Hard Work Changes Prairie To Beautiful 9-hole Golf Course
Niobrara County has many things of which it can rightfully boast, but certainly not the least is its golf course - the Niobrara Country Club.
Where only 23 years ago a piece of unmolested prairie lay, now there is a nine-hole golf course of which everyone can take pride. The members of the Country Club claim the course is "the sportiest sand green course in Wyoming". Golfers that have played the other courses in Wyoming agree. The best score that has ever been shot on the course, 33, gives testimony to its challenge, and it has entertained many excellent golfers. Par for the 3237 yard course is 36.
Since the 33 was carded, the course has been lengthened by 110 yards; so it is not likely that the par will ever be broken by more than three strokes. The course is extremely difficult to golfers who have an aversion to water. Six of the nine holes are over water.
In 1927 a group of men, who like the feel of a well-timed swing, formed a golf association and built nine holes on the land which is now the Niobrara County Fairgrounds.
While the Country Club was growing so was the Niobrara County Fair, and in the early 1930's it became necessary for Niobrara County to build a fairgrounds. This made it necessary for the golf course to be moved. After the desired land was located funds had to be raised, and in 1934 this was no small obstacle. To overcome the obstacle the Niobrara Country Club was formed and many local people kicked in to raise the necessary $400. The land was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Chris Joss and Horace Baca. Later a small building on the land was sold for $200.
Just as might oaks from tiny acorns grow, so the Niobrara Country Club grew from a piece of Wyoming prairie until it now seems as if the prairie had blossomed. It took a wealth of sweat to make the raw prairie into a neat golf course. The Works Progress Administration helped member of the Club clear the sagebrush. The WPA allowed this because the bylaws of the organization stated that was a non-profit organization organized solely to provide recreation for the people of the area. The Country Club has lived up to its bylaws very well.
The removing of the sagebrush was just a beginning. There were greens, bridges, dams, fairway markers, tee boxes and many other small items to be built. There were trees to be planted and kept alive. C. W. Erwin, who deserves to be called "Mr. Niobrara Country club", because of his years of devotion to the Club, recalls that the evergreens were planted from the Brakes area. Then the watering was a major problem indeed. He recalls that he, Glen Cates and Jim Griffith, Sr. hauled water to the trees in milk cans all the way from Lusk.
It takes water to make good grass grow and make a sporty course, so a dam where the Niobrara River and Spring Creek join was built. This dam was augmented by two more dikes built this spring. The 1957 spring rains filled the dikes shortly after they were built.
Seven of the original members of the Country Club are still active. They are C.E. Marvin, J.B. Griffith, Sr., George Kuns, George Gibson, C. W. Erwin, Mrs. Roy Chamberlain, and Roscoe Kilmer.
Only one hole-in-one certificate has ever been issued and that was to F. Robert Hufsmith. It was witnessed by Red Owens, George Kuns, Harry Vickory and C. W. Erwin. The once-in-a-million shot was on the fifth hole.
Only four men have served as president of the Country Club. The late Fred Thielbar was its first president, Mr. Erwin served from 1935 through 1953, Richard G. Pfister served 1954 and 1955, Harold Gautschi served in 1956 and is now in his second term.
The biggest and most noticeable improvement on the course in its long history is the clubhouse. The project was started in 1954 and stands on the hill above the course. For many years it will say to all who will but listen - "Here is what can be done by cooperation".
For the most past the clubhouse was built by men that were long enough on determination to make up for what they lacked in knowhow. The determination was furnished by many and the knowhow by Oscar Bostrom, C. E. Hollon and Ed. Hollon.
The furniture inside the clubhouse leaves much to be desired, but it didn't cost the Club a penny for it is all cast off furniture, and the membership agrees that it will do until something can be obtained.
While the building of the clubhouse was the biggest improvement, the landscaping of the area adjacent to the clubhouse has added nearly as much. During the past two years many trees, some 30 feet or bigger, have been transplanted, sod from the former Episcopal Church site was planted in front of the clubhouse and much other new lawn was planted. This spring an outdoor barbecue pit was built and a concrete and flagstone patio was built.
July 6 and 7 the course will be the site of the area's most outstanding golf tournament. Because the course is a real test of golfing ability, the annual open tournament has grown to become "The Tournament" in this area. The tournament started 22 years ago with only a handful of players. It is expected that over 90 golfers will participate this year just as they have the past several years.
Spectators are urged to attend. It is truly one of the outstanding sports events of Niobrara County, because golfers come from as far as Denver to play.
A pleasant surprise awaits the people who will drive up to the Country Club, which is located one mile west of Lusk, north of Highway 20, and take a look at what has happened to this piece of former prairie.
Membership to the Club is not yet restricted, which is one of the main differences between the Niobrara Club and most country clubs. The other chief difference is the dues structure. Where many clubs charge several hundred dollars per membership, the Niobrara Country Club membership is $25.00 per family.