Stowe CC History
Stowe Country Club History - 1948 to 2006Compiled By
Lynn P. Altadonna
Authors Note: This document is a work in progress. Several pictures are temporary. An update is planned to be produced in June 2006. The complete document with the references will be on file with the Stowe Historical Society. Should the Reader have information to share, please contact Lynn Altadonna at 802 253-9006 or mailto:email@example.com?subject=SCC History. To download a PDF version of "The History of Golf in Stowe", click here.
For 150 years, Vermont’s Green Mountains attracted summer visitors to hike in the natural beauty of the mountains or relax on a broad hotel veranda. In those early days, Stowe, with the gift of lofty Mount Mansfield, hosted summer travelers in the village hotels or in the 1858 Summit House on the mountain. In the 1930s, Austrians (Sepp Ruschp, Frank Springer-Miller, the Family Von Trapp) came to Stowe, bringing a winter sports tradition and an enthusiasm for the outdoors. The Civilian Conservation Corps cut the first ski trails on the mountain. Skiing quickly became a glamour winter sport, drawing high-energy people from around the world to enjoy the “Ski Capital of the East”. The hospitality business in Stowe expanded to provide accommodations and comforts for these winter visitors.
This document is an initial attempt to capture the history of golf in Stowe. The original will be on file with the Stowe Historical Society. As more information becomes available, the document and file will be changed to include the new material. Should the reader have information to share, please contact Lynn P. Altadonna (802) 253-9006
Many people have provided materials, contacts and verbal descriptions that are the basis of this document. I thank all of them.
|Ken Burlinson||Gordon Lowe|
|Clem Curtis||Addie Mahoney|
|Ann Curtis||Josh Nicholls|
|Shamus Daly||Paige Savage|
|Peter Dresser||Ken Savela|
|Chooch Fay||Ann Savela|
|John Flint||Terry Smith|
|Patty Foltz||Lee Spencer|
|Tom Jackman||Ken Stone|
|Bill Johnstone||Stowe Country Club|
|Bill Kelk||Stowe Historical Society|
|Frank Lamphier||Ted Teffner|
|Mike Lemaire||John Van Blarcom|
|Teresa Laliberte Lowe||Sherry Wilson|
The Origin of Stowe Country Club
In the early winter of 1950, Chuck Savage and Ken Hoyt, along with eight others, met in Logwood’s Jug Room to discuss the need for a summer activity to complement their winter business. (Today, the Logwood is named the Winding Brook on Edson Hill Road.) Ken Hoyt was the first to build and run a ski lodge in Stowe – about 1936. The group agreed to build a 9-hole course in Stowe, to be called the Stowe Country Club. Shares in the Stowe Country Club, Inc. were offered at $25 each and included the first year’s membership dues. The investment to build the course was projected at $20,000. (Ref 1, 2)
By Spring 1950, the organizers, chaired by Chuck Savage, included Ken Hoyt, Charlie Blauvelt, Hans Lippanovich, Irv Jaquith, Arthur Dana, John Flint, Ken Sparks, Gale Shaw, Cecil Lange, Bevis Coulson, John Black and Sepp Ruschp. In the first report to the Stockholders of Stowe Country Club, the committee reported the progress on May 12, 1950 (Ref 1, 2.):
- The Committee purchased the Wade Farm on Cape Cod Road from Wm T. Watt and Priscilla S. Watt for $7000. According to Stowe Land Records, (Reference 3), the deed was “subject to rights of Town of Stowe to enter on said premises and remove dirt and gravel....“ The farm included about 75 acres, one large barn, one small barn and a house. Two acres and the house and barn were mortgaged to the Lamoille Bank for $3500 and put up for sale. Roger Page, the first Superintendent purchased the property for $4500 and lived there. The large barn was used for course maintenance equipment, tools and fertilizer.
- The Committee leased land between the Mountain Road and the West Branch for $1 a year for 40 years from theStowe Center, built in 1948 by John Flint and Holmes Welch. The land would be used to locate the 1st and 9th holes. The Center provided locker facilities for the first year and agreed to allow the club to build a clubhouse at a later date.
