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Claremont Country Club Set to Celebrate 100 Years

Frenchy Jacques of Claremont, N.H., chats with a fellow player during the weekly mens league at the Claremont Country Club on July 22, 2014. Jacques has been a member of the club for "twenty some odd years, I guess." The country club is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker)

Frenchy Jacques of Claremont, N.H., chats with a fellow player during the weekly mens league at the Claremont Country Club on July 22, 2014. Jacques has been a member of the club for "twenty some odd years, I guess." The country club is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »

Claremont — When researching the history of the Claremont Country Club, it was learned that it was originally constructed for tennis. Golf was an afterthought. Willard Holt remembers when it used to be a lighted ski facility. As it is, the club and Holt have something in common. They are both going to be celebrating their 100th birthdays this month.

According to an article in the May 15, 1914 edition of The Claremont Advocate, a weekly paper, the Sunnycourt Tennis Club, located on Broad Street, had to find a new location when its facility was being taken for building purposes. A meeting followed shortly thereafter the group decided to not only build two tennis courts, but golf links and a clubhouse.

Later, the committee found what it considered a suitable location. According to the Advocate: “The grounds chosen are located on the south side of Maple Avenue on the Josiah Wilson Farm and comprises land for tennis and smooth sailing meadow and pasture for golf, from which there is one of the finest views in town.”

After the land was purchased, the upstart club proved to be popular and there was great delight that the initial membership was around 70 with an annual fee of $10.

The clubhouse came a year later, and the cost of $2,000 brought some grumblings for a few of the members. But up it went, and according to the Advocate, it had a 36-x-21 foot living room, men’s and ladies locker rooms, an ample kitchen, a veranda, five double doors with French windows and large hardwood floors for dancing.

The membership was so excited that one of the club’s officers, a Mrs. Maynard, sent an application to President Woodrow Wilson, who had a summer residence in Cornish. A response from a White House staffer soon followed: “The President has received your letter and very much appreciates your courtesy in writing him. He has much pleasure in becoming a member of the club to which you refer, and at his request I am sending you herewith his check for $10.”

There is no record of the President ever playing at the club and according to Mrs. Maynard: “It is needless to say that the President’s check looks good to the finance committee, not for the $10 it represents, but for the distinction conferred. There is a strong sentiment that the check should not be cashed, but it should be preserved and in later years framed to decorate the walls of the clubhouse.”

No one at the Claremont Country Club today knows the whereabouts of the check. What is also unsure is just where the tennis courts were built. Pam Bennett, a member of the anniversary committee, thinks they might have been constructed on what is now the third fairway somewhere near where the covered bridge is situated over a creek.

“I understand there are some cement pillars still around there, but no one knows for sure just where the courts were located,” Bennett said.

Holt is the oldest living graduate of Stevens High School (Class of 1933), but he has no recollection of where the tennis courts were. Holt was a member for many years, and he remembers paying annual dues of $40 or so in 1960. What he remembers most, however, is the lighted ski area with a rope tow that went from the clubhouse down to the seventh fairway.

“We ran that for a couple of years then Mount Sunapee opened and the skiers stopped coming,” said Holt, who will turn 100 on Aug. 28.

The first golf tournament was held in September 1914, with the best nine holes of the day going to a Mr. Ruggles, who shot a 44.

“You have to remember we had wood-shafted clubs, even when I bought my first set in the early 1940s for $23,” said Holt.

The Claremont Country Club will have its 100th anniversary party this weekend with a clambake on Saturday, followed by a dance with a golf outing on Sunday.

Joe Trabka, chairman of the board of directors, said that 90 people have already signed up for the clambake.