A Proud History
The Oberlin Golf Association was officially formed on Oct. 2, 1899, following the election of officers. Henry W. Matlack, a professor of organ and harmony at Oberlin College, served as the association's first president. Although the details surrounding the group's early golf games are sketchy, documentation suggests that it was not long before tournaments and a handicap system were in place. A writer for the Oberlin News reported that for the sum of 25 cents, a good many players -- women as well as men -- played the "recently fitted up" golf links, which was the "pasture lot of William Evans on Morgan Street." Faculty, students and townspeople had apparently worked together to lay out and shape a nine-hole course on the southwest edge of town.
In November 1922, golf club members incorporated in order to form a nonprofit stockholding company. The general purpose of the newly formed Oberlin Golf Club Company was "to maintain a golf course to cultivate and advance the game of golf for recreation." The incorporators, like the founders, were town and gown persons of moderate means. Using the proceeds from the sale of stock, OGC reconstructed and lengthened the original nine between 1922 and 1924. In 1927, the club purchased the 16.2-acre tract of land it had rented since 1899.
The economic prosperity of the 1920s set the stage for improvements to the course the following decade. In 1930, as the golf club's picturesque setting and challenging course became increasingly attractive to players throughout Northeast Ohio, a modest clubhouse was constructed. Bolstered by a favorable legal opinion allowing OGC to lease the adjacent 46 acres of land owned by Oberlin College -- inherited in 1916 from Alcoa founder Charles M. Hall, who died in 1914 -- members embarked upon a second reconstruction project. Led by chemistry professor Harry N. Holmes, who served as the lead architect, the original nine was significantly reconfigured in 1933 and 1934 and again from 1937 to 1939. The new configuration not only eliminated the dangers lurking on parallel fairways, but also created the nine holes -- 3,310 yards -- played today, that include several signature holes and a park like environment.
The development of OGC is due, in part, to the club's century-long relationship with Oberlin College. In addition to renting the college's adjacent lands, the club drew important leadership and revenue from the institution during its early stages of development. On more than one occasion, the college saved OGC from dissolution. (OGC negotiated leases with the college in 1952, 1969, 1989 and 1997.) By the early 1960s, there was a noticeable decrease in club members holding a college affiliation or an Oberlin address. By 1969, the days of modest rental fees were gone and in their place was a business transaction with the college.
Charting the Course
The evolution of the Oberlin Golf Club course and facilities paralleled the growing popularity of golf in the United States. Following the construction of a new clubhouse in 1952, members sought to enlarge the course to 18 holes of golf on approximately 70 acres adjacent and just west of the original nine. The architect and designer was Harold Paddock Sr., the prolific golf course architect from Moreland Hills Golf Course. When a serious automobile accident on the Ohio Turnpike landed Paddock in a Fremont, Ohio, hospital for nine months, greens keeper Frank "Shubie" Kaszubinski and committee chairman Carl Breuning were called in to oversee the project. The 3,223-yard layout, which opened in 1961, largely retained Paddock's golf hole design of carefully sited tee boxes, well-placed bunkers around greens tilting slightly toward the next tee and no unfair rolls on greens or fairways with doglegs.
A new clubhouse (OGC's third) was built in 1965. Overlooking the new nine holes, off Pyle-South Amherst Road, the clubhouse successfully tied together the two nine-hole layouts.
Following the completion of the clubhouse, for the first time in 60 years, OGC openly sought its independence from Oberlin College. Even though the club continues to lease the original nine holes from the college, it does so with few encumbrances. Although several members sought to expand the club's social status by including more of a country club atmosphere in the 1960s, the membership overwhelmingly rejected this notion. Oberlin members continue to take pride in being just a golf club where the challenge of golf and competition remain paramount over the game's social trappings.
As the Oberlin Golf Club prepares for its second century, club leaders will work to ensure the same quality golf games that players have experienced for decades. In charting the club's direction for its 501 members, OGC's board will proceed cautiously and incrementally. Some members look to develop another nine holes on land located across the railroad track off Hamilton Road in order to operate and play 27 holes. Still others seek to improve clubhouse facilities as they have on three previous occasions.
Because the scenic Oberlin Golf Club is one of NOGA's finest layouts, OGC persists as a relatively attractive bargain to a large cross-section of players in Lorain County and several adjacent counties as well. Thanks to the dedication of its members, the Oberlin Golf Club begins its second century not only as asset to the town of Oberlin, but to Northeast Ohio.