Two gentlemen enjoying a day of golf at the Hardin County Golf Course. — photos submitted by Ida Bishop
Submitted by Ida Bishop
The Hardin County Golf Course located at RR 1, Box 306B on Golf Course Road in Cave In Rock has been in business since the 1950s The course has changed a lot since it originally opened, but one thing that has stayed consistent is the love of the game.
Golf was not a sport many knew about or talked about in the early 1950s. The only person in Hardin County that played or knew anything about golf was Clarence (Babe) Stum. Mr. Stum worked and owned a small dry cleaners in Cave In Rock on a lot where Tony and Angie Cinkovich currently live. Mr. Stum read and studied every book by the famous golfer Sam Sneed. He taught himself how to play from the books he read and taught others about the game. The only problem was he didn’t have a local place to play. This lead him to partner with Clarence and Noad Wingate to build the only golf course in the county in Cave In Rock.
Hardin County Golf Course in June of 1983.
Mr. Stum convinced the Wingates that people would love to play golf and it would be a great business to open. Mr. Stum designed the 9 hole sand green golf course from information he researched. The course was built on approximately 30 acres of farm ground owned by Mr. Wingate. After finishing the design Mr. Stum and Mr. Wingate asked other local businesses for help. Equipment and trucks were donated by Rigsby & Barnard Quarry and Kaegi Trucking. All of the sand was donated for the greens. Mr. Stum even found a business to donate the flag poles and steel rakes for the course.
Time and labor was also donated. It took 60-plus people took to build the greens and spread the sand. This group of men started early on a Saturday morning and completed the work late the next night. On Monday morning the golf course was open for business where Mrs. Wingate ran the golf course from a picnic table across the street from her home.
As the summer progressed and business increased, Mr. Wingate built a small shelter to operate the business. He poured a concrete pad for a concessions area and for two picnic tables. More and more people started to play golf, not only men played, but women too. Golf was eventually a game that would be enjoyed by the entire family in the community.
Over the years a lot of improvements and changes have occurred at the golf course. On the north side of the Clubhouse is the original concrete pad of the first shelter. Today where the putting green is located was once the original number 1 green. Hole number 5 women’s tee box is still the exact tee used back in the 1950s. When originally designed, the fairway was only 85 yards long. However small, the challenging part was hitting the ball straight over the top of the trees that were approximately 25 feet tall.
By the 1960s many changes occurred in the game of golf. One of the major changes was upgrading from sand greens to grass greens. The Hardin County course was one of the last courses in the area to convert to grass greens. It took a lot of convincing by Mr. Stum to the Wingates, but he won them over with his new design.
In order to achieve the new design Mr. Wingate had to add an additional 10 acres from his farm. Those 10 acres provided room for holes number 6 and 8 greens as well as the entire length of hole number 9. The grass for the greens, Tiff 328 Bermuda, came from a course in western Tennessee. It was hauled in plastic bags in the trunk of a car for four straight weekends and put down by hand. Bermuda loves water, so Mr. Wingate had to haul water for the nine greens. It took around twelve weeks of constant care for the grass to grow to be ready for play.
After watering so much, he decided to install an irrigation system to keep the greens alive. He installed a one inch roll pipe with the water coming from the well at his house across the street. It was a good thought, but didn’t work very well due to low pressure and not greens had irrigation pipes.
Aerial view of Hardin County Golf Course in Cave In Rock. Ohio River can be seen in top right of picture. — RTIST IN THE SKY, LLC photo.
After Mr. Wingate retired, he sold the golf course to Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Carl Doty. They had the course a few years and sold out to Bob Drone and Joe Coad of Ridgway. Then they sold the course to Dr. Roger Herrin in the late 1970s. The course was in need of repairs, so Dr. Herrin replanted all of the greens, added a new water irrigation system to each green. Those improvements are still used today. He hired a nursery to plant over 50 trees on the course, built a cart shed, and remodeled the Clubhouse. Dr. Herrin also started the first high school golf team in the 1980s. The team was open to both high school boys and girls attending Hardin, Pope and Gallatin Counties schools.
Since selling the course in the late 1980s, the course has had four different owners. The current owners are Aaron and Ida Bishop, of Rosiclare, who purchased the course in 2013.
Owner Aaron Bishop learned to play golf at this course as a child. The course was across from his grandmother’s house and he played there often, growing up. In high school he became a member of the Hardin County Cougars Golf Team.
After purchasing the Course, he wanted to pass along his love of golf and therefore became the coach of the Hardin County Cougars Golf Team. Bishop continues to donate his time and course for the next generation to learn about golf. Currently, the golf team is open to high school students who attend school at Hardin and Gallatin Counties. In just four years of the program, players have advanced to Regionals twice, and last year onto Sectionals. If any high school student is interested in playing, contact the Clubhouse at (618) 289-4587.
The Hardin County Golf Course opened for the 2017 season on April 14th. It’s only $14 to play 9 holes with a cart or $22 for 18 holes with a cart. Memberships are available – Seniors (65 years or older) $325; Single $350; Student (18 or under) $125, or a Family $450 (children must be 18 or under).
Everyone is encouraged to stop by the Clubhouse to check out the pro shop. The pro shop has golf accessories, golf balls, and apparel. The course is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The hours will be extended through the summer. The Clubhouse has facilities for host events to serve around 30 people. It’s great for birthday parties, meetings, or private parties.
To schedule an event, learn of our extended hours, or to see more about upcoming events at the golf course, visit our website: http://www.hardincountygolfcourse.com or look up the Hardin County Golf Course on Facebook.