LOCAL GOLF: Short Hills celebrating centennial | Golf - bdsthanhhoavn.com

LOCAL GOLF: Short Hills celebrating centennial | Golf

Short Hills Country Club members are marking a tremendous accomplishment this weekend with a party reminiscent of the Roaring ’20s.

In celebrating its 100th anniversary, the East Moline club has reached a milestone that just a few years ago seemed unlikely.

“Privately, members were asking five, six, eight, 10 years ago ‘can we make it to 100 years?’,” said Dave Holmes, a former board president whose family has been associated with the club for many of those.

But despite dwindling numbers and mounting debt, the Quad-Cities’ oldest country club will celebrate an anniversary that members hope to remember. And they are putting on a Great Gatsby-themed party this weekend to commemorate the centennial celebration and resolve that those individuals put into keeping the facility pertinent in an overcrowded Quad-City club scene.

“It says there’s been a lot of loyalty to our club,” said Tom Bracke of the club’s resiliency.

Bracke is a former board member whose ties to the club go back to 1961 when his parents joined there.

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Through the 1970s, the club was well-established and was flourishing — the center of family-focused fun and entertainment in the Quad-Cities. At its peak, Short Hills had 325 certificate members, said Holmes. Later in the century, though, club life was less sustainable and those numbers dwindled.

The East Moline club came into existence the same year as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” novel. It was the third-oldest golf course/club in the Quad-Cities behind only The Rock Island Arsenal and Davenport’s Credit Island Golf Course.

While those two facilities have closed, Short Hills has overcome some internal issues and struggles to seemingly find solid footing as membership numbers are back on the rise, at about 291 total members now with 50 of those being certificate members. Hiring a management firm to run the club also helped solidify things.

The Gatsby-themed party will not be the only activity commemorating the anniversary on Saturday. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. with a couples two-ball tournament featuring contestants dressed in knickers and bow ties. A buffet dinner, featuring Short Hills’ famous Prime Rib, will begin at 6 p.m., followed by live music, dancing and an evening of revelry, with most members expected to attend in Great Gatsby-era attire.

June parties were an annual rite of a vibrant social calendar that made Short Hills the most popular club in the Quad Cities in the mid-20th century.

That’s how it was remembered by Jim Jannes, a longtime member whose association with the club close to his boyhood home began as a caddie in the early 1950s and continued until his death in February of this year.

“Oh, the memories,” the always dapper Jannes told writer Craig DeVrieze, who has penned a historical piece on the club. “At that time, people would ask, ‘What country club do you belong to?’ You’d say, ‘Short Hills.’ ‘Oh, are you ever lucky!’ Arsenal and Davenport were nice. But Short Hills was the place. That’s where you wanted to go. That’s where you wanted to be seen.”

According to DeVrieze’s research, the idea of Short Hills emerged in November of 1921, when members of the Chambers of Commerce from Moline, East Moline, Rock Island and Scott County joined together to gauge community interest and scout potential locations.

Ultimately, the club’s creation became a joint effort of Moline and East Moline businessmen. Short Hills formally was established on July 25, 1922, when its certificate of incorporation was filed with the state of Illinois. A month later, the East Moline Land Company, which was led by founding Short Hills president George W. Ross, sold the newly incorporated club options on 105 acres of hills, hollows and fallow farmland previously owned by early East Moline settlers L.F. Haemer, Felix Gremonprez and Orrin Skinner.

Work on the new course began in 1922. With the growing in of grass taking longer than anticipated, the first round on the new course was reportedly by the threesome of Isley Johnson, Franklin Johnson, and William Hull on Aug. 1, 1923.

The Short Hills clubhouse opened in 1924, with a full 18-hole layout available for play.

While the clubhouse holds its stately appearance, the course received a major transformation in the late 1990s as Illinois native D.A. Weibring, who headed the design team at nearby TPC Deere Run, put a fresh spin on the course. After some years agronomically, Pat Franklin, who also had ties to Deere Run, is now head groundskeeper.

“We wanted to breath new life into Short Hills,” said John Callas, a longtime member who served on the club’s board of directors in the mid-1990s. “One of the ways to do it was to redesign the golf course. We mortgaged the club. Put money into the pool, and the clubhouse exterior. We changed the face of the club.”

More than half of the holes at the revamped Short Hills feature greens guarded by deep bunkers and surrounded by tightly-mown chipping areas, mirroring the signature green complexes Weibring created at Deere Run.

“They keep trying to improve the place,” said Bracke. “I imagine a lot of the places today are more modern and have more financial backing, but the loyalty and heart is what keeps it going.”

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