Here in the midst of golf season, local historian Jim Wright reminds us of the origins of the area’s rich golfing resources.
The first golf club established in our area was the Flossmoor Country Club, which was named the Homewood Country Club when it was officially chartered in October 1899.
The club was the brainchild of several Hyde Park businessmen enamored with the game of golf and convinced that the “south side” needed a club of its own situated along the Illinois Central rail line.
John Gilchrist and Fred Jenkins, executives with the Edison Company, along with other businessmen, including John Wallace, John Nellegar and Robert Wells, explored the area around Homewood in the summer of 1899, searching for the perfect spot to build their club.
The organizers ultimately selected the August Hecht and Christ Hibbing farms south of Homewood (Flossmoor did not exist at the time) as the site. These parcels were south of today’s Flossmoor Road. Hecht’s land lay east of what is now Western Avenue while Hibbing’s was on the west side of that roadway and east of the I.C. tracks.
Hecht and Hibbing were stubborn at first, but after a bit of negotiating, they executed contracts to sell 160 acres each to the fledgling club for the sum of $125 an acre ― a price just a tad above the $1.25 an acre the property sold for in the late 1830’s.
Following land acquisition, club members hired Herbert J. “Pops” Tweedie in the spring of 1900 to design the layout of the course on Hecht’s acreage, and John Pearson was hired as the club’s first professional.
Construction was completed that year on the first clubhouse, a large two-story frame structure located just southeast of the present day intersection of Flossmoor Road and Western Avenue. This site was selected as it was the highest point on the property and had a commanding view of the rest of the course.
By April 1900, the Illinois Central extended suburban rail service to Illinois Street, now known as Flossmoor Road, and completed construction of a station they named “Flossmoor.”
The club developed a good reputation and hosted a number of early amateur tournaments. It was the site of the 1906 Western Open.
Things were going well until lightning struck the clubhouse in May 1907, and fire completely destroyed the building.
A second clubhouse was built on the same site and was completed in October 1908. This brick and cement building was thought to be fireproof.
Contrary to the old adage, however, lightning did strike twice and the second clubhouse was leveled after the roof caught fire in a May 1914 electrical storm.
Hoping to prevent further trouble with Mother Nature, club officials built the third and present clubhouse about a half mile south of the original site, a move they haven’t regretted since this clubhouse was completed in 1916.
After the second fire, officials changed the club’s name to the Flossmoor Country Club, which alleviated confusion with many an uninitiated golfer who got off the train in Homewood thinking the Ravisloe Country Club was actually the Homewood (now Flossmoor) Country Club.
Today, after 118 years, the Flossmoor Country Club remains one of the premier golf courses in the Midwest, if not the nation, and a remarkable asset to our community.
Jim Wright is a long-time member and officials with the Homewood Historical Society. He has written several books on local history, including “Homewood Through the Years.”