Ruth Lake Country Club
Ruth Lake Country Club was the brainchild of nine golf-loving businessmen from Hinsdale. The intention was simple. “We went into this,” they wrote in the February 25, 1922 edition of The Doings, “To save the property primarily for ourselves, so that we may enjoy golf, and other summer and winter sports here, in perpetuity at small expense.”
The first nine—Harvey Conover, Wayne C. Dawson, Will Edwards, Willard Krohn, Lloyd Myers, Arthur Myers, Chester Ruth, Frank Schaefer and Phillip Williams-had enjoyed the spot for years, “skate, sailing and hunting” on and around the twenty acre Ruth Lake. The property surrounding Ruth Lake leased by the nine founders was 160 acres commonly known as the Dixon Farm. The Club’s formation, too, was in keeping with wishes of the man for whom it and the lake were named. Linus Ruth, one of six Hinsdaleans killed in World War I and son of a local judge, was “one of the early enthusiasts for this lake as a bird sanctuary and place for winter and summer sports,” according to the February 18, 1922 edition of The Doings.
Caddie Henry Homann in 1930 standing in front of the Clubhouse which was built in 1925.
To sell their idea, the nine founding members placed their declaration of intentions, an advertisement of sorts, in The Doings. Billed as a Hinsdale Golf Club for Hinsdale People, the founders promised that all dues would be “used exclusively for permanent improvements on the course, maintenance charges, and a reasonable sinking fund towards the purchase of the property, a ten-year option on which we have. The only exception will be lockers and shower baths, with a cafeteria concession which will be installed in the Farmhouse.”
The Farmhouse, it seems, was not a Clubhouse; the founders expressed a clear intention to put money toward their Club’s Course and not its social life. According to former members, the Farmhouse’s only occupants were Club Employees and their Families. The structure, which was located on the southwest side of the current entrance, was torn down in the mid-1970s; the area then was used for sod and tree growing.
The 250 original memberships cost $50 (a $75 initiation fee was added in 1923). Greens fees were 50¢ on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; 25¢ on weekdays. “Ministers and teachers shall be admitted without annual dues upon payment of the day’s playing fee,” the founders wrote, adding that “annual dues for a woman not a member of a Club Member’s Family shall be $25.” Of course, they also intended for memberships to be limited to Hinsdaleans only.
By February 25, 1922, 87 members had enlisted their support. David Foulis had been engaged to layout the new course, which had a target completion date of the following June. By September, Foulis’ plans were mailed to each member. “Study by golf architects and well-informed players reveals the fact that Mr. Foulis and the Club Membership are due for hearty congratulations. The contour map brings out the wide variety with natural beauty unusual for this section of the country. Mr. Foulis stated that, because of the fine hills, with 150 members playing at the same time, a player will have in view no more than twenty other players at any one time.”
By the Member’s first Annual Meeting on November 18, 1922 at Union Church in Hinsdale, preliminary work was done on fairways and greens, thanks to a fast-growing grass newly developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 56 of the 152 regular members attended the dinner, which sported “a miniature golf course complete with players and water areas that were literally mirrors”.
On July 28, 1923, Ruth Lake’s second nine holes opened, providing members with a full 18-hole course. The course was just more than 6,100 yards with a par of 72. Although the first nine had been opened three weeks before, July 28th marked the official start of Ruth Lake as a completed course and The Doingsreported that, “Ruth Lake started its official career as a permanent and valuable part of the community today with a clean slate.”
Caddies take a moment to smile for the camera in front of their caddy shack (1930)
In 1925 a clubhouse was constructed on the present location, and in 1959, a swimming pool was built and the Clubhouse porches were enclosed, allowing for larger dining and ball rooms. The addition of the patio and tennis courts were improvements made in subsequent years. In 1966, the Pro Shop was built on the east bank of the lake.
In late fall of 1995, a new Clubhouse was built, and in August of 2004 the course was closed for a major renovation under the direction of famed architect Arthur Hills. Included in the project was a new grounds maintenance complex. The newly renovated course opened for play on June 18, 2005 with a grand course opening day.
In 2015, the Club completed an Enhancement Program that included the addition of a Paddle Tennis Complex, the replacement of the cart/bag facility with an underground facility, the digging of an additional golf course irrigation well coupled with a new pump station, a new 1st tee complex, an extension of the Men's Locker Room, an expanded upper dining patio, and a full renovation of the pool house with additions of a screened in dining area, a dedicated Junior Room, and a new kiddie pool. And in 2020 the Club completed an improvement project with five components: expansion of practice range tee; full bunker renovation; 18th green expansion; Clubhouse exterior renovation; and the addition of a bridge at the 18th hole crossing.
In 1922, the nine founding members of Ruth Lake Country Club wrote down their hopes for their new club. Time has brought some changes to those original intentions — a Clubhouse in place of a cafeteria-style farm house and social programs in place of a golf-only policy. But at least one intent seems to ring true, no matter what the year. The founders said it best: “Those of us who have played any real golf, have our opinion of the natural advantages of the hills and lake as a golf course, supported by such statements as this one by W.G. Jackson, the well-known golf architect, ‘There is not a spot equal to this for a golf club within 40 miles of the center of Chicago’.”
The nine founding members of Ruth Lake Country Club intended their golf course to last into perpetuity. So far their wish has held strong.