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Country club in Glens Falls golf for almost 100 years
Country club in Glens Falls golf for almost 100 years

The idea for a country club in the Glens Falls area was born in 1911, when Addison B. Colvin, publisher of the Glens Falls Daily Times, asked the community, "Why is a country club needed?"

The area around the city was ideal. It had a landscape of hills and streams, and was in a good location with adequate population and transportation.

Organizational meetings began in January of 1912 at the Glens Falls YMCA. With the hope of getting 100 charter members at $25 each, along with an initiation fee of $25, several prominent civic leaders agreed to raise funds, buy property and build a club with a nine-hole golf course, a tennis court and a clubhouse with lockers.

The 48-acre Bentley Farm on Ridge Road, along with three parcels of 17, 50 and 30 acres of land at Round Pond owned by Howard Bush, Stephen Taft and Hollis Brown, respectively, were considered good prospects.

By Feb. 1 of the same year, the Round Pond site was approved with the provision it be near a trolley line.

Louis Fiske Hyde brought Donald Ross, a well-known golf course designer from Scotland, to Glens Falls to look at the sites. He favored the Round Pond area because of its contours.

The first officers were Judge George S. Raley, president; Louis F. Hyde, vice president; Howard J. Bush, secretary; and James M. Seay, treasurer. Three women were named to the first board of trustees.

The first clubhouse was designed by Addison B. Leboutillier of Boston. The 40-by-50-foot New England Colonial structure was built by Hartman and West.

The clubhouse allowed plenty of room for playing cards, parties, dancing and receptions. It had a covered 50-foot-wide piazza overlooking the first and ninth holes. The basement housed the men's locker room.

Colvin imported grass seed from Scotland for the course. Wilmarth Furniture of Glens Falls provided club-style furnishings. Joseph Sylvester from Van Cortandt Park Golf Course was hired as the first pro and Charles Baldwin as the caretaker.

A nearby trolley was soon planned by Hudson Valley Railroad.

Golf play began in April. Mrs. Robert Carter and Mrs. Howard Bush were the first women to play the course.

The club opened on June 2, 1914, with 260 members. There was a gala party, tea served on the veranda and Martine's Orchestra for dancing.

By the end of summer, a plague of grasshoppers attacked the course. Colvin sought help from Secretary of Agriculture Calvin Huson, who recommended poison bait to stop them. Cows from the nearby Hollis Brown farm died after eating the grass on the course, which had been treated with arsenic.

By the spring of 1922, eighteen holes were in place.

In 1923, the clubhouse burned in a fire caused by a break in the chimney. The furniture and the cellar locker room were saved. Damages were estimated at $35,000.

After the insurance settlement, a new clubhouse was built by Schermerhorn Construction of Lake George. The new structure, which opened in mid-June of 1924, had a kitchen, dining room, living quarters for Leonard Nacy, the steward, and his wife, a bathhouse for women and children and new lockers for women.

The Glens Falls Open was first played in 1924. In 1926, the beautiful stone entry to the club property was installed and dedicated to member Walter Price "Puffer" Leavens, of McMullen and Leavens Shirt Co.

The Glens Falls Country Club was now considered one of America's finest golf clubs.

Ben Lord served as golf pro for 30 years, from 1917 to 1956, and played in the U.S. Open.

Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and several jockeys from Saratoga Springs played the course, as did Jimmy Thompson, known as the world's longest hitter. Ben Hogan and Sam Smead were visiting pros. Gail Purdy, the outstanding woman player in the 1960s and 70s, became a 10-time club champion.

Many players and caddies enjoyed chocolate milk with NABS crackers from the nearby Thomas Farm stand. The milk was served in large, thick, barrel-shaped glasses.

Major renovations to the clubhouse were made in 1956, 1964, 1981 and 1989. Upgrades were made to the bar. A hi-fi system and a computerized watering system were installed. Awnings were added to the patio, and the gravel bank was converted to a croquet lawn. A cart barn was built, the men's locker room was remodeled and the pro shop was added.

Golf tournaments such as the Glens Falls Invitational, the Women's Golf Tournament and the State Amateur Tournament were played there for many years.

By 1976, tennis became very popular in the United States, and more people preferred it over golf. The club added tennis courts and hired Washington Tennis Service to provide professional instruction.

In the winter of 1991-92, downhill tobogganing and sledding, popular public pastimes, were banned by the club due to insurance liability and all Fourth of July fireworks were stopped.

By 2000, the club was 800 members strong. It continues to carry on a rich tradition in the area.

Compiled by Marilyn Van Dyke, executive director of Warren County Historical Society, from the book by Don A. Metivier, "A Club in the Country," Media Services, 1995.

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