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Tee Time: Shawnee Hills Country Club's history rivals that of the Masters

  • Shawnee Hills Country Club Board President Steve Black takes a practice swing on a tee box Wednesday afternoon.

    Shawnee Hills Country Club Board President Steve Black takes a practice swing on a tee box Wednesday afternoon.
    Travis DeNeal photo

  • Shawnee Hills member Jerry King displays a copy of his history of the Harrisburg golf club.

    Shawnee Hills member Jerry King displays a copy of his history of the Harrisburg golf club.
    Travis DeNeal photo

  • The keystone in the chimney of the club house inspired Jerry King to write his history of the golf club.

    The keystone in the chimney of the club house inspired Jerry King to write his history of the golf club.
    Travis DeNeal photo

  • Shawnee Hills Country Club Board President Steve Black talks about improvements to the course in recent years.

    Shawnee Hills Country Club Board President Steve Black talks about improvements to the course in recent years.
    Travis DeNeal photo

 
BY TRAVIS DENEAL
Staff Writer tdeneal@dailyregister.com
Posted on 4/6/2017, 5:00 AM

HARRISBURG -- Most serious golf fans know the Masters Tournament started this morning in Georgia, but many outside of Harrisburg may not realize the Shawnee Hills Country Club's own history reaches past that of Augusta National.

One man, Jerry King, of Harrisburg, knows that history probably more than many others.

About three years ago, King compiled a history of the early days of the golf course and club, which started at the beginning of the Roaring Twenties.

The book, "A Vision for the City … A Passion for the Game: The Harrisburg Country Club 1921-1940," is chock-full of even the most minute details about the history of the golf course.

King said his own curiosity inspired him to research the book.

"I play golf and have been a member there several years. We still use the same clubhouse," King said. "I walk past the chimney to the first hole every time I play and I see that keystone on there with all those guys' names on it.

"We're walking on the same cobbled brick path that was there in the '20s. I said one of these days, I'm going to see who these guys were, what prompted them to get this thing started, and once I retired, I decided I was going to do this."

The keystone in question shows a founding date of 1921, even though it was 1923 before the clubhouse was completed.

By May of that year, King's book shows that golfers were on the new nine-hole course. After two long years of incorporation, property acquisition, course design and development and promotion, interest in the club -- known then as Harrisburg Country Club -- was growing.

By June 7 of that year, total membership already exceeded 200.

The clubhouse itself was an object of wonder, according to current Shawnee Hills Board President Steve Black.

Black, now 65, has been playing golf at the club since he was eight years old, he said. As he understands the story, people traveled from neighboring communities simply to behold the new clubhouse.

"It must have been something to see people driving by in their Model T's to look at the building," he said.

Newspaper coverage of the new course also was popular, King said.

"The Daily Register very accurately and completely covered what was going on at the club for a very long time," he said.

Indeed, excerpts from King's book show a host of tournaments in addition to many well-known entertainers performing and frequent social events at the clubhouse. It is a treasure trove of early Harrisburg golf history and city history, as well.

Despite the history, though, at a point in the 1990s, the course had seen better days. It was about 16 years ago that members decided to restore the course to the glory it once had, Black said.

New fairways were put in about 15 years ago, and new greens were installed about 12 years ago, he said. All the property was properly acquired by the golf club, new hole signs were installed and a greater attention is going toward maintaining and promoting the course, Black said.

"It takes a lot of effort, and we're continuing to make this course as great as it can be," he said.

Membership to the course is $700 for a family, $565 for an individual, and $215 for a junior golfer. The junior golfer rate is good through the end of high school, Black said.

Black, who also coaches the Harrisburg High School golf team, said he continues to look for players.

He encouraged those interested to call him at (618) 926-5589. The golf course contact number is (618) 253-7294. King's book is available on CD at the golf course for $10.