- The Committee hired Walter Barcom of Mallets Bay to design the course. The layout was the main event at a meeting in the Round Hearth on May 15th. Walter was the Superintendent at Burlington Country Club and supervised the construction during the spring and summer of 1950. The Burlington CC generously loaned their heavy roller for the construction. In addition, SCC purchased maintenance equipment and seed for $2375, under budget by $275.
- The Committee hired Paul Bigelow of Waterbury and his bulldozer to work on the course construction. The rate was set at $6 an hour. Several Stowe men offered to help in the construction in exchange for stock in the Club.
The construction effort was well underway in June 1950. Chairman, Chuck Savage, mounted an appeal for investors with a letter dated June 17th. (Ref 4.) The letter highlights the $11,000 raised and only $4400 needed to finish the course that was two-thirds complete. “The sod greens will make play possible this summer. NOW IS TIME TO HELP,” he wrote! And the course was finished in summer 1950.
In 1951, the first full season for Stowe Country Club, Cecil C. Lange, Secretary, published an accounting to the Stockholders who met at the Stowe Center April 15th. (Ref 5.) The Club had assets of $14,207.65. Life was good. Membership dues were $10; initiation fee, $5; Jr. membership, $5. Ken Hoyt was the treasurer. (Ref 6.)
The photographs below reveal the history of the land and give hints to the location of the original nine hole course.
The scorecard, a few photographs and an aerial photo showing the layout give comprehensive overview of those nine holes. Between the first green and the second tee, golfers walked across the West Branch on a rope suspension bridge built by Charlie Lord. Note that motorized carts were not used at that time. The maintenance crew drove the tractor across a shallow section of the river that ran along side the bridge, according to Frank Lamphier. Shamus Daly shares that recollection. Both men worked and played on the course before Stowe Country Club was expanded to 18-holes in 1962.
Gordon Lowe provided this scorecard, which records his 1957 match against Chuck Savage. The card now functions as a Rosetta Stone used to estimate the location of the original 9 holes.
The following photographs reveal the history of the land and give hints to the location of the first and ninth holes. The first of two postcards loaned by Michael Lemaire shows the “Demeritt Farm (ca 1915). Now the site of the Grey Fox Inn on the Mountain Road, this farm was the Luke J. Town homestead in 1878. It was bought by Warren J. Demeritt in 1899 and his family lived here until 1924 when the property was sold to Clarence and Hazel Bennett. The utility poles indicate that this photograph was taken after 1911. Photographer: A. H. Cheney. 1st edition 88 shs 8”. In 1948, the Stowe Center was built just west of the farmhouse. Note the flat fields where the 1st and 9th holes were located. The tree line along the edge of the fields marks the West Branch River boundary.
The second postcard was taken from the first tee toward the first green, 190 yards away. The 9th hole is on the right. The tree line is along the edge of the river as noted in the previous photo description.
The third photo was published in the August 1956 Mount Mansfield Ski Club Newsletter. That’s Chuck Savage teeing off from the 9th tee toward the clubhouse. Note the white house, the ‘Demeritt farmhouse’, at the left of the Stowe Center. Shamus Daly believes he can name the other golfers, but I forget.
In the References, Ref 8, is an aerial view of Stowe Country Club taken about 2003. The location of the original 9-Hole course is sketched on the photo. Frank Lamphier and Shamus Daly provided from their memories, useful information to locate the original 9-hole layout. The scorecard provided the length of each hole. The topography was changed when the 18-hole course was built in 1962, making some of the locations difficult to pinpoint. Frank recalled that 3 of the current green locations are the same as those on the original course. Current green #16 was #6 on the original course. Today’s #12 was the former #7 and our #13 was old #8. Only green #16 is exactly the same putting surface. The other two greens, #7 and #8, were bulldozed and rebuilt.
Ferman Skelton was elected President of Stowe Country Club, Inc at the annual stockholder’s meeting at the Center on April 15, 1957. His May 1st letter to the stockholders (Ref 9) gives some insight into the growth of the club. First, Parker Perry, President in 1956, made “fine accomplishments and improvements.”
