A BRIEF HISTORY OF GOLF COURSES IN THE MIAMI VALLEY
Golf has always been popular in the Dayton area, due in part to the number of private and public courses available to play. This updated history of Dayton’s golf courses is from an article written by Bucky Albers, long time golf writer for the Dayton Daily News for the Miami Valley Golf Association and is reprinted here with MVGA’s permission.
The legendary John H. Patterson, founder of the National Cash Register Company, laid out six holes on the lawn of his south Dayton property in the early 1890s, but the Valley's first golf club was formed in 1896 at Piqua in the same location where Piqua Country Club stands today. The Dayton Golf Club, later renamed Dayton Country Club, followed in 1897 and Springfield Country Club was formed in 1898. Those two clubs were in different locations from where they are today. Although it required horses and scoop shovels to shape golf courses in those days, 21 Miami Valley courses were constructed in the first three decades of the 20th century. Many of them had difficulty remaining solvent during the Great Depression, and it wasn't until long after World War II that golf course construction got into high gear.
Seventeen courses were added to the Miami Valley landscape in the 1960s and nine were built in the 1970s. Only three joined the ranks in the 1980s, but construction activity increased dramatically in the 1990s when 10 were built. Based on the number of prestigious tournaments played on Dayton area golf courses in the past century, there is little doubt that the Miami Valley has some challenging championship facilities.
Community Golf Course was the first to attract national attention when it was the scene of the 1924 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. Miami Valley Golf Club held the Western Open in 1931, and NCR Country Club hosted the U.S. Senior Open Championship in 2005.
PGA Championships were played at Moraine Country Club in 1945, Miami Valley Golf Club in 1957 and NCR Country Club in 1969, making Dayton the only city to stage the PGA on three different courses. NCR Country Club also hosted the 1986 U.S. Women's Open and the 1998 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
Country Club of the North has been home to a Ladies Professional Golf Association tour event annually between 1994 and 1999, and the Buy.Com (formerly Hogan and Nike) Tour has held a tournament at Heatherwoode (1993-1998) in Springboro and Yankee Trace (1999-2003) in Centerville.
The Ohio Amateur has been held numerous times in the Miami Valley with Miami Valley, NCR, Moraine, Dayton Country Club, Springfield Country Club and Shaker Run all hosting the event.
Golf was brought to the Miami Valley by residents who were introduced to the game when they traveled to the eastern United States and to Europe. Some purchased golf clubs and brought them home. Having no golf balls or golf courses, they first amused themselves by striking objects such as corn cobs.
It was in 1896 that a group of Piqua sportsmen put in a few golf holes at a picnic ground east of town known as Kelley's Grove. One of the men was Stanhope Boal, whose family operated the Favorite Stove & Range Company. Legend has it that Boal, who had never played golf, knocked the ball into the hole with his first swing and proclaimed, "This game is too easy." In 1920, the organization became known as Piqua Country Club. Additional land was purchased and the renowned golf architect, Donald Ross, was hired to design a nine-hole course. A new clubhouse opened in the summer of 1921, but a week later it was destroyed by fire. Undaunted, the Piqua group rebuilt the clubhouse and hired its first golf pro.
Meanwhile, the Dayton and Springfield country clubs had evolved in similar fashion. In 1908, the Dayton Golf Club group purchased a 100-acre tract in Oakwood that had been occupied by a winery and established itself as Dayton Country Club. A clubhouse was built in 1910 and it, too, would be damaged by fire, in 1929.
In Springfield, a nine-hole course, with sand greens, was built about a mile from the center of the city. It was used until 1906 when members desiring grass greens and an 18-hole course formed the present Springfield Country Club. A new 18-hole course, also designed by Donald Ross (for a fee of $5,000), opened in 1922, but in May of that year the clubhouse burned and it was two years before it was rebuilt.
By that time some new courses had sprung up. The nine-hole Moose course was built in Sidney in 1914, and the Crawford, McGregor & Canby Company built its nine-hole MacGregor Golf Club east of Dayton in 1916.
In 1919, a nine-hole golf course was built on land donated to the City of Dayton by John H. Patterson.
This course, which came to be known as Community Golf Course, was the first municipal facility in Dayton. Within five years it was expanded to 36 holes.
Dayton's Miami Valley Golf Club also was dedicated in 1919. It was a gift of a wealthy couple, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Kidder, who got the idea for a course while driving out Salem Avenue in the fall of 1913 - after the great flood. In 1915 they hired Donald Ross to design an 18-hole course, which was completed in time for a grand opening on June 3, 1919.
Maimi Valley would host the Western Open in 1931, the Ohio Amateur in 1927, 1939, 1948, 1981, and 1996 and the Ohio Open in 1928, 1939, 1947 and 1952. One of its members, Bob Servis, would win the Ohio Amateur a record of five times.
In the 1920s, courses were built in Franklin, Eaton, Greenville, Bellefontaine, Urbana, Middletown, Wright Field (air force base), Troy, New Vienna, Springfield (Snyder Park) and Xenia. Dayton added two.
A group of 35 businessman formed Meadowbrook Country Club northwest of Dayton in 1935 and asked Alex "Nipper" Campbell to design a nine- hole course. The club had some tough times during the Depression but it rebounded in 1952 with the expansion to 18 holes and the installation of a swimming pool.
Another new Dayton course was the city-owned Fairmount, built in 1929 on 196 acres in southwest Dayton purchased as part of a sewage disposal development. Zone regulations required open land around the disposal plant, so the land was used for a golf course. It was designed by Campbell and renamed Madden in honor of William E. Madden, the superintendent of parks who supervised its construction.
