The year, 1902, had its share of memorable events. Teddy Roosevelt settled into the White House. The Wright Brothers successfully flew their glider 600 feet above Kitty Hawk, N.C. the Michigan Wolverines played in – and won – the first postseason bowl game history. The song on everyone’s mind was “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home.” And in Anderson, Ind., a group of residents gathered at the Doxey House hotel on a Sunday afternoon in May to lay plans for what would become a community tradition. As the Anderson Morning Herald promised, “Anderson will have a country club before another month passes…”
The idea of creating a golf club in Anderson originated two years earlier when five college students (Lew Fadley, George Forrey Jr., Herbert McMahan, Mark Ryan, and Chase Williams) used their ingenuity to turn a stretch of historic ground into a four-hole course. The land had served as a training camp during the Civil War, but more important to the young golfers on a budget, it belonged to George Forrey Sr., father of one of the boys. Using sickles, the friends cleared a portion of pasture, sunk cans in the greens for cups and left all maintenance to the grazing cows.
“I’m a country club man,” the senior Forrey assured the group assembled at the Doxey that Sunday afternoon. The notion of having a golf facility adjoin his farm was appealing, especially the kind of facility that the newspaper described in its Page 1 article: “There will be hammocks…in the grove and on the large veranda…A dance hall will be in the club house, and summer dances will occur every few nights.”
Anderson Country Club circa 1908
The compound that materialized closely matched the vision set forth at the organizational meeting. The clubhouse contained an L-shaped room, a kitchen and storage area. Lockers were situated on the lower level and an open porch wrapped around three sides of the building’s exterior. A windmill provided water for the nine-hole golf course, and a carriage shed accommodated the buggies of early members. The club was outside the city limits, and its isolation presented a dilemma for families without automobiles. (As late as 1910, the county had only 200 registered car owners.) Bud Bing was the first member to buy a car: a single-cylinder, side-cranking 1903 Oldsmobile.
“For the convenience of ‘non-car’ members, the club provided a horse-drawn six-passenger buggy that met the Third Street streetcar at Madison Avenue and transported them to and from the club, “recalls George Hitz Jr., whose father drove a Model T and delivered young George daily to the golf course for his caddy duties.
The club “season” in the early years stretched from mid-April to the end of October. Later, activities extended to Dec. 31, with New Year’s Eve as the grand finale. To brighten the winter months and to bolster the club treasury, a “winter club” committee hosted parties in downtown Anderson at a facility on Ninth Street. Members bought subscriptions to the elegant dances, and the dress code was strictly black tie. Women would arrive in high-button shoes, long capes and large hats. They would be on the arms of men in striped trousers, cut-away coats and patent-leather shoes. These offsite parties, as many as six a year during the stylish flapper era, were so successful that they helped purchase equipment for the club as it expanded into a multi-building compound on the bluff overlooking Madison Avenue.
By 1928, ACC was operating on an annual budget of $13,550. Growth was on everyone’s mind. Estimates put the cost of a new clubhouse at $50,000; the addition of nine holes to the golf course boosted the price to $80,000. Members sharpened their pencils and figured that by recruiting 100 new families, they would have funds to complete the project by 1930.
But the Great Depression quashed the club’s plans and taxed its creativity. Instead of adding acreage, the board faced the possibility of selling land to meet financial obligations. Discussions centered on ways to trim costs and generate income. Some decisions were difficult – reducing fire insurance coverage – and some were easy – applying for a beer permit. The times were right to cut deals and even to barter. A member who supplied the club with coal negotiated an agreement whereby the price of the coal was credited against his annual dues.
The need to update the facility became obvious in May 1931 when a fire broke out in the ballroom before guests arrived for the season’s opening party. Golf pro Bob Tinder organized volunteers into two groups, the first to toss water on the blaze, the second to save the golf and tennis equipment. Damage totaled $1,000, and the party went on as planned.
A sign that the economy was rebounding came when the club experienced a bounce in membership. Later, one of the club’s most respected members donated a slot machine to the pro shop. “One machine grew into several and that translated into prosperity,” jokes Dorothy Shine. Cool heads and legal minds prevailed. The board ordered Bob Tinder to remove the offensive slots from the premises. The retreat was slow. The machines first found their way to a storage shed before they were banished from the grounds entirely.
Encouraged that the tough times were past, the board dusted off plans to expand the golf course and then revived the total construction package. The new white-frame facility had a colonial theme with six columns in front. President Ward Stilson recruited a committee to guide the decorating efforts and included women among his appointees. The task of choosing the color for the lockers was left to the men. They opted for green, of course.
