The legendary history of Cloverleaf Golf Course started before the game of golf was very popular in the St. Louis area. Established in 1931, it was one of only five area golf courses built between 1931 and 1951.
The Gabriel’s purchased the property the course sits on in 1913 and established the Gabriel Dairy Farm. The family lived in a large house where the #1 tee now sits, and the current clubhouse was the dairy barn. The family home had been built in 1849 as an inn for travelers during their long journeys to Alton. According to history, Abraham Lincoln slept in the Southwest bedroom on his travels from Springfield to Alton.
In the late 1920’s, while away working for the State of Illinois, Paul Gabriel got the idea of turning the family dairy farm into a golf course. So the family stopped transporting milk into upper Alton and got to work building a golf course during the onset of the Great Depression. On Memorial Day 1931, the first nine holes were opened. The second nine opened soon thereafter in 1932.
Since golf was relatively new to the area, Paul kept the business going by always putting the customer first; he did whatever it took to get a set of clubs into the hands of someone wanting to play. During the onset of the Great Depression, money was so scarce that Paul would often barter in order for people to be able to play the great game of golf and be distracted from the hard times. Soon, people were lining up at 4 a.m. waiting to tee off. In order to accommodate the customers, Paul’s parents started sleeping in the clubhouse and even cooking breakfast for the early morning golfers.
Unfortunately, in June 1963, while Paul was mowing around the irrigation lake after an overnight rain, the earth gave way and he was pinned beneath the tractor. After his death, Paul’s wife, Dorothy, continued to run the course until an illness rendered her unable to do so. Dorothy passed away in 1996. Since her illness and eventual death, one of their daughters (Nancy) has continued minding the family business, and now her son Brian is taking over the reins of the family legacy. The rich history is displayed in the memorabilia throughout the clubhouse and also remnants of a magnificent handcrafted fence made from broken glass still on the grounds. We estimate in the 86+ years of operation, nearly 3 million rounds of golf have been played at Cloverleaf.