Historic course: Huntingdon growing in 93rd year

HUNTINGDON – Nestled amidst the rolling hills and wandering streams of Huntingdon County is one of the oldest and most historic clubs in central Pennsylvania – Huntingdon Country Club.

Located along Route 26, just south of Huntingdon, the course – fast approaching the century-mark – has remained a popular destination for area golfers.

Huntingdon Country Club was incorporated in 1920 when a group of area businessmen came together with thoughts of forming their own golf club. The men quickly agreed to purchase farmland owned by Michael Myers for a sum of $5,000 and began construction of a nine-hole course which was completed by July of 1921.

Active membership at the time was listed at 120 members; each paid annual dues of $75. Greens fees players during the inaugural year were required to pay $1 per round.

By 1925, enough funds were raised to begin construction of a clubhouse on the grounds. This same year was also witness to one of the club’s most significant events – golfing great Walter Hagen visited the course and shot an even-par score of 70 while entertaining local golf fans.

The club prospered over the years, with several fine players claiming Huntingdon as their home course.

By the 1940s, Huntingdon businessman Blair Miller had become the club’s first dominant golfer. Over the next few decades, Miller would lay claim to 13 club championships. In 1951, he set the club record of 61 en route to capturing one of his many titles.

By the 1960s, many area courses were initiating plans to expand from nine-hole to 18-hole layouts. While Huntingdon Country Club had purchased additional neighboring property, it was not in a financial position to expand the course at that time. Instead, the club pursued a project of constructing new tees in order to update and lengthen their course.

During this time, the club saw the emergence of young golfer who would become one of the finest golfers ever in central Pennsylvania. In 1967, Huntingdon native Ed Strickler won his first club championship. It would be the first of an incredible 25 club titles that Strickler currently owns.

Strickler has been a lifelong member of Huntingdon Country Club and he’s witnessed many ups and downs at the club over the years, including the financial difficulties faced during the late 1990s.

“Like a lot of clubs, our course was really struggling,” Strickler said. “We initiated a few programs to raise additional funds, but it wasn’t enough.”

By 2003, a group of four local businessmen – Dave Sager, Bill Campbell, John Brown and Dean Allison – offered to purchase the club.

“The new owners promised to build nine new holes, expand the club house and lower the dues,” Strickler said. “And they’ve kept every one of their promises.”

Within a year, the new ownership group began construction on a newly-designed back nine. Club manager David Lightner worked at the club during this time and witnessed much of the work.

“State regulators inspected our property before construction began,” Lightner said. “They designated quite a few wetland areas that could not be disrupted – which resulted in the numerous wasteland areas that are situated throughout our new back nine.”

The new nine holes opened for play in 2006, and the course has played as a full-length, 18-hole layout since that time. In addition to course work, major renovations were completed to the clubhouse enabling the facility to host banquets for groups of up to 300 people.

“There is no facility like it in the area,” Lightner said. “We’ve hosted a tremendous number of banquets over the past several years.”

As Huntingdon Country Club marks its 93rd year of existence, it does so with a sense of pride – overcoming a multitude of obstacles to continue as a thriving, eighteen-hole golf course.

“We’ve been fortunate,” club manager Lightner said. “Over the past few years, we’ve had an increase in greens fees players and have also seen our membership grow.”