The most notable of Campbell's many Miami Valley golf course designs, Moraine Country Club, would open in 1930. Moraine was the brainchild of Col. Edward A. Deeds, who owned the land. In 1927, Deeds met with several influential Daytonians, including Charles F. Kettering, Frederick H. Rike and Gov. James M. Cox. His idea was received enthusiastically.
Campbell, a native of Scotland who already was working as a golf pro in Dayton, was hired to design a course. He built a superb links-type course that was playable in 1930. The club struggled through the Depression and World War II, offering $5 monthly memberships to military personnel at Wright Field and Patterson Field during the war.
In 1945, Moraine would host the PGA championship on very short notice. In April of that year, golfer Jimmy Hines, a member of the PGA executive committee, was looking for a tournament site. He contacted Toney Penna, who worked for McGregor Golf in Dayton. Penna called Chick Allyn, chairman of NCR and president of Moraine, who made the deal to host the match play event four months later. Byron Nelson won it.
In the years between 1930 and 1960, only a handful of courses were built. They included Walnut Grove (originally known as Greenmont), Miamisburg's Mound course, Troy's Miami Shores, Piqua's Echo Hills and White Springs at Greenville. An additional nine holes were built at Wright-Patterson (now Prairie Trace).
The best of the facilities that emerged in the 1950s was NCR Country Club where Dick Wilson designed two excellent 18-hole courses, known as the North and South, for the use of NCR employees. The South course, in particular, has received high praise, regularly ranking among the top 100 U.S. courses picked by the national golf magazines.
There was a flurry of construction in the 1960s, Jack Ortman, who had been golf pro at the Dayton Country Club, was hired to design Sycamore Creek Country Club in Warren County and be its golf pro.
Sycamore Creek opened 1960 - the same year Greene Country Club was built east of Fairborn.
The City of Dayton, which had expanded Community Golf Course to 36 holes, added a third facility in 1961 when it built Kittyhawk Golf Center over a north-Dayton well field. Kittyhawk opened with two 18-hole courses, the Hawk and the Kitty, and would add a third course, the Eagle, four years later.
River Bend, a privately-owned public facility, was completed at West Carrollton in 1962 - the same year former NCR Country Club pro Jim Rudolph was involved in the construction of Holly Hills at Waynesville.
Twin Base, a course for civilian personnel at Wright-Patterson, came on line in 1963, and Springfield opened its 36-hole Reid Park municipal facility in 1964.
Sugar Valley Country Club greeted golfers for the first time in 1968, and the state of Ohio opened its fine course at Hueston Woods State Park in 1969. Three years later the City of Middletown drew rave reviews with its Arthur Hills designed Weatherwax course, and Vandalia got into the act with the introduction of Cassel Hills in 1974.
Hills was the architect for another jewel in 1979 when he completed the highly-acclaimed Shaker Run Golf Course, near Lebanon, for the Armco Steel Corporation. Shaker Run, built around a 15-acre lake, would go public in 1994.
Not every golf venture was successful. Early in the 1970s a group of Dayton businessmen purchased land and formed Larch Tree Country Club near Trotwood. It was to be a club for average working people, but its financial structure was ill-conceived and it never prospered. The golf course opened in June 1973, but by 1980 the country club had drowned in red ink.
Larch Tree's golf course, designed by Jack Kidwell was leased by the mortgage holder to Montgomery County and operated as a public course for five years before it was purchased by a private owner. Larch Tree remains a popular public course.
Four suburban communities - Springboro, Miamisburg, Centerville and Beavercreek - built high-end, daily fee courses in the 1990s. Springboro's Heatherwoode course (Denis Griffiths) opened in 1991, Miamisburg's PipeStone (Arthur Hills) was playable in 1992, Centerville's Yankee Trace (Gene Bates) greeted golfers in 1995 and the Beavercreek Golf Club came on line in 1997 with a course endorsed by Fuzzy Zoeller.
Arriving amidst them was Country Club of the North, the area's first new country club in 25 years. Jack Nicklaus designed CCN's championship course, which opened in 1993 and began hosting an LPGA event a year later.
One more outstanding course joined the roll before the 1990s ended. Moss Creek, designed by Dennis Griffiths in concert with Chi Chi Rodriguez, was built on a former cattle farm near Clayton, northwest of Dayton.
It's been a bountiful century for Miami Valley residents who have golf among their passions. Regardless of their skill level or appetite for ambiance along with the game, this area has it all.
Bobby Jones Dayton Golf Exhibition
Contributed by Thomas Gillaugh
On August 29, 1931, “Bobby” Jones played an exhibition golf match at Miami Valley Golf Club in Dayton, Ohio. The match was a fundraiser for Miami Valley Hospital of Dayton.
Jones was paired in a four ball match with Jim Noble (Miami Valley Golf Club pro) against Jock Collins pro at Dayton Country Club and Steve Zappe pro at Springfield Country Club. Jones shot 74, and he and Noble lost the match 1 up.
The next day (Aug. 30, 1931) Jones played 9 holes at Moraine Country Club and was under par (34). Playing companions were Moraine pro, Alex Campbell, James M. Cox, Jr. (son of the former governor of Ohio) and E. S. Reynolds, Jr.
I attended the match with my father (I was 7 years old) and can remember asking Jones for his autograph on the 10th tee, now #1.