Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
August 28, 2002, Page 32
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Compiled by Dee Zimmerman
Clark County News
A History of Golf Courses in Southern Clark County
The game of Golf, in this area, was first played on a course known to local people as “Dells Dam.” The course was located north of the bridge that crosses the Black River on Highway 95, the west riverbank, on the Town of Levis and Dewhurst adjoining borders.
Referred to as the Dells Dam golf course, the course was formed by the original Neillsville Country Club, incorporated on April 15, 1926. Two hundred shares were available at $12.50 per share. The evaluation was set at $2,500.
The course land was leased from a railroad company and was not best suited for a golf course. The putting greens were of sand, not grass and the native wild grass fairways were mowed sporadically. The entire course lacked care. A ditch, 10 to 15 feet deep and quite wide, ran the full width of the course, a real hazard to the golfers.
A clubhouse, built by club members, provided facilities for the Sunday afternoon golf outings that ended with awarding prizes and sharing in a meal. The Sunday outings included invited guests from other clubs, such as: Marshfield, Medford, Osseo and Humbird.
The Dells Dam golf course was short-lived as in late 1928 the members were told by the railroad company, that the land would be converted into a gravel pit the following year.
The Neillsville Country Club’s first golf course, referred to as the Dells Dam course, was incorporated in April of 1926. It was located on the west side of the Black River, north of the Hwy. 95 bridge, now the site of a gravel pit. It was active as a golf course until late 1928, when the railroad company, who owned the land, terminated the club’s lease. (Photo courtesy of the Kurt & Marguerite Listeman collection)
Ernie Snyder, a golfing enthusiast, announced that he had a golf course ready for play in the spring of 1929. On April 15, 1929, the members of the Neillsville Country Club held an auction to liquidate their assets and on February 15, 1930, the corporation was dissolved.
Snyder planned to develop the land located east of Wedges Creek and the dam on the north side of Highway 10, into a recreational area. Snyder Park is now part of that area. The new, short, flat and well maintained Pinecrest golf course featured grass greens and two water holes. A clubhouse was set up near the road entrance from the highway, on the right side after crossing Meadow Creek.
The Pinecrest golf club was very active with extra events. The first recorded hole-in-one was made by Roy Schmedel on June 30, 1930. John Perkins had two holes-in-one at the Pinecrest course in 1931, both on the ninth hole, a par 3 of 155 yards over water. In September of that year, Carl Juvrud defeated Dr. Clapfin, two up in a 36-hole club championship, all holes played in one day. The match created a great deal of excitement with a large following of the club members.
On June 25, 1936, the clubhouse burned as a fire started when the cook threw a bucket of water on a grease fire in the kitchen. Activity at the Pinecrest golf course subsided soon after that incident.
On October 19, 1933, a small notice appeared in the Clark County Press stating that Mr. F. J. Baer had purchased 60 acres of land from Henry Markwardt for the purpose of building a golf course.
The Marquardt property adjoined the Neillsville City limits. Apparently, as Baer looked at that farmland, he envisioned it as being an ideal site for a golf course. The west side of the land bordered Schuster Park, with the length running parallel to Highway 10 on the south side, very accessible to the public. The contour of the land was rolling, enabling the possibilities of having some challenging holes for golfing.
Baer was born on November 4, 1879 and came to America in 1900. He was a professional printer and worked with his trade in this area. In 1903, he married Charlotte “Lottie” Stockwell of Neillsville. In 1904, Baer purchased the Granton newspaper, operating it as editor and published until 1921. After leaving the Granton newspaper, he joined forces with the Neillsville Press, being co-owner and editor until he sold his interest in 1932 to Wallace Ferrand. Baer created some excitement at the 1932 Clark County Fair when he raced his car with an airplane around the fairground track. Owner of a bright yellow Cord automobile, a star of the auto industry, Baer won the two-lap race competing with the airplane.
