Before Neshobe, there was… Neshobe

The first in a 3-part series on Brandon’s golf courses.


THE NESHOBE GOLF Club was located in the fields between High Street and Park Street Extension (circled in blue). The club, which opened in 1900 and closed just a few years later, maintained the first golf course in Brandon. Subsequent articles by the author will cover the history of Brandon’s later golf courses.

BRANDON—Most people in Brandon are well aware of our beautiful 18-hole Neshobe Golf Course that seems to have been around forever. But, as some may know, the course has been where it currently is, off Town Farm Road in Forest Dale, since only 1959.  Not to say that 65 years of continuous operation isn’t impressive!

A few other Brandon residents, mostly those in their 70s or older, even remember the predecessor course called the Brandon Country Club, which operated from 1927 through the mid-1940s. That 9-hole course was located north of High Street and its entrance was at the old Dr. Phillipsen House (now owned by Courtney and Devon Fuller) at 83 Park Street Extension. It’s doubtful that anyone alive today ever played that course. 

Two future Reporter articles will cover those two better-known courses. This article reveals a first course that I’m betting that virtually no one knew existed, way back in 1900. 

That course was named- drum roll! – the Neshobe Golf Club!

Recent research into local newspaper clippings has brought this to light. It’s possible others have previously stumbled across the same clippings, but no one seems to have shared it with the public.

As the 20th century began, golf was getting very popular as more people had the leisure time on their hands, especially the richest class in town, those with big houses on Park Street, Conant Square, and Pearl Street. 

Early in 1900, a group in town formed with the desire to start a golf club and build a course. Soon they had forty very interested residents. On May 1 of that year, the Brandon Union published an editorial lauding the effort, saying “an up-to-date golf links” was the best way to turn the town into a real summer resort. A links was the missing piece to add to the lakes and streams and the modern hotels here. In a real sense, it was the proverbial “missing link” (apologies!). 

The Union implored: “Let the cow pastures make room for the golf links!”

They went on to announce that “the lot bordering on High Street is well adapted to this purpose, and an organization has been started in Brandon who have leased this lot. The lot consists of 48 acres of tablelands and elevations in about the right proportion to make an ideal field in which to lay out a links.” Called Winslow’s Field, the land was owned by local farmer C. W. Winslow, who was a principal in the Ayrshire Breeders. Anyone interested could sign up at the Brandon Inn. 

RESULTS FROM EARLY golf tournaments at the Neshobe Golf Club, which opened in 1900 off of High Street in Brandon.

Work on the field commenced and on June 1 the Neshobe Golf Club (NGC) members met at the Inn and elected officers, all prominent men in town: Reverend W. F. Weeks, President; Frank Farrington, Secretary; and Edward S. Marsh, Treasurer. Five other local businessmen were on the Executive Committee.

It didn’t take long before the course was ready, opening for practice on June 15. The Union again crowed: “Experts who have examined the links say they are among the best in the state.”

At that time, there weren’t really any nearby golf courses. The Rutland Golf Club started in 1897 on a small course, but the Rutland Country Club wouldn’t open until 1902, and links at Middlebury and Proctor-Pittsford opened later in 1920 and 1928 respectively. Soon, the course became popular not only for residents, but also for the summer people staying at the Brandon Inn, the Middlebury Inn, and the Mountain Spring Hotel on Lake Dunmore. 

In August 1900, three tournaments were held on the course, the first two for men, then one for women. Doctor C. W. Peck (no relation to this author) won the two men’s matches, thanks to his high handicap, scoring a gross of 116 less a 32 handicap on August 17, then a 110 less a 22 handicap on August 24. Edgar Bliss from New York, a “scratch man,” actually scored the lowest gross of 92. 

On August 31, on a very hot day, the women played only nine holes, with Madge Thayer, a local girl who lived at 69 Park Street, taking first prize with a gross of 72 and a net of 57. 

Looking at the scores compared to those at the modern day Neshobe, it looks like this was a real tough course!

Men’s and women’s tournaments were held in mid-September in cooler weather. This time Dr. Peck was absent and W. T. Wright, who “exhibited great skill in the way he handled his wooden clubs,” won with a 94 net. 

In September, members of the NGC played the Rutland Country Club on the Rutland course, losing badly. A rematch was held in Brandon in 1901, but the winner is unknown. 

That fall also, “one of the champion players in America” according to the Union, R. C. Watson, Jr., played the nine holes in Brandon with a score of 38. In October, the amateur record was set by local Dick Leatch at 40. 

The first Neshobe golf course apparently continued in operation only two more years. Not much can be found in the local papers in 1901 and 1902. Then it must have closed because no further mention is made of a Brandon course until 1926, when the Brandon Country Club (BCC) was formed and Brandon’s second golf course went into operation for the next seventeen years. 

The story of the BCC will be the subject of part 2 of this Reporter series.

Postscript: “Winslow’s Field” was used for the baseball and football games of Brandon High School through 1920. After that, we expect the lots along High Street were sold and houses built there.  

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