- Attesting to growing maturity as an organization, in addition to the Board of Directors, six committees were established – Greens, Tournament, Rules, Membership, Entertainment and Advertising.
- Membership Dues (same as in 56) included a hefty 20% federal tax! I recall a luxury tax when I was a kid and there is a luxury tax on the Monopoly game board. The dues: Individual - $30; Spouse, $21; Jr., $6. Pay Chuck Savage or Al Hucker at the Smugglers Shop.
- Green fees are $2 weekdays; $2.50 weekends and holidays.
- Jim Reynolds announced that he will build a Motel alongside the first tee. A committee will look at alternatives for moving the first tee and ninth green.
- Gale Shaw, Jr. will talk to the Selectmen about property lines and gravel rights in the river.
- Roger Page accepted the Greenskeeper position. Roger lived in the Watt farmhouse at the course.
In July 1957, Stowe Country Club, Inc. acquired just over 16 acres from Maevine G. Barrows, �������. . . subject to the restriction that premises are to be used . . . for golf course purposes only . . .”. The deed is available in Reference 10, Stowe Land Record Book 52 page 421-422. Also, in June 1957, a small members group formed Club Estates, Inc. and purchased the adjacent property known as the Laliberte Place. The deed, Reference 11, Stowe Land Records Book 50, page 308, shows Joseph A. and Marion A. Laliberte sold the property with the constraint that they could live in the house for five years. The deed lists nine people for Club Estates, Inc.:
Ferman G. Skelton, President
Arthur D. Dana, Jr.
J. N. Clarke
Arthur D. Dana, Jr.
J. N. Clarke
The Club continued into the 1960 season. A proposed plan reflects the growing prosperity in Vermont (Ref 12.) The plan suggested a Resident, Non-Resident and Lodge class and set an Initiation Fee in stock. The annual dues remained that same amount as back in 1956, however, a $.50 green fee was proposed for each round. There is no indication that the plan was accepted. Apparently that federal luxury tax was repealed.
At the end of October 1961, Stowe CC was clearly a very successful venture. The Club was a major social scene for Stowe residents and guests. The impact on the lodge and restaurant owners businesses is not recorded, but clearly, Stowe people enjoyed the Club.
Frank Lamphier constructed a partial list of club champions:
Stan Marc Wright
The long list of Stockholders in 1961 rivals the local phone book as the longest list of Stowe residents. Reference 13 is the entire list. There are 169 people and organizations owning stock. The Mountain Company held the most, 410 shares; Arthur Dana held the most as an individual, 101 shares. The total number was 1550 shares, impressive indeed for a ten-year run in a small village in Vermont. The Club was set for expansion.
Expansion to 18 Holes
In June 1961, two transactions are recorded in the Stowe Land Records dissolving the Stowe Country Club, Inc. and the Club Estates, Inc. and creating the Stowe Country Club Corporation. The deeds are in Reference 14. On June 7th, SCC, Inc. deeded their land holdings to SCC, Corp. consisting of the Wade Farm, a small pie-shaped parcel, the Barrows 16+ acres, the lease with Stowe Center and golf equipment and tools.
On June 9th, Club Estates, Inc. deeded the Laliberte Place to SCC, Corp. The SCC, Corp. is identified as the Mountain Company, represented by Sepp Ruschp.
In 1962, the Club invited Robert Trent Jones to review the land and propose the layout for an 18-hole golf course. Hearsay has it that Jones asked the Club for a million dollars to do the job. That amount was out of the question. William F. Mitchell was chosen to layout the new course. Mitchell designed many top quality courses in New England, Canada and Portugal. The other Vermont course he designed was Crown Point Country Club in Springfield
The Stowe 18-hole course was built in 1962 using the Mountain Company’s men and equipment, under Gordon Lowe’s supervision. The Mountain Company earned shares in the Club in exchange for the work. The green surfaces were Velvet Bent Grass sod bought from Kearsarge Valley CC in Sunapee, NH. Carson Moran, with Frank Lamphier’s able assistance, was in charge of laying the sod greens. The crew moved many trees from the woods to line the fairways. Blue Spruce trees were purchased. Everett Steel installed the water system. The tree-lined fairways we have today came along a little each year as the course superintendents added trees.