The 60-acre land sale of the Markwardt farm land to Baer was finalized on November 24, 1933. Some of the work had started in preparing the ground for a golf course, early that fall, before the land sale was finalized.
Baer announced the golf course would be named Hawthorne Hills. One of the stipulations in the land sale was that any of the land owned by Markwardt, bordering the golf course, must be made available to playing golfers who could cross over the line fence to retrieve their out-of-bounds golf balls.
Starting the venture of building a golf course in the 1930’s during the Depression and drought, took a lot of courage.
A great deal of work was done over the winter months in preparing the ground for the course. The greens were built and seeded by hand through the efforts of John Perkins, his Ag. Class kids and many local people. A horse-drawn water wagon was pulled from green to green so the newly seeded greens could be watered.
Other teams pulled the manually controlled slushers, moving soil for filling in holes and ditches. During this time, all incurred expenses were being paid by Baer.
The former farmland needed a tremendous amount of work in transforming it into a golf course. In the spring, the course was seeded and dragged, the final preparation for a golf course. Then, a spring rain came through and dumped 5 to 7 inches of rain over the area. The newly worked and seeded soil was washed away, not only the greens but also many of the fairways were destroyed. A wide gully developed down the hill off number 1 green, deep enough to bury a car in it. All of the other fairways had deep depressions or gully washouts also.
Once again, the soil had to be re-tilled, areas filled in and fairways re-seeded. That summer’s hot dry windy weather hampered the grasses growth and it had to be re-seeded in August. Baer was spending a lot of money with no return on his investment.
At the August open house of the golf course, the visitors were shown the completed holes. Five of the holes were playable, to some degree. During this time, the Pinecrest golf course continued to be the course to play in the area. At that time it was referred to as the Riverside Club.
Hyssen, a Marshfield pro, was at the new course almost every day to over-see the groundwork. Zaeske, a local insurance agent, Roy Schmedel, manager of the Condensery and a crew of men from the Condensery, gave a great deal of their time in moving fairly large trees from the Cornelius lot on the corner of Oak and Second Street to be transplanted on the course. This was all grub work, done by using teams of horses and log chains, loading the trees onto wagons and then moving them to the course. A note appeared, after a period of time, in the Press stating that only one of those transplanted trees had died.
In late August, after the course’s open house, the newly seeded fairways had burned out due to lack of rain, and the course was closed.
By this time, Baer needed more money to keep the course going and he tried to hang on to the business over the winter. In the spring of 1935, he tried to mortgage the Baer home to get more money in operating the course, but his wife, Lottie, refused to let him do that. Baer notified the Neillsville Bank that he would make no further payments on his note for $5,300. On July 1, 1935, the Hawthorne Hills Golf Course became the property of the Neillsville Bank.
The Neillsville Bank made an effort to keep the new golf course in business. A loan officer of the bank, Carl Juvrud, arranged hiring an Eau Claire golf course employee, Art Tangen. Tangen was the overseer in repairing the course grounds.
Years later, Tangen related some of his experiences in coming to Neillsville after he accepted the job. “Juvrud had a room for me at the Merchants Hotel where I would stay. The next day, after arriving, I saw the golf course. What a mess! The fairways were rough and the roughs were rougher. The grass on the greens was 6 to 8 inches high and full of swamp grass. There was about 1,000 yards of washout that needed to be replaced and seeded. Frank Johnson and his wife, who had no previous experience in such management, attempted to run the club house and course for the Neillsville Bank, doing well to keep it going.”
Tangen was paid $18 per week and had room and board at the Johnson home.
A group of WPA workers, who were working at Schuster Park, assisted with repairing the course grounds. Being able to obtain a 4-wheel trailer, Tangen’s crew hauled in up to 16 loads of soil per day to fill in the washed out areas. Finding a sod cutter, they began to lay sod, cutting strips of it from the higher ground on the sixth and third fairways. Strips of sod with spaces for new seeding in between were placed across the fairways, in hopes that the new seeding would fill in. The course began to take shape. The Neillsville Bank purchased a fairway mower, enabling the course to be mowed in a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.
