History of Sabetha Golf Club

Aerial view of clubhouseThe Sabetha Golf and Country Club has a long and storied history, possibly similar to some courses, but certainly different than most.  The original course was developed on a section of land near Albany in the early 1900’s.  The sand green course was short and simple, and temporarily fulfilled the need of a handful of people to learn and master the game of golf.

After a few years, this group of people became restless with their course and decided to develop one that would be more challenging. One hundred sixty acres of land was purchased at the current site, which is one mile north of Sabetha.  Eighty acres of this land was used to lay out the course as it currently stands and a nine-hole golf course was born.

The course was designed and built by the original members, and included the construction of a clubhouse.  Rocks for the fireplace in the main dining room of the Clubhouse were hand carried from the creek that runs between Hole #1 and #2.  Records indicate that the builders of the fireplace cemented a silver dollar into the mortar on both the left and right sides of the fireplace. As of this date, no one has seen the silver dollars, nor do they know what happened to them.  A covered porch was built along the entire length of the east, south and west sides of the Clubhouse.  The basement was the location for a locker room that heard countless stories of the best way to play one or more holes on the new course.  On July 12, 1923, the Clubhouse and Golf Course were dedicated in the presence of around 200 people, including members as well as others from neighboring towns.  A record of this event was reported in the Hiawatha World newspaper, and can be found in a framed display in the bar area of the Clubhouse.

The layout of the Golf Course has not changed significantly since it was first built.  The course was originally a par 37, with Hole #2 being a par 4, instead of the current par 3.  The green for this hole was built beyond the east side of an area currently known as “Eli’s Garden”.  As were all golf courses built during this time period, the greens were sand greens.  The sand for the greens was oiled with motor oil to help keep the sand compacted, and prevented it from drying up and blowing away.  Golfers were known to tuck a towel in their belt on the front of their slacks to wipe their hands when finishing a hole.  The greens remained sand from 1923 until the mid sixties, when a company from Iowa toured Northeast Kansas and replaced sand greens with grass on nearly every small town course in the area, including Hiawatha, Seneca, Falls City, Marysville and Holton.

Putting on sand greensThe cost for building all nine grass greens in Sabetha was reported to have been approximately $16,000.  The sand was scraped away, and dirt was brought in to cover the remaining area.  This explains the fact that all the greens on this course are elevated somewhat from the level of the fairways. 

The original construction of the Clubhouse included rooms for a caretaker to live. These were located in the current kitchen area as well as above the kitchen and the dining room.  A stairway leading to the upstairs rooms was located in the current bar area.  The Clubhouse has encountered three fires over the years, with one fire in 1973 that nearly destroyed it.  The fire started in the attic area, and by the time firefighters arrived, it appeared the Clubhouse would soon be a total loss.  The fire was contained to the ceiling, however the main floor was severely water damaged.  As a result, the floor was totally rebuilt, the upper level rooms were done away with, and the ceiling was lowered.

The Clubhouse was later remodeled to remove the covered porch on the east side, turning it into an open deck.  The west side was converted to an enclosed private party dining area, and restrooms were added to the back.

In 1959, the membership agreed to construct a swimming pool.  The pool, which was 60’ long and 30’ wide, was built on the west side of the clubhouse.  A few years later, a 12’ x 30’ wading pool was added on the south side.  The pool, overlooking a scenic view of Hole #1 and #6, still utilizes the original steel liner and concrete deck today.
Original members
As a result of the construction of the swimming pool in 1959, and the conversion of sand greens to grass greens in 1965, the membership accumulated more debt than the income from dues could cover.  The board voted, much to the dismay of one or more members, to sell off the remaining undeveloped 80 acres. The hope was to generate enough cash to help pay down the debt.  This section of land is located on the south side of Hole #6, #7 and #8.  The income from the sale of this land, however, was not enough to totally cover the debt.  Several months went by where the club only had enough income to make payments on the interest from loans for the pool and the grass greens.  With some creative thinking, the idea to have members purchase meal cards soon eliminated this debt, and the club has been operating within a comfortable financial climate since that time.

Members of Sabetha Golf Club can take pride in the foresight of the original members and their ability to develop a facility and property such as this.   Over the years, upgrades have been made to the Clubhouse and the Golf Course, but nature has played the major role in landscaping the trees and obstacles along the fairways into a magnificent course.  The end result is Sabetha being the home to one of the finest nine-hole golf courses in the state.