The new 18-hole course measured 6025 yards, carrying a par 72. The course design has stood the test of time. This is the same course we continue to play today at 6185 yards. This picture of the 10th green, looking back at the clubhouse, shows the young trees along the fairway and near the clubhouse. Who is this handsome couple?
With the 18-hole expansion, the new course needed a new clubhouse. The two holes on the south side of the river were not used in the new layout and Stowe Center was now a long distance from the course. The Laliberte Farmhouse was ideally situated to serve as the new facility. The Lalibertes had painted the brick veneer on the house white. Carson Moran took off the bricks and turned them around to show the red face. Larry Hess, the architect, designed the additions that resulted in the attractive, functional clubhouse that stands today. The photo (Ref 11) shows the clubhouse circa 1970.
Just a few years into the new club, about 1965, the Mountain Company offered to buy all the outstanding stock for twice the $25 value. The offer was accepted by the members. The club has retained the name, Stowe Country Club, for more than 50 years.
New Club Operations
The new course was ready to play for the 1963 golf season. Gordon Lowe served as the Superintendent with Bum Raymond having a key role in the maintenance responsibility.
Hiring a Club Pro was the crowning achievement in this great golf adventure. Stowe had the good fortune to have radio personality, Lowell Thomas, as a frequent guest. Thomas was a golfer of some note and had friends throughout the golf world. He tells about one amazing golf outing in a letter dated June 26, 1956. The course is Hammersley Hill Golf Club, Pawling NY. The foursome is Lowell Thomas, Ed Marrow, a Pat Hogan and Joe Kirkwood, with an untreated broken arm. Kirkwood shoots a 32 on the 9-hole course, one shot over the club record, with eagles on the first hole (par 4, 240 yards) and the ninth hole (par 7, 790 yards). Read the letter and scorecard, Reference 16. Thomas was instrumental in having Stowe Country Club hire the celebrity pro, Joe Kirkwood, Sr..
Peter Dresser tells this story meeting Joe for the first time at the Club. Joe was hitting trick shots from a spot near the clubhouse that could only have been performed by the famous shot master. Peter knew immediately that he was looking at the great Joe Kirkwood. There are several books written about Joe and the clubhouse has a substantial display of golf clubs, photos and memorabilia in the living room display case. Joe lived upstairs in the clubhouse with one of his three sons, Ron.
David Stackpole recalls Joe as a warm and delightful friend. David married Paige Savage and joined in the Family Savage enthusiasm for golf. (Chuck and Janet Savage are well remembered in Stowe golf lore.) “Joe always had a Sunday game with us. If you beat Joe’s score, he gave you a ball; lose and you bought him a ball. Joe played with just one club – a 4-iron”, David remembers. The match was played over just four holes – 1, 2, 8 and 9. These holes make a tidy loop out and back to the clubhouse. “Joe won way more than he lost. Everyone was very pleased when Joe decided to live in Stowe year-round. He was just so much fun to be with.” In the picture of Joe to the left, that may be a 4-iron he seems to be using for a chip shot.
Cancer took Joe Kirkwood in 1970. His grave is in the West Branch Cemetery near the corner of Mountain Road and Cottage Club Road, a par-5 distance from the clubhouse. The grave is marked with a large boulder with the following inscription carved below a crooked golf club:
Joe Kirkwood was followed by club professionals who each left a lasting contribution to Stowe Country Club. Each pro has his and her unique story that could serve as a future paper. Here are a few examples. Pro Larry Startzel holds the men’s course record, 63 dated April 25, 1974. Pro Eileen Kask was recognized in 2005 as a top Golf Instructor by the South Carolina PGA. David Bennett, 2004 - 2006, won the Vermont Amateur in 2000 and 2001. David is building a reputation as terrific instructor and introduced Stowe to Winter golf lessons, a program that has some 25 golfers playing inside this year. Dan Lehmann, previous Director of the Golf School, succeeded David in 2007. The following is the clubhouse plaque listing each pro and their years of service.