is when out-of-town family or house guests (out-of-town being defined as more than 45 air miles from Memphis) will be allowed use of the Club's facilities upon being registered with the Polo Club office. Out-of-town guest privileges will be granted only for a specific time period, not to exceed five days, unless exceptions are approved by the Club Manager. All charges incurred by guests will be the responsibility of the member and will be billed to the sponsoring member. It is the responsibility of the host member that all Club rules be observed. Unusual situations and appeals may be submitted to the Memphis Hunt & Polo Club Board of Directors.
Smoking is not permitted in any of the Polo Club buildings nor around the pool.