A two-room summer cabin was moved onto the course, set up on piers to be used for a clubhouse. Golfers used the toilet facilities in Schuster Park.
On May 9, 1936, it was announced that there would be an official opening of the golf course on May 12 and the public was invited. The course became active at once and many events were again scheduled with other golf course members in the area. A roster of players showed that many were the same ones that had been members at the Riverside course. The new golf course was now in beautiful playing condition.
On July 2, 1936, a notice appeared in the Press that Joe Baer had hanged himself. He was apparently despondent over his failure to be able to obtain funds for completing the new golf course while it was under his ownership.
The golf course was owned and operated by the Neillsville Bank from July 1, 1935 to June 14, 1937.
In March of 1937, it was announced that Bill Campman was heading a group to keep the golf course going. He suggested an incorporation of $10,000, issuing 100 shares for $100 each. Dues would be $25 for family and $10 for single member-ships. On May 25, 1937, the Neillsville Country Club was again incorporated. The corporation papers were signed by Bill Campman, George Zimmerman, Roy Schmedel and Carl Juvrud. The course, as we know it today, was underway.
On June 14, 1937, the mortgage on the land was taken over from the Neillsville Bank for $5,300. The papers were signed for by four local families.
The involved group of people were able to sell 35 shares initially, but needed more money to buy out Mrs. Baer, who was asking $4,000 for her interest, plus assuming her debts of $500 which could have been the involved interest on the unpaid note at the bank. In early July, members Bill Campman, Everett Skroch and Mr. Walsh went to the Neillsville City Council and asked for a donation of $500 to give them the funds needed to pay off Mrs. Baer. In return for this donation, which they asked be considered an investment in the future of Neillsville, they would agree to let all the children in the area play golf every morning, six days a week, without charge. A special council meeting was called, but their request was withdrawn. The men needed to sell more stock and Roy Schmedel was able to do that.
The official opening of the golf course, under new management and its new name was held on July 15, 1937. Art Tangen continued as its golf pro and manager. A very busy summer was recorded with many scheduled events. A caddie tournament was held, being won by Darwin Graves.
On February 24, 1938, the first country club stockholders’ meeting was held. Skroch reported that Lottie Baer had been paid as well as all other bills to that date and there was a balance of $23 on hand.
In 1941, it was discovered that the area then occupied by the machine sheds was not part of the land purchased from Markwardt. An amount of $200 was paid to R. Thomas, the owner, for approximately four acres that were added to the course.
A liquor license for the country club was purchased for the amount of $5,000 from Sparky’s Bar in the 1950’s. Previous to that time, a club license was purchased for six months at a time.
There are some other notes of interest in the history of the golf course.
The first ladies’ meeting was held on April 21, 1938. There were 19 members present. The first order of business on that day was to designate every Thursday to be considered “Ladies Day” for golfing. Some of the ladies contributions to the internal operations of the club were to organize the Saturday night potlucks, Sunday outings, cleaning the entire clubhouse, buying new equipment for the kitchen as well as other duties.
At an August 1949 meeting, the ladies voted to comply with the Marshfield ladies’ request to join the Neillsville ladies on their Thursday golf day. They offered to bring their own sandwiches. The Neillsville ladies voted to furnish dessert for everyone.
Not only was the ladies organization an active group, but at times it became a very vocal group. At one of their meetings, the club secretary closed the minutes with: “The meeting just ended because you couldn’t hear anything anyway.”
When the course property was purchased, there was a fruit orchard located between 5th and 7th tee-offs. Now, years later, a few of those fruit trees still remain and still bear fruit.
There have been references made to an active spring that was located south of the ladies 4th tee-off in the course’s early days. As one Press article noted, “The tastiest drink of water around can be found at the golf course spring that is near the ladies’ number 4-tee-off.
The sport of golf has been around Clark County for many years. A golf enthusiast can play the game throughout his lifetime.
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