Brandon Country Club created to fill the gap


A POSTCARD VIEW of the Brandon Country Club, which was located off Park Street Extension. The Club operated from 1927 to 1944.

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

After the first Neshobe Golf Club folded in 1903, the town of Brandon went without a golf course for the next 24 years. 

Finally, in September of 1926, a new group met and formed the Brandon Country Club. The club was incorporated with capital of $10,000 by local businessmen Frank W. Williams, James R. Scott, Dr. F. S. Briggs, Hames N. Wheldon, and Dr. T. J. Allen. 

Soon, Frank Lord, a real estate investor from Scarsdale, New York with a summer home in Peru, Vermont, joined the Board of Governors. It was Lord who had bought 91 acres of farmland from local farmer Roy Bresee off Park Street Extension in October of 1926. 

Mr. Lord donated most of his land for the new links.  The 9-hole course was laid out and built in the spring of 1927, opening in May to enthusiastic Brandonites and golfers from Rutland, Manchester, Poultney, and other neighboring towns. The course was very near the original Neshobe Golf Club course. 

They quickly hired Clarence Loyzelle as the first club professional. He was billed as a “teacher and adviser,” and he also acted as the groundskeeper. A temporary clubhouse was set up in a cottage loaned by Frank Lord and they sold golf equipment and clothes. Marble benches were placed at each tee.

Plans were made for a beautiful new clubhouse initially to go up in 1927, but its completion was delayed until 1930 as $2,000 in funds were raised. Lord supervised contractor Earnest Hooker as it went up. 

The clubhouse was worth waiting for! Sitting on a rock ledge knoll north of the first tee, the clubhouse had magnificent views of the entire course with spacious porches on three sides. The living room was very large with a huge stone fireplace. A large locker room, toilets, and showers were built downstairs. The steel lockers were rented to club members.

Membership took off and many golfers visited from nearby towns. There were 90 members by May of 1929. Improvements were made each year, with newer greens and a few longer holes. Discussion about expanding to 18 holes came early, but it’s not believed they ever did so. 

Intertown matches were organized with Proctor, Middlebury, and Rochester. Eddie Hildebrandt became club pro in 1929 and stayed on for a few years. He went to Palm Beach, Florida in the winter to be pro there for six months. By the summer of 1930, there were 200 visitors a week in July and August.

On October 30, 1930, Frank Lord sold the course to the Brandon Country Club. The house on Park Street Extension (now 83 Park Street) had remained in Roy Bresee’s hands, but there was a right of way for the roadway leading to the clubhouse.

A NEWSPAPER CLIPPING from 1932 advertising the club’s seasonal rates.

No fee was charged for Brandon members and only a small fee for out of towners. In 1932, they began to charge $25 for single annual memberships and $30 for a family of three. Apparently, that didn’t go over too well in the Depression, so rates were dropped to $15 and $20 the next year. 

Tournaments were held for the President’s Cup for men and Vice President’s Cup for women. Caddie’s tournaments were held as well. Hoxie DeAngelus became pro in 1934. In 1937, L. Edison Tribble, a sophomore at Middlebury College, served as pro, followed by George Clewes in 1938 and then Walter Gollnick in 1939 through 1941. 

Some in town today may remember Miss Mary Force who was a long-time teacher at both Brandon High School and Otter Valley. She was an excellent scratch golfer as a leftie and won tournaments at BCC in 1938 through 1941, then went on to be the first champion at the new Neshobe Golf Club in 1959.  

The Brandon Country Club partnered with the Brandon Inn and other hotels to offer deals for individuals as well as groups. An example was the Vermont Optometric Association who held their 1933 annual meeting at the Lake Dunmore Hotel and played 27 holes at the Brandon Club before a 1:30 afternoon meeting, if the news clipping is to be believed!

In 1937, they began charging $3 for clubhouse memberships for those who didn’t golf but participated in social events. The clubhouse became a real community center for Brandon with bands and dances, bridge and card socials, teas and luncheons, as well as special events. One example was the May Day Festival held in 1936 for the benefit of crippled children, In the winter, there were skiing events for children. 

In the 1940s, things slowed down as WWII approached and the club ran into some serious financial difficulties. It came to a head late in 1943, when the man who held the mortgage, Frank White from Leicester, filed suit to foreclose on the overdue loan of $5,500 he gave the club in 1936. He also sued them for another $5,000 he was owed. 

A POSTCARD VIEW of the Brandon Country Club, which was located off Park Street Extension. The Club operated from 1927 to 1944.

The club couldn’t get the money or find a savior, so White foreclosed on the club in 1944 and the course shut down. The state charter was forfeited in April. The course had operated seventeen seasons. 

White gave the clubhouse and one adjoining lot to his daughter and son-in-law, Flora and Harold Farnsworth of New Haven. Farnsworth put the clubhouse and lot up for sale in 1946 and it eventually went to local farmer Hugh Severy, whose farm was then on McConnell Road not far away (now Country Club Road).

Meanwhile, the course was used periodically, as in 1956 when a group from Pittsford held their First Annual Archery Golf Tournament there. The local Boy Scouts met there periodically. 

On May 2, 1961, the Brandon Country Club clubhouse burned to the ground, then still owned by the Severy family. No one was living there, and it hadn’t been used since the early 50s. The state Fire Marshal was called in as there was some suspicion of arson, possibly by some local kids playing with matches. 

After the BCC ceased operation in 1944, Brandon was without a golf course for the next fifteen years. The story of the second, and current, Neshobe Golf Club will be the subject of part 3 in this Reporter series. 

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