Nittany steeped in history

Located near the little village of Mingoville, about 15 miles northeast of State College, Nittany Country Club is a scenic nine-hole course that can trace its history back more than 100 years.

Long-time Nittany member Mike Taylor, of nearby Zion, has compiled a history of the club that’s recorded the major milestones and occurrences experienced at Nittany in the years since the club was established in 1895.

“I was fortunate to sit down with long-time member Don Deitrich, a two-time club champion who just turned 90 years old,” Taylor said. “He was kind enough to provide multiple photos, documents and stories that detailed the club’s growth over the years.”

Taylor’s additional research revealed that a group of prominent businessmen, many from nearby Bellefonte, met in the late 1890s to organize a hunting and fishing club.

Approximately 7,000 acres was purchased in Mingoville, and the Nittany Rod and Gun Club was quickly formed. This original club soon fell on hard times, and by 1902 a new Nittany Country Club was formed.

This new organization thrived and by 1909 boasted 75 members.

In August of that year, tragedy struck when fire destroyed Nittany’s six-year-old clubhouse. A new structure was built in 1911 for the sum of $8,500, and members were soon able to arrive at the exclusive country club via the newly-constructed railroad lines (the bed of the old tracks can still be seen running parallel to today’s sixth hole).

Nearby Hecla Park was built during this same time by the Central Railroad Company in order to help generate additional revenue. The park included manmade lakes, an open-air dance pavilion and a 20-acre plot of woods.

Taylor’s history notes that an old harness racing track also existed on club property (near today’s fifth and eighth holes).

By World War I, the club’s interest was turning toward golf, and an original layout of three holes was constructed. Eventually, the course was expanded to six holes and finally to nine holes.

In 1934, the club purchased additional land to enlarge the original nine-hole layout. The resulting work added two brand new holes (the current third and fourth holes) and redesigned seven of the original holes.

This club expansion helped the club gain entry into the Central Counties Golf Association. At that time, the third hole played exclusively as a par-5, to the upper green only. After World War II, the upper green was closed, and a lower, par-4 green was constructed. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the upper green was re-opened.

The club thrived throughout the 1950s and ’60s. Financial concerns that arose during the 1970s were alleviated after a successful bond-issuing campaign was arranged by the membership.

In April 1998, fire once again destroyed the Nittany clubhouse. By the fall of 2000, construction of a new facility was completed, doubling the club’s floor space.

According to head professional Scott Frey, the clubhouse is just one of the many fine features that make Nittany Country Club a special place.

“We also have a golf course with a great mixture of holes,” Frey said. “From several well-designed short holes to a few, challenging long holes. The course is always in great shape, too.”

Club historian Taylor, a retired newspaper writer from New York, plays golf at Nittany Country Club on a regular basis.

“When I was young, my family lived nearby and I learned to play golf here,” Taylor said. “Since I’ve retired, it’s been great to come back to the area and return to Nittany. I’ve also enjoyed being able to gather so much information and history about this club.”