Garrett Country Club Turns 100

Garrett Country Club 100 years.jpg
Article by Brice Vance | KPC News | November 6, 2018 
GARRETT — For being 100 years old, the Garrett Country Club still looks as good as ever.
That is in large part due to the time and effort put in by the owners Dave and Amy Demske.
In a struggling industry, golf courses around the area have been dropping like flies. So when a course like the Garrett Country Club hits a special anniversary like 100 years as it did on Oct. 18, it deserves to be celebrated because you never know when it’s time is up.
“I think given the state of our golf industry and where we’re at, it’s a big deal. Not too many courses can say that they are 100 years old,” Dave Demske said. “There are not too many that have turned 100. In the United States there are some that have turned 100, but locally the only course that I know that is older than Garrett Country Club would be Fort Wayne Country Club.”
The Garrett Country Club dates back to 1918 when it was established by a group of businessmen. The nine-hole course was comprised of 53.075 acres acquired from Lelsie and Anna Stoner and designed by a Chicago architect.
The club was incorporated as a private club on Oct. 18, 1918 with officers J.F. Thomson, H.W. Mountz, S.V. McKennen, C.W. Addington, H.W. Stephenson, Charles Abell, J.A. Clevenger, C.H. Heinzerling and J.D. Brinkherhoff, along with 50 stockholders.
The course was designed by golf course architect Tom Bendelow of Chicago. Bendelow designed many courses during that period, including the Medinah Country Club in Chicago in 1928.
The course has change hands in ownership a few times since it’s opening in 1918. The City of Garrett bought the land in 1938 and was part of the public parks system.
For the next 29 years, the course was sold to the BOPE Lodge No. 1447 in 1945, then to Harvey and Arlene Schmidt three years later. Dale and Thelma Zolman of Churubusco bought it in 1960.
An elm disease that wiped out a large amount of trees on the course during the 1950s. Demske has replanted trees in those areas. He said in the first few years of owning the course, they planted over 400 trees.
In 1975, Richard and Sandra Sholl of Bowling Green, Ohio and George Hauf of Newport, Michigan assumed operation on April 28 of that year of the par 34 layout that measured 2,735 yards.
For the next 29 years, the Sholls added many improvements.
Tees were enlarged during the first seven years under the Sholls’ ownership, then a new clubhouse was built in 1986. And an automatic irrigation system was installed and a new cart storage facility was constructed in 1991.
In 1995, the Sholls purchased an additional 87 acres to expand the course to 18 holes, which is when they hired their first PGA Professional in Kerry Baumgartner. Demske said that the second nine holes are starting to blend in with the older part of the course.
Demske was hired as the superintendent of the course in 2003, and then bought it in 2004.
Today, Garrett Country Club is an 18-hole, par 72 championship golf course that plays 6,552 yards. The fully-irrigated course has bentgrass tees, fairways, and greens. It is considered one of the best maintained public golf courses in the area.
“Condition wise, outstanding,” Demske said. “In the last 15 years, since Amy and I have been here, the improvements we’ve made overall as far as playability and turf quality are outstanding. I’d put our tees, greens and fairways up against anybody in the surrounding area by far. I think for our budget and what we charge our quality of course is outstanding.”
The Garrett Country Club has stood the test of time, not only because of the people who have owned it and kept it going for this long, but because of the community that supports it and makes the choice to play there.
“It’s something that obviously supports our community and it’s an asset that the community has, in fact a form of recreation or reason to live in Garrett,” Demske said. “If I look at our membership base, they’re all within a 10-minute as a rule for our members. That says a lot about the people of Garrett who have chosen to live here and play golf locally.”

Demske estimated that the course has 21,000-22,000 rounds played on it every year.
“I know on a Thursday we’ll average 185 to 195 golfers alone,” Demske said. “That’s one of our busier days.”
He added the course is hosting more outings than it ever has in the past and still draws a good crowd from golfers outside of Garrett, including Fort Wayne.
As much as Demske appreciates owning something that is 100 years old, he knows that he has to keep working to keep it open for as long as possible.
“I think the sad thing is that I’m more nervous about going forward than in the past,” Demske said. “I think it’s a lot about the Garrett community and the fact that it’s been here for 100 years and found a way to with stand the times. Going forward I think it’s a little up in the air.”
Demske, though, does have confidence that the course will survive because of the support of the community. He just needs a little help from Mother Nature every once in a while.
The last two springs haven’t been ideal for the golf industry in northeast Indiana, according to Demske. The amount of rain in the last two years has delayed some of usual numbers the course drew a few years ago.
“I think right now we’re very fortunate with our member base, our outings and our leagues. Those are kind of our niche and should keep us going,” Demske said. “It’s the open play that we strive for on whether we have a good year or a bad year. Unfortunately, we’ve not seen the nicest weather trends the last two years.”
But in an industry where it’s survival of the fittest, Demske has his 100-year-old course ready to beat Father Time.
“We’re well situated to go forward with growth with other courses closing,” Demske said. “We’ve made upgrades to our website, point of sales system and look to do much more marketing in the next couple of years to come.” 

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