Norfolk Country Club History
(Note: This brief history of the Norfolk Country Club is based on the previous written recollections of Dr. George Salter, son of one of the club's founders, Dr. P. H. Salter, and the files of The Norfolk Daily News, as well as the personal recountings of George Dudley, Dr. Jack James, J. R. Mapes, Tom Brogan, Jerry Huse and a 2019 update by Stephanie Pospisil.)
The Norfolk Country Club has a wonderful and storied history. The Norfolk Country Club is among Nebraska's oldest courses. It has occupied the same site on Norfolk's north edge since Dr. P. H. Salter and C. H. Reynolds, a railroad superintendent, picked the location. The course was laid out by Gene Huse, former publisher of The Norfolk Daily News, who also served as Norfolk's first parks commissioner and the club's operation began in 1909. S. A. Braden, another railroad man, was the first club president.
In those early days, part of the "greens keeper's" duties included tending the sheep that "mowed" the course. Greens were protected by a fence of a single, smooth wire. Tee areas were not sod, but consisted of elevated wooden boxes, and a pail of water and sand so that a mound could be made to use as a tee.
The first course was nine holes, and the first frame building used as a clubhouse was added to at various times until the current clubhouse was constructed in a project completed in the spring of 1966. The original clubhouse was mostly a covered dance floor surrounded by bench seats. The tops of those seats were hinged and members used them as lockers.
An early clubhouse improvement was the addition of a men's locker and showers. Water for the showers, however, consisted of a horse-tank on the roof, which meant there was warm water only on sunny days. A kitchen was added; then in about 1945 a pro shop was constructed on the northwest corner of the clubhouse to replace one built on the river's edge about 1920 when Billy Reckert was the first club pro. That old clubhouse is now unmarked, but it occupied the ground in the area south of the No. 17 green and east of the current maintenance facility. Access to the original clubhouse was from the same access road to the current maintenance facility.
Originally there was a horse driveway around the building, and two clay tennis courts were part of the club facilities. Several Northeast Nebraska championships and one state championship, in about 1920, were played on those courts.
There was swimming at the club before the extensive 1965 building program, too. But it did not last long. In the 1920s, members dug a hole in the area between the present 15th tee and 14th green. It wouldn't hold water and was abandoned as a mire. At that time a small children's concrete pool was added south of the clubhouse and the area south to the old river channel was mowed for Sunday's picnics. "Luna Park," a dance hall, was across the river south and motor boat service from the Mill Pond marina in downtown Norfolk (by the City Auditorium) was provided to that point and to a pier in the North Fork River at the Country Club. Motor boat races were even conducted from the pier at the Norfolk Country Club to and from Mill Pond.
An accurate portrayal of the original clubhouse is displayed in the portrait hanging in the entryway of the present clubhouse. This depiction is of the original clubhouse facing North.
Dr. Warren Hall, whose long service to the club is commemorated in a plaque on the first tee, brought pine trees from Chadron. They are the ones which dot the east portion of the course and what some members refer to as the "old" holes. The club became a 12-hole course in the early 1930s, and the 18 was played by repeating the first six. Many tournaments, though, were played at 12 holes until the post World War II era.
Water was piped throughout the course and greens and fairways were watered with rubber hoses and sprinklers in early years. A fully automatic watering system was not added until after the extensive improvements in 1965.
The first electric cart on the course was one given to Dr. Hall in 1958 by members in appreciation for his service. Prior to that, and even for a long period thereafter, children of the members were used as caddies.
The facility was remodeled the first time after a fire in 1975. This followed an extensive improvement project in the mid-1960s, an effort spearheaded by Jerry Huse, who was president of the club in 1965. When the current clubhouse was built, the members tendered their original stock and the Norfolk Country Club reorganized as a non-profit corporation. The clubhouse was built on debentures that were subsequently paid off by assessments of the entire membership, and fundraisers, which included the Labor Day Tournament. Funds from publication of a Labor Day booklet also assisted in the acquisition of land to the west of the existing club, presently the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th holes. The pool and electric cart storage were part of the improvement program, and a new pro shop was constructed in 1977. Additional land bordering the club on the north of No. 9 was acquired and is presently being used for a practice area, driving range, and the 6th, 7th and 8th holes.
By the end of 2002, the pool house and pool area were remodeled. In addition, a playground and large gazebo were added to the pool deck. Also in 2002, the 19th Hole was introduced to the members to provide an additional social setting for members.
In 2018, president Barry Gerber presented a three phase project to the members which included renovations to the clubhouse, pool and irrigation system. In 2019 the renovation of the clubhouse was completed. Besides the interior finished all being updated, the largest visible change to the inside of the facility was the addtion of a large bar. This unified the spaces formerly referred to as the 19th Hole and the dining room. The spaces are now called the Back Nine and Front Nine respectively with the entire Back and Front Nine bar and restaurant spaces being named The 1908. This is a great honor to our founders who had a vision and put the plans in motion for The Norfolk County Club in 1908. Nine TV's and a large projection screen TV was added to The 1908.
A portion of the Men's Locker Room was used to creaate the Eagle Room off the Back Nine. This room seats 24 and includes a projector and 2 TV's as well. This proved to be a great space for small meetins and events as well the official Board Room. Outside the Back Nine a large patio was added with a gas fire pit and seating wall. The logo was also updated during the project. The facility now had a modern look and the logo does now as well. With the completion of the renovation, The Norfolk Country Club is now in a great position to ful fill our Mission Statement which is "delivering a true country club experience to our members and their guests"
The Norfolk Country Club has also proudly hosts the Labor Day Classic. Norfolk Country Club's Labor Day Golf Tournament is the oldest ongoing tournament in the State of Nebraska.