Vanishing Country Clubs Need Photographic Record

You can expect to see a lot more of this: Michigan’s Bay City Country Club faces foreclosure.

I wonder if Country Clubs are, by and large, a thing of the past. I hope someone gets a good photographic record of these courses before they disappear.

I grew up in Southern Maryland, along Route 301, which ran down through Prince Georges’ to St. Charles County to Waldorf. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, driving down 301 was like heading to another world. It was really country then, and was a good place for an outing—Dr. Mudd’s (of Lincoln Assassination fame) house is down there, as is Cedarville State Park, where we would fish. Alongside the road were African American families selling bar-b-que out of huge oil drum smokers; other sold live crabs they had caught by the bushel. Once in a while we would stop, and buy a dinner, and it struck me how they packed the food in grocery bags, along with a loaf of day old bread. There also were the most curious buildings—one shaped like an Indian Tepee, another like a boot, and all with neon lights, which I loved. I later learned that Waldorf was a gambling mecca, and that the buildings were slot machine casinos until 1968. There was a country fair and antique show where my Grandmother bought me an antique tin toy typewriter. You could see tobacco barns, and houses that I am sure extended back to the days of slavery, little more than huts in a row, elevated on wooden piles. I camped out in Southern Maryland with the Boy Scouts, and we heard tales of the creatures that lived in the surrounding swamps like the Goat Man, and the Bunny Man and the Maryland Swamp Monster.

They’re all gone now. When last I traveled there, it was nonstop strip malls and ticky-tacky houses, with no sign of the Wigwam or any other casinos. There was no one selling crabs and bar-b-que on the roadside. The slave houses were gone, and I assume the swamps and monsters were too.

I regret now not getting photographs of it all. I liked taking photos even in those days—I had a little instamatic as a kid and later as a teenager, a 35mm and if I’d had a little more wisdom, I would have recorded it for posterity. And that’s what the members of these vanishing clubs need to do—to make sure it’s all on record before it’s gone forever. The big clubs—Winged Foot and so on—no doubt have all the photographic evidence they need; they aren’t going away at any rate. It’s the smaller ones—that served small and mid sized towns that few outside state borders have heard of that need to make sure their history is in order.

5 thoughts on “Vanishing Country Clubs Need Photographic Record”

  1. This is such a good post. I feel the same way. I miss the vanished independent businesses. The funny road signs, distinctive buildings and rural stands.

    Country Clubs probably will vanish. And we should urge people to make photographic records of them. Now that there’s digital and all sorts of photo management applications it should be easier.

  2. You are so right. It is really terrible to see the demise of a golf course. They each have their own magical qualities no matter the size or magnitude of their popularity. I’m afraid that people won’t realize what they’re missing until it is gone. Paving paradise to put up a parking lot…

  3. On my way to the in-laws, I pass by a subdivision that formerly was a relatively low-rent executive course.  My friends and I played there a few times and my wife and I also took our sons to the course when they were just learning how to play.  Inevitably as we pass by the development, old memories pop into my mind and I feel a little sad.

    If I feel nostalgic for THAT course, I can’t imagine what a 50+ year member of a country club must think about as they plow his old course under.

    These are tough times for the entire golfing community and no doubt there will be a lot of casualties (e.g. Washtenaw Country Club).

  4. One of the courses I miss was called Hickory Woods, off Crane Road inksys Ypsilanti, MI. It wasn’t great, but it was friendly. Sadly, I have no photos …


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