The origins of the McHenry Country Club

At the start of the 1920s, McHenry City leaders and the McHenry Community Club were looking to improve the city’s standing as a resort town. While things were going well, improvements could always be made. Also, after the Great War, most people were looking to find a sense of normalcy. City leaders were looking to add advertising outside the area, to promote McHenry as a resort town. Other city improvement projects were sought out, such as setting in a new sewerage system. Also at this time, part of the Owen farmstead was being converted into subdivisions, specifically the Stenger-Owen Subdivision. In the middle of this new development was the newly formed McHenry Country Club.

A plat map from 1923 with the Stenger-Owen Subdivision marked in the middle of the page.

In June 1921, C.W. Stenger, Charles Owen, and Charles Allen announced that a new golf club would be coming to McHenry. It would be established in parts of the Owen estate along the Fox River. For many years, the Owen estate had been deemed prime property for a subdivision. Golf was becoming a very popular sport and would be great to court summer tourists. Golf enthusiasts looked over the land that would become the proposed golf course and found it to be ideal for the sport. In August, the seven directors of the golf club met at West McHenry State Bank and announced that the club’s name was the McHenry Country Club. The directors also announced that the golf course would span over a 60-acre tract and that the first 100 memberships would be sold at $25. After the first hundred were signed up, memberships would increase to $50. The plan was to have nine holes, with a tract of land that ran for 3,000 yards. For watering the greens, a connection was made to the city’s water system.

Picture of the original McHenry Country Club clubhouse. Note the ladder on the right hand side and what looks to be an unfinished roof. Photo compliments of the City of McHenry.

Harry Hall King was the president of the McHenry Country Club. He was a resident of Chicago but had a summer home in McHenry. (Coincidentally, he was the exact type of resort customer that the Club was looking for.) Mr. King also oversaw the construction of the course. Construction started in the summer of 1921 and ran smoothly, with 5 of the 9 holes being completed around August. There was a slight delay for the last four holes, as the land was still being farmed and needed to be harvested. Memberships at the time were doing well as over 75 people signed up. One famous name on the list was Sid Smith, who was a cartoonist from the Chicago Tribune. The directors applied for a charter from the state and were duly incorporated. The incorporators being Carl Strenger, Walter Vogt, and Alfred Pouse. By late October, all nine holes were constructed and looked to be ready for the opening of the 1922 season. It was noted that many of the people inquiring about memberships were from Chicago.

Measurement of the fairways from the 3 Nov 1921 McHenry Plaindealer.

By November, construction has come far enough along to put in the permanent location of the tees. When completed, the tract actually ran 100 yards longer than initially planned. The natural layout made for a “sporty” golf course. The seventh fairway was seen as the most challenging offering a par of three. In April 1922, the century mark had been eclipsed and the Country Club had its first 100 members. In June, the country club picked up a Cletrac tractor to help keep the grounds in tip-top shape. This type of tractor ran on tracks like a tank, which would minimize damage to the playing surface. On July 2, 1922, the McHenry Country Club was open for business with Sid Smith being the first to tee off. The Country Club has now been open for 100 years and is still one of McHenry’s more popular destinations.

Sources

  • “Ready For Golf Members.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 9 Jun 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “Golf Club Organized.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 18 Aug 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “Golf Club Names Committees.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 25 Aug 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 Jun 2022.
  • “Progress At Golf Course.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 15 Sep 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “McHenry Building New Golf Course.” The Herald. (Crystal Lake, IL) 22 Sep 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “The New Golf Course.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 6 Oct 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 Jun 2022.
  • “Golf Course Nearly Ready.” The Marengo Republican News. (Marengo, IL) 20 Oct 1921, 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 Jun 2022.
  • “McHenry Club Chartered.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 27 Oct 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “Fine Progress At Course.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 3 Nov 1921, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “Golf Club Directors Meet.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 19 Jan 1922, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “Push McHenry As Resort.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 16 Mar 1922, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 May 2022.
  • “Beautifying Subdivision.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 6 Apr 1922, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 Jun 2022.
  • “Clea-Trac Tractor.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 8 Jun 1922, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 Jun 2022.
  • “Opening Of New Golf Course.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 22 Jun 1922, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 22 Jun 2022.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [cartographer]. (2009). Cahaba River Natural Refuge [map]. 1:24,000.  Retrieved from 

McHenry County Historic Documents. (1923). McHenry County Plat Map [map]. 1:24,000.
       Retrieved from https://www.mchenrycountygis.org/historic/