Ancestors, Legends & Time

Golf course was good for fun and employment

Jeanne Newby

It is sometimes hard to recall, but Webb City once had a beautiful golf course. We have Golf Road and Par Road to help us remember, but the golf course itself is gone. I have a couple of guys this week recalling the fun of playing golf with greens made of sand. Then they have another memory of yet another golf course that seems to have been lost with time. Here are the memories of Dale Shellhorn, with the help of Harold Conner.

Few may now recall when Webb City had a golf course, but when two (not one!) were built in the 1930s they offered both entertainment for many and work for some. In those days, the fees were affordable, about 25 cents for nine holes, and the pleasure of a walk in the sun was good. Probably the only downside of the Webb City courses was that the “greens” were actually sand, which because they were oiled to give them consistency would leave a brown oily stain on clothing and body after that day of fun. 

For those who have never played sand greens the procedure was this: each green had a piece of pipe (about 2 feet long) welded in the middle to an iron rod about 4 feet long. This was stuck in the cup in the middle of the green (in lieu of a flag); each day the greens would be raked in a circle and a path was drug with the pipe from a couple of feet in back of the cup to the periphery of the green. As each player hit a ball on the green, he or she would pace the distance to the cup, and transfer that pace along the path; if the path was not smooth then the player could re-drag the path … and finally one would putt. Now you can see how your hands got oily quickly!

The rest of the course was similar to all courses today; well, maybe not quite similar, as modern courses have special grasses that are watered, fertilized, chemically treated and manicured to perfection, while Webb City courses were mostly mowed native weeds. One other difference was that modern courses mow their “rough” areas to maybe 4 to 8 inches, while the Webb City courses let their “rough” areas just grow … and grow … and grow. Sometimes these weeds could be waist high, and finding a ball in them was impossible unless one accidentally stepped on it. But those of us that caddied and played on the Webb City course (Hatten Farm Golf) thought it was wonderful, and the few distractions (chiggers, snakes, mosquitoes, etc) were not noticed.

What about the “two” courses? Many will recall the Hatten Farms Golf Course was developed by A. D. Hatten in 1933, and from now on I will just refer to it as the “Webb City Golf Course.” However, a handful of us who were small boys in the late ’30s and early ’40s recall finding the remnants of an “old” golf course on the pasture just southeast of Broadway and College. This land was vacant at that time from Broadway to the (now) MacArthur Drive and from College Street east to the railroad tracks. (Yes, there were some homes on the south side of Broadway from the tracks to Ash Street). We boys chased rabbits, found snakes and swam in Rosey’s Branch in all the seasons. We did find the circular greens with some sand remains, but no one in our crowd ever knew of this as a golf course. While checking the Webb City Sentinel for the origin of the Hatten Golf Course there was a column in the April 19, 1933, issue announcing a “New Golf Course to Open on the A. D. Hatten Tract.” This column ended with a note: “In the meantime free golf continues to be played with popular approbation on the Roney course nearby.” A great clue; now just go back a few years, and the whole story of this Roney course will follow. Sure enough, the July 9, 1930, paper headlined “Golf in Aylor-Roney Pasture.” This story tells that Jack Ball and Cecil Bentley leased part of this pasture from T.J. Roney and B.C. Aylor, and that they would open a driving range within a week. They charged a penny a ball, and the owners had the equipment to pick up the balls. For comparison, in 2006 the golf facility on Range Line charges $7 per 100 balls (or 7 cents a ball). If average inflation is 3% then the price should be 9 cents a ball, or if it was 4% it should be 20 cents a ball. The penny ball in 1930 seems a reasonable cost. Now, there is no other mention of this “Roney” course through Dec. 20 1930, and there are no Sentinel records from this time until April 4, 1933, so all information about the beginning and use of the Roney course is gone! Hopefully, some reader may have other information about the Roney course, but if not it is just a missing piece of history.

From April through June 1933, there were several articles about the construction of the Hatten Farms Golf Course and Clubhouse. (The rustic limestone used on the clubhouse came from the remains of the old Baptist College building.) On June 10, 1933, there was a formal opening of the course, with Paul Smith, of Schifferdecker, as the course manager and instructor. By August, a golf club was formed, with $1 per year dues. Lee Daugherty was president, and a challenge match was set up with Carthage. Although Webb City lost this first match, other matches were being set up, including a return match with Carthage. Smith scheduled a ladies day, and he started a series of free lessons for the gals. Golf on the Webb City course was started and would continue until the 1960s.

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber office and other local retailers, such as Maggie Jane’s Gifts, at 8 S. Main St.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.