Important architects played a role in the former Sturgeon Bay country club

Local readers noticed an article in the Fairways section last year about the construction of the freeway in the 1970s that ended the old Leathem Smith golf course. But the early days of the course also caught the attention of a reader from Indiana who is a golf history buff.

John Griffin studies the early 20th century golf course designers William Langford and Theodore Moreau. Newspaper clippings show that the Door County Country Club opened around 1921 on the site of Sturgeon Bay, which later became home to the Commodore Hotel and golf course, then the lodge and Leathem Smith links . Griffin found documents showing that Langford and Moreau helped redo the course in 1930, when the hotel was built.

William Langford

Griffin said a Green Bay golf professional, WR Lovekin, had a hand in the initial design of the course. A 1922 article showed that Lovekin and three other pros, including Alex Mitchell of Door County Country Club, played the first competitive game on the course, competing for a prize of $100.

Langford and Moreau worked on about 120 golf courses, mostly in the Midwest and Florida, Griffin said, and he became interested in the two designers after playing a vacation game at Lawsonia in Green Lake, Wisconsin.

“Best known examples of their boldest work include The Links Course at Lawsonia, the front nine at West Bend [Wisconsin] Country Club, Culver [Indiana] Academy and Kankakee Golf Courses [Illinois] Elks Country Club,” Griffin said.

Passers-by on Highway 42/57 can still see a distinct outline of a green east of The Lodge at Leathem Smith.

“The greens were frequently built up, creating deep bunkers around them. Fairway bunkers were usually backed by large mounds to give them extra depth,” Griffin said of the former push-up greens at Langford and Moreau.

Langford, Griffin said, grew up in West Chicago. He contracted poliomyelitis as a child and learned to play golf in rehabilitation. After his years at the Westward Ho Golf Club in Chicago, he played on the Yale University golf team, which won the national intercollegiate tournament each of those years. Langford then studied mining engineering and later pursued golf course design as a profession, Griffin wrote.

After three years with Chicago-based American Park Builders, he partnered with Massachusetts Agricultural College graduate Theodore Moreau, who focused more on building their business, Griffin said.

Langford became an officer of the Chicago Daily Fee Golf Association, the Public Links Committee of the United States Golf Association, and the American Society of Golf Course Architects.