Lake Junaluska will celebrate 100 years of golf on Wednesday, July 24, with a play-for-cart-fee special, closest-to-the-pin contest, historic photos and birthday cake.
“When this course first opened in 1919, golf was just taking off in popularity across the United States,” said Fred Edwards, director of golf operations at Lake Junaluska. “Now, 100 years later, this course has expanded, continues to improve and, most importantly, still brings friends and generations of family together. We hope everyone will join us for a celebratory round of golf on this historic course.”
The July 24 play-for-cart-fee special enables golfers to play nine holes for $9 and 18 holes for $18, and participate in an optional closest-to-the-pin contest for an additional $5.
As early as 1913, a golf course was part of the vision for recreation, outdoor fun and fellowship at Lake Junaluska.
Jerry Liner, a Lake Junaluska area native who had helped engineers stake and lay-out streets at Lake Junaluska, served as the general contractor for the golf course after he returned from serving in World War I. Liner described the project, which he completed at age 29, as his first large contract.
“The job ran to about $4,000, and he felt like he was a ‘big time’ contractor, as he expressed it last week,” according to a Sept. 5, 1940, article in The Waynesville Mountaineer in which Liner reflected on his career.
Constructed on land near the lake where sheep and cattle grazed, the golf course opened during the summer of 1919 - the same year of the second PGA Championship. Two years later, an October 1921 newspaper article dubbed Lake Junaluska the “sportiest nine-hole course in the South.”
Golf quickly became a very popular recreational feature at Lake Junaluska, said Bill Lowry in his book “The Antechamber of Heaven: A History of Lake Junaluska Assembly.”
At that time, trains brought many of the lake’s summer guests to the area, and a boat, the Cherokee, transported them across the lake to play golf, said Lowry.
In the course’s early days, golf expert R. Scalley offered instruction. Working with him was 12-year-old William Oliver, who collected fees at the farmhouse that served as a clubhouse. Oliver arrived alone by train from Valdosta, Georgia, to work for the season and stayed at the Sunset Inn, according to the stories he later told his son, Billy Oliver.
“Dad said they’d come down from the hillside to play,” said Billy Oliver, a retired United Methodist minister who now owns a home at Lake Junaluska.
Animals grazed the golf course – not an unheard of practice at the time – until 1939, when bent grass was planted and grazing prohibited, according to a 1996 report from Glenn Martin, a former associate executive director of Lake Junaluska.
Some time after World War II, Lake Junaluska leased out the course for year-round use and then resumed management in 1992. During the following year, the facility expanded to 18 holes. Silt dredged from the lake was used to build tees and greens, and a new irrigation system pulled water from Richland Creek.
Sandy Denman, president of the Lady Lakers Golf group, said she remembered playing on the golf course when the expansion was underway. Jeanne Perry, a Lady Laker, teed off from the seventh hole as a dump truck passed.
“Her ball went into the back of the dump truck, and the dump truck went to the Canton landfill, so we gave her an award that year for the longest drive,” said Denman.
She knows the course well, from which pond a giant snapping turtle visits to the sound of the bagpiper who used to play from the eighth hole in the evenings.
Teresa Liner, who is also a member of the Lady Lakers, said over the years she has enjoyed the course’s affordability and friendly atmosphere. She also got her first hole-in-one on the 11th hole.
“I had an eagle the next year on No. 12 – a hole that more people get eagles on than any other,” said Liner. “Then a month ago, a real eagle flew over our heads while we were on the green at No. 9.”
Today, Charlie Carswell, who grew up playing the course with his dad, has returned to work as a PGA professional at Lake Junaluska. Carswell works in the clubhouse, a building made possible through charitable giving and dedicated in 2008 to two golfers who a plaque says “recognized that the Lake Junaluska Golf Course is a recreational ministry for all those who come to play.” Carswell also captains the course’s PGA Jr. League team, which helps introduce young players to the sport.
Meanwhile, improvements to the Lake Junaluska Golf Course continue. The director of golf operations, Edwards, brought 35 years of experience as a golf course manager, superintendent, consultant and championship-caliber player to the course when he joined the staff earlier this year. He is working to improve the playability and aesthetic with contoured mowing patterns and efforts to enhance the surface of the greens. A new irrigation pump went in this year, and Edwards is exploring other updates.
“People tell us the course has never looked better, and that's great to hear,” said Edwards. “We appreciate our members, regulars and all who come to play, and we are so grateful to our staff, our volunteers and all who give so generously to support the Lake Junaluska Golf Course.”
Upcoming centennial festivities include the July 24 anniversary celebration and events on Monday, Sept. 2, and Saturday, Oct. 5.
For more information about the golf course or upcoming events, visit lakejunaluska.com/golf, call 828-456-5777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Junaluska Communications