Courtesy Photo The Belles Springs Golf Club is located near Lock Haven.

By Ken Love

For the mirror

A host of local golfers will head to Belles Springs Golf Club near Lock Haven this weekend to compete in this year’s Central Counties Individual and Team Championship.

The two-day, 36-hole event is open to members of local clubs associated with the Central Counties Golf Association.

This particular tournament has a long and storied history, having first been held in 1924. Last year’s event was played at Park Hills Golf Club, where Spencer Hinish of the Iron Masters won the individual title with a total of 141 over two days.

This year will mark the fourth time Belle Springs has hosted the prestigious Central Counties tournament.

More than 50 years have passed since the initial plans to build this course were first proposed by the Clinton County Recreational Authority.

In 1967, the organization sought to establish a park-like area that could be enjoyed by local residents. Later that year the county chiefs purchased the 204-acre Robert Steinbacher farm at Mill Hall with initial plans not only for a golf course but also for tennis courts, beginner ski slopes, campsites, toboggan runs and a pond for ice skating.

The golf course would be the first priority, and course architect Ed Ault was quickly hired to design the layout.

Local officials worked to secure state and federal grants to help cover construction costs, but most of the roughly $320,000 needed for construction was secured by a loan from the Farmers Home Administration, to be repaid over 40 year.

In April 1968, construction of the course began under the supervision of Colonial Garden, Inc., an Ohio company with experience building courses along the eastern seaboard.

Plans for the new Belles Springs course called for a 6,560 yard layout that would play at a par 70. The course would occupy approximately 150 acres, contain 64 sand traps and offer greens averaging 7,300 square feet. Additional landscape architects were recruited to develop an extensive tree planting plan.

By early 1969, all phases of construction were on schedule and county bosses began looking to fill the club’s large staff openings.

Bob Steinbacher, a local man fresh out of Penn State School of Agronomy, was named the club’s superintendent, while Williamsport native Fred Pacacha was hired to be the club’s first head professional.

Later that spring, the new Belles Springs Golf Club began announcing a grand opening for late May. The course would offer individual memberships at a cost of $125, while a husband and wife membership would cost $150. Fees have been set at $3

weekdays and $5 on weekends.

As the excitement grew, a date of May 30 was set for opening day. County officials held a modest ceremony to mark the occasion and brought in nationally acclaimed entertainer Paul Hahn to perform at the large gathering that unfolded.

Later that same year, a clubhouse was built and a driving range soon followed. The course was an immediate hit with local golfers, and it has flourished ever since.

Although the Clinton County course remained relatively intact, notable changes include an increase in the yard count to 6,972 yards and a new par of 72 strokes. Another addition was a windmill built on the club’s 10th hole, an iconic structure that has become a familiar logo of the Belles Springs course.

Judd Caruso, current Belles Springs head pro, will be on hand all weekend to administer this year’s Central Counties Championship and welcome golfers from across the region.

“I really like the course” Park Hills member Keith Danner recently said. “I like the design of the tree-lined fairways and have always been impressed with the course conditions. I look forward to a fun weekend.

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