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St. Clair Golf Club History

The St. Clair Golf Club is linked indirectly to Robert Cavilier de la Salle and his fellow traveler Father Louis Hennepin, French Missionary and historian, who passed by the club grounds in 1679. On August 12th of that year, on the feast day of St. Claire, they christened Lake St. Clair in her honor. Eventually our county, river, city, and golf club all took her name.

On the same river, 237 years later, in 1916, Fred Langby of Marysville laid out our first nine holes. Play started in 1917, the same year that plans were made for a beautiful clubhouse which was completed in 1918 (a picture hangs in the clubhouse).

E.J. Ottaway, Publisher and Co-Owner of the Port Huron Times Herald, was the first President of St. Clair River Country Club. Other founding fathers were Russ Jenks, President of the St. Clair Commercial and Savings Bank; Fred Moore, President of Diamond Crystal Salt Co.; H.A. Hopkins, newspaper Publisher and Postmaster of St. Clair; Hugh Hart, Attorney and Judge of Probate for St. Clair County; William Hartman, a leading Coke Oven Engineer in the United States; John Gillespie, a prominent figure in the automotive industry and one time Police Commissioner for the city of Detroit; Hale Saph, President of the Marine Savings Bank in Marine City; and Franklin More, Treasurer of the Diamond Crystal Salt Co.

On June 28, 1923, the club leased 50 acres from John Gillespie, a portion that had been part of his orchard, and the back nine was added. Legendary Golf Course Architect Donald Ross was retained to design our 18-hole layout that quickly became one of the premier courses in the area.

On April 15, 1934, a consolidation of ownership took place and the entire 18-hole course was owned by Hale Saph, Bob Farr, Fred Moore, and Joe Fields.

Fred Hunter, a co-designer of Walter Hagen Golf Clubs, was our professional in 1929. He split from the Hagen Organization and started a factory called “St. Clair Golf Products Co.” that produced a line of clubs named for the company. The clubs were of classic quality and are now collector items.

In 1934, an unsupervised caddie started a fire in the fireplace. The fire quickly got out of control and the clubhouse was destroyed. It was rebuilt the following year as a one-story structure which was further renovated in 1953 with the addition of a pro shop, swimming pool and irrigation system for the course.

The club remained viable and successful through to 1993 when  a contract was signed with Golf Club Architect Jerry Matthews of Matthews Associates, Lansing, Michigan, for the design and construction of five new holes and the land planning for Golfside (79 home-sites on our south 150 acres). By October, 1993, the holes were seeded. A walk through with the architect and contractor took place the following May 9th.

The hole numbers were changed and the front and back nines reversed. The entire 18 holes were ready for play in time for the 1994 Invitational. Remodeling of the original holes, new tees, additional ponds, trees, and completely new #11 were completed in the fall of 1997. Our par 72 golf course plays 6821 yards from the back tees and 5411 yards for women. The championships slope rating is 137.

Infrastructure for Phase I of Golfside Development was completed in 1996. Phase II construction began in March 1997. The contract for Phase III construction was signed February 4, 1998. The final Phase IV was completed during the summer of 2000. The majestic new development of single-family homesites enhances the magnificent natural beauty of the golf course.

In 2003 the club hosted qualifying rounds for the US Amateur Tournament and in 2010 hosted the Michigan Women’s Amateur Tournament. The St. Clair Golf Club today remains the premier private club in the 6 county area of St. Clair, Michigan with an active social and golf calendar appealing to golfers and families.