The club is one of 15 that turned 100 in 2017, eight of which, including Fort Myers CC, have golf courses designed by Donald Ross. “People who don’t know golf history don’t know how special it is to be 100,” said Rich Lamb, who has been the club’s Director of Golf for 40 years. “There’s a few exceptions but most of those courses are up north; there’s not many down south.”
When golfers stroll into Fort Myers (Fla.) Country Club on Friday, December 29th, they’ll step into history, and also get a souvenir, the Fort Myers News-Press reported, as the club known as “the Fort” celebrates its 100th birthday.
On Dec. 29, 1917, the News-Press reported, officials opened the Fort Myers Golf and Yacht Club (the club’s name was later changed to Fort Myers CC) with a flag-raising and competition between Jack Croke, who was hired as the club professional, and three local players, according to Maryann Dominiak, who has researched the history of the course.
“We’ll have a birthday cake and a little party for the players and give them a centennial ball,” Rich Lamb, who has been Fort Myers CC’s Director of Golf for 40 years, told the News-Press. “People who don’t know golf history don’t know how special it is to be 100. There’s a few exceptions but most of those courses are up north; there’s not many down south.”
The News-Press reported that approximately 15 U.S. courses turned 100 in 2017, according to Golf Vacation Insider. Eight were designed by Donald Ross, who shaped Fort Myers CC’s course. Other Ross courses turning 100 in 2017 included French Lick (Ind.) Resort; Galen Hall Golf Course in Wernersville, Pa.; the Country Club of Pittsfield (Mass.); Evanston (Ill.) Golf Club; Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa.; Oakland Hills (Mich.) Country Club’s South Course; and Palm Beach (Fla.) Country Club.
Mission Inn Resort & Golf Club in El Campeon, Fla. is the only other Southern course that is 100 this year, the News-Press reported.
Lamb told the News-Press that Fort Myers city officials were smart to hire Croke, who had been working in Chicago, so he could help lure Midwest golfers to the Florida city in the winter months.
Two months after the club’s opening in 1917, the News-Press reported. Chicago Tribune golf reporter George A. O’Neil arrived and gave this critique:
Fort Myers is very fortunate in having a number of real golfers who thought the best none too good for their tourists when they started to build a golf course. They have put Fort Myers on the map and every golfer who plays here will have a word of praise and surely plan to return. Donald Ross never has done better work and again the committee showed great wisdom in selecting the well-known architect. I have never seen as pretty a set of 18 consecutive greens. After looking over most of the golf courses in Florida, I can conscientiously say that I have seen none that afford the golfer the thrills and pleasure that this course will.
In 2014, the club’s course added some curves after a $5.8 million renovation, the News-Press reported. But “the Fort” still keeps some of its old-time features, and players can walk the course, yet still play it in about 4 hours, 20 minutes, Lamb said.
“A tremendous amount of credit goes to the leaders of Fort Myers who always realized how significant and how important golf is to this area and the economy of Southwest Florida,” Lamb said. “They realized people from the Midwest wanted to get out of the cold. Remember, [the city was] just incorporated in 1885. And this is a big part of our history.”