The grand opening of the new club, set for Dec. 11, 1937, attracted 335 guests who gladly paid $1.25 each to attend the formal dinner-dance. The social year then ended, not to resume until spring when a gala celebration kicked off the golfing season.
“The dining room decorations consisted of canary birds in cages, loaned for the occasion by members,” wrote Mrs. L.K. Bing of that spring’s opening dance. “Paper flowers wound on long hat pins, made weeks ahead by the women members, decorated the dining tables.” For one card party, board president Harry Brelsford donated a lot on Brown Street as a prize.
Members dreamed of adding a swimming pool and upgrading the pro shop. As funds became available, the board worked through a communal wish list. Depending on the project, members passed the hat, agreed to an assessment or accepted a dues hike. In later years they contributed books of trading stamps for mass redemption.
In the 1940’s, a card room was the priority. Until then, card players gathered in the pro shop that had no heat or ventilation. The board converted the old pro shop to a men’s lounge and built a new pro shop and caddy house. The pool became a reality in 1952, in time for the club’s Golden Jubilee. It was the site of several summer parties that marked the 50-year anniversary and was especially popular with the growing ranks of Small-Fry (tots through first grade), Young-Fry (grades 4-6), and Hi-Fry (grades 7-9).
Any addition or renovation was reason to celebrate, a tradition that continues today. Hugh Dotson recalls the satisfaction when, during his term as president (1978), the board lit the tennis courts. J.B. Bachman cites the highlight of his year (1981) as “the ribbon-cutting for the pool addition, tennis locker room and pro office.”
Changes in the club’s appearance occasionally tested the board’s peace-making skills. This was true in the 1990s as well as the 1960s and 1930s. “The decision to remodel wasn’t difficult because the clubhouse had become tired,” admits Dan Crishon, board president in 1994. “Deciding what to do an dhow much to spend was the tough part.” As always, members pitched in whenever a project bogged down. “Leland Symonds spent almost every waking hour at the club during construction,” says Dan. During the decorating phase, Ron McNabney negotiated with suppliers when the draperies arrived too long for the windows and the carpet failed to arrive at all.
If renovation and decoration have been ongoing challenges, so have the recruitment and retention of a first-rate staff. In the early years, the board could offer the club manager only $100 a month. Golf professionals drew smaller salaries, and the result was constant turnover. At least two golf professionals – Fred Bell and George Soutar Jr. – boasted ties to the legendary links of Scotland. Soutar “had a brogue so thick that you could only guess what he was saying,” recalls George Hitz Jr.
Continuity on the golf course arrived with Floyd Wilson as greens superintendent and Ray Jones as golf professional. Floyd and his bride spent their honeymoon at the new club before it opened in 1938. He oversaw the greens for 24 years (1938-42, 1952-72), and people credit him with making the course among the best in the state.
Ray served as golf professional for 35 years, retiring with a festive party in 1984. “Easy-going Ray kept the golfing operations running smoothly,” notes John Dickmann, board president in 1972. “Nothing ever seemed to ruffle his feathers.” Celebrity golfers gave the course high marks, including ACC’s own Joe Campbell, who won the Indiana Open at age 19 and went on to earn the PGA’s “Rookie of the Year” honors for 1959.
Tournaments at the club were frequent and fun. Sponsors of the competitions included several area businesses that no longer have a presence in Anderson: Hoyt Wright, Inc.; Anderson Banking Co.; Container Corporation of America; Kaufman Hardware and Anaconda Wire and Cable, Inc.
The departure of familiar companies from the local economy inevitably prompted the transfer of some club members. Career opportunities and retirements caused others to move on. Members contemplating relocation admit that the club was, and is, a factor in their hesitancy to leave. “One of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make was to move,” says Dan Crishon, now of Midland, Mich. “It was the right thing to do for my career, but to this day, I miss the Anderson Country Club and the good friends who are still there.
Adds John Dickmann, now of Syracuse, Ind.: “Since retiring, I have had a chance to play many different courses, and ACC would be at the top of my list.”
A century after its launch, Anderson Country Club continues to enjoy a growing reputation, in part due to members who carry the ACC story with them wherever they go. “At my present club in Naples (Fla.), we have on display the wooden crests of other clubs that the members have belonged to in the past, “writes Larry Salzman, club president in 1985. “Anderson’s Indian head is right up there with Augusta National, Winged Foot, Pine Valley and other great clubs from around the world.”
After 100 years, Anderson Country Club has earned its place in history.