Columbia Country Club turns 100
“This was the worst looking property you had ever seen in your life,” Lem Harper said as he reminisced with his longtime golf buddies. The group has been meeting for a lunch date for 64 years at the Columbia Country Club. “This area was nothing but sand and scrub oaks. But we had a golf vision,” Harper said.
Harper, an avid Columbia golfer since 1943, was a member of the Columbia Country Club when it was known as the Ridgeway Country Club founded in 1904 in the Eau Claire area of Columbia.
Club history credits the origin of golf in the Columbia area to a regiment of Spanish– American War troops from Rhode Island, who played golf around the original clubhouse site near Monticello Road. The leaders of the Columbia Street Railway System, E.W. Robinson and P.I. Wells, proceeded to take over a riding club, purchased additional land, and constructed Columbia’s first nine–hole course that became Ridgewood Country Club. The first record indicates a membership of 250 with annual dues set at five dollars.
In 1915, the clubhouse was destroyed by fire but eventually rebuilt. Charlie Reynolds became the club’s first golf professional in 1919. Two years later, sand bunkers were added to the course, but construction of a swimming pool was abandoned due to lack of water. Nineteen thirty was considered a milestone year, marked by a transition from sand to grass greens and by a truck replacing a mule to power the course maintenance vehicle.
“I joined the club in 1943 with my brothers, Bee and Emory, just after I got out of the army,” Harper recalled. “In 1945, we changed the name from Ridgeway to Columbia Country Club. T.K. Knight was the first president.”
Harper; Bill Moore, a business partner; and Andy Griffin from Orangeburg wanted to expand the golf course, but the original site in Eau Claire had no room for nine more holes. “We sold the property of the old club and bought this property we are standing on now from eight families, averaging about $500 an acre. Lake Windemere used to be called the Country Club Lake before we sold the property to the Longtown development.”
Golf course architect Ellis Maples helped to complete the golf vision by designing the golf complex that renders one of the finest practice facilities in the state. “It’s a great golf course, but the vision isn’t complete without the people. It’s the finest metropolitan cross–section of people you would ever want to meet. Columbia Country Club is about people, fine people.”
See related stories
on pages 2 and 9.