Belles Springs to ring in Central Counties championship
By Ken Love
For the Mirror
A multitude of local golfers will be heading to Belles Springs Golf Club near Lock Haven this weekend to participate in this year’s Central Counties Individual and Team Championship.
The two-day, 36-hole event is open to members of local clubs associated with the Central Counties Golf Association.
This particular tournament has a long and storied history, having first been held in 1924. Last year’s event was contested at Park Hills Golf Club, where Iron Masters’ Spencer Hinish took home the top individual title with a two-day total of 141.
This year will mark the fourth time that Belles Springs has hosted the prestigious Central Counties tournament.
More than 50 years have passed since initial plans of constructing this course were first proposed by the Clinton County Recreational Authority.
In 1967, the organization was looking to establish a park-like area that could be enjoyed by local residents. Later that year, county leaders purchased the 204-acre Robert Steinbacher farm in Mill Hall with initial plans for not only a golf course, but also tennis courts, beginner ski slopes, camping sites, tobogganing slopes and a pond for ice skating.
The golf course would be first priority, and course architect Ed Ault was quickly hired to design the layout.
Local officials worked to secure state and federal grants to help defray the costs of construction, but the bulk of an estimated $320,000 needed for construction was secured through a loan from the Farmers Home Administration, to be paid back over 40 years.
By April of 1968, construction on the course began under the supervision of Colonial Garden, Inc., an Ohio company with experience constructing courses up and down the east coast.
Plans for the new Belles Springs course called for a layout of 6,560 yards that would play to a par of 70. The course would occupy approximately 150 acres, contain 64 sand traps, and boast greens that averaged a sizable 7,300 square feet. Additional landscape architects were secured to map out an extensive tree-planting plan.
By early 1969, all construction phases were on schedule, and county leaders began looking to fill the club’s important personnel openings.
Bob Steinbacher, a local man fresh out of Penn State’s Agronomy School was appointed club superintendent, while Williamsport native Fred Pacacha was hired to be the club’s first head professional.
Later that spring, the new Belles Springs Golf Club began to advertise a grand opening for late May. The course would offer individual memberships at a cost of $125, while a husband and wife membership went for $150. Greens fees were set at $3
for weekdays and $5 for weekends.
As excitement grew, a date of May 30 was set for opening day. County officials conducted a modest ceremony to mark the occasion and brought in nationally-known, trick-shot artist Paul Hahn to perform for the large gathering that turned out.
Later that same year, a clubhouse was constructed, and a driving range soon followed. The course was an immediate success with local golfers, and it has prospered ever since.
While the Clinton County course has remained fairly intact, notable changes include an increase in yardage to 6,972 yards and a new par of 72 strokes. Another addition has been a windmill constructed on the club’s 10th hole, an iconic structure that has become a familiar logo of the Belles Springs course.
Belles Springs current head pro Judd Caruso will be on hand all weekend to administer this year’s Central Counties Championship and to welcome golfers from across the area.
“I really enjoy the course,” Park Hills member Keith Danner said recently. “I like the design of the tree-line fairways and have always been impressed by the course conditions. I’m looking forward to a fun weekend.”