Calumet Country Club has been in the news in recent months with reports of proposals for the possible redevelopment of the club’s grounds.
Originally established in 1901, the club was at first located at 95th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago on property now occupied by Chicago State University.
Herbert “Pops” Tweedie laid out the original course, which was situated close to the Illinois Central Railroad and only a half mile from Lake Calumet.
By 1917, encroaching industrialization in this area convinced club members to look for an alternate site.
In February 1917, a tract of land on 175th Street in Homewood was purchased from August Steiner for the new course. Reports vary, but the property was probably 158 acres.
Donald Ross was contracted to design this course while club professional George Knox took charge of implementing Ross’ plan.
About the same time, Homewood resident Herman Stogentine was hired as the chief groundskeeper, a post he would hold for more than 40 years.
A small one-room clubhouse was constructed that year and this building was significantly added onto and remodeled in 1921. This same clubhouse, although extensively renovated over the years, still serves as Calumet’s clubhouse today.
Calumet was fortunate to have many Illinois Central executives listed among its members. This fact certainly did not hurt when the club petitioned for a stop of its own along the Illinois Central line. A station was established east of the course and has been known, then as now, as Calumet station.
The country club was also known for its dining offerings.
Chef Charles Keiffer made a reputation for the club with the food he served at the Burnside location and continued that tradition in Homewood, preparing meals with only the freshest ingredients purchased from local farms.
Progress challenged the club again in 1956 when the Illinois Toll Authority announced plans for the Tri-State Tollway. Original plans called for only a small section of the course to be taken by the roadway.
Despite reassurances to the contrary, the tollway took out a 23-acre swath, which required a major renovation and produced the course that is played on today.
Over the years, Calumet has played host to some of the world’s greatest players. It was the site of the 1924 Western Open, won by Bill Melhourn, and this was the first tournament to have scoring updates reported live by radio.
The club also hosted the 1945 Chicago Victory Open. Byron Nelson won that tournament and left Calumet with his eighth straight PGA tournament win. Nelson would go on to win the next three tour events and racked up an amazing eleven consecutive tour victories. His 18 tournament wins for the 1945 season is a PGA tour record, and his scoring average that year of 68.33 was not surpassed until the 2000 season.
In 2001, when Calumet was celebrating its 100th anniversary, Nelson was invited to attend the festivities. Much to the club’s surprise, the 89-year-old accepted the invitation, something he hadn’t done for any of the other courses involved in his 1945 winning streak.
Today, Calumet is now open for public play, but equity members are determined to sell the course. For the first time in its 117-year history, the future of Calumet Country Club as a golf course is in jeopardy.
Jim Wright is the president of the Homewood Historical Society.