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Iconic golf course closes

George Williams Golf Course is closing for the 2012 season for financial reasons. The course has been losing membership over the past few years.

March 14, 2012 | 08:34 AM
WILLIAMS BAY — It was one of the first public links in the state, but has time caught up with George Williams College Golf Course.

Rising costs and falling memberships have apparently put the course, at 100 N. Lakeshore Drive, Williams Bay, into a financial bind, and the college is now rethinking how it will use the land.

A recent call to the course's information line was answered by a recording.

"I am sorry to announce that the golf course will not open for the 2012 season," the recording says. "We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you."

John Pyle senior vice president, George Williams College, said the decision not to open the course was financial.

"We've been losing memberships over the years," said Pyle.

He said the past five years were particularly hard for the George Williams course.

Pyle said the college is considering changes to the golf course property, including turning some of it over to educational purposes. If golf continues to be played there, it will be at a reduced level.

"Our closing doesn't preclude a nine-hole executive golf course," Pyle said.

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Meanwhile, the course will be maintained so it doesn't fall into disrepair, he said.

The college is working with the leagues and groups that golfed at George Williams and now have to find new courses.

The course had been the practice site for the Williams Bay High School golf team.

"We're really sorry to see that happen," said Barry Butters, Williams Bay principal. However, he said that the high school's golf coach has already found an alternative site for the team's practices.

Pyle said the decision to close the course was not an easy one.

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"Many members of the community have enjoyed the golf course over the years," he said.

While the Williams Bay campus of George Williams College is well-known for its outdoor education program, golf was not a large part of that program, Pyle said.

"It was a piece of the program, but it was not a focal point," Pyle said.

The golf course at George Williams College started as a project of several professors at Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago and the YMCA staff at George Williams College.

It was first opened in 1900 with one hole.

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Then, six holes were laid out by Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. According to www.golfcourseranking.com, it is the only golf course Naismith designed.

The course opened to the public in 1902.

By 1906, there were nine holes open to the public and in 1918, with the help of a private financial donation, the course was expanded to 18 holes. The course's clubhouse, called the Gramley Clubhouse, was dedicated in 1929.

The par-67 course was designed for beginning to intermediate players, according to www.golf ourseranking.com. It is considered ideal for adults, juniors and families who are interested in learning to play golf or who want to practice.

The attractive, tree-lined course lies in the shadows of the world-famous Yerkes Observatory, which can be seen from holes 2 and 3.

The modern George Williams golf course is next door to Yerkes and has two distinct nines on different pieces of land, with a road separating them.


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