Around the turn of the century, one of the first country clubs in the State of Florida was started under the name of Pensacola Country Club. It came into being November 5, 1902 when the original club site was acquired from Wm. H. Knowles. A two-story clubhouse was erected and concrete tennis courts constructed. L. Hilton-Green was the first president. In the early years it was primarily a social club, and its “amusements” consisted of tennis, Ten Pins, croquet, bathing, family picnics, and dancing. One member particularly remembers the bathing in “bloomers” and stockings.
Golf in Pensacola was first played on “links” out on East Hill, on the old Stoddard Estate, near 12th Avenue and Lakeview. Around 1903 L. Hilton-Green and F. W. Marsh laid out the first nine holes on the property belonging to the Pensacola Navy Park Driving Association, of which Mr. Knowles was president, and golfing moved from East Hill to the Bayshore. This new course was deeded to the Pensacola Country Club on June 4, 1905. It was located on what was commonly known as the Donelson Tract. John Donelson, Jr., an in-law of Andrew Jackson, presumably acquired the property when General Jackson had his headquarters in Pensacola.
The first clubhouse was destroyed in the hurricane of 1906, but was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged on the same location. A new main club building was purchased from W. S. Keyser on Feburary 28, 1924, and club activities were moved from the older clubhouse to the Keyser home. The 1926 hurricane so damaged the old clubhouse that it had to be torn down. On May 16, 1925, what was known as the Palmetto Beach Property was leased from the Receiver of the Pensacola Electric Company for $30.00 per annum. This is the acreage that was necessary for the construction of the back nine, which F. M. Blount laid out and supervised. Some time later title to this property was obtained from the Gulf Power Company.
On November 10, 1925, the new Pensacola Country Club Corporation was formed. The stately Keyser home became the center of social life for Country Club members. Within a short time a ballroom was constructed on the north side, which eventually was redesigned for the men’s and women’s locker rooms. Few major improvements in the clubhouse facilities were made during the next twenty-five years. Attention was concentrated on the development and maintenance of the golf course and tennis courts. The Club grew in membership and the 18-hole golf course became known as one of the finest along the Gulf Coast.
Then, during the ‘50s, came the new ballroom, the swimming pool, and the men’s lounge. The tennis courts were refurbished and the sprinkling system for the fairways and greens was completed. With these improvements the use of the Club grew steadily, not only by playing members but also by the whole 5 family. The tennis matches, swimming and diving contests, social functions, and golf tournaments (highlighted by the Pensacola Invitational and culminating in the P.G.A. event) are evidence of the important part the Country Club came to play in our community.
In 1993, the clubhouse was expanded and a second kitchen, two meeting rooms and a men’s grill were added. After Hurricanes Erin and Opal in 1995, the tennis courts were completely refurbished.
In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan made a direct landfall on Pensacola by way of the bay. Thirteen hours of Category 3 winds and storm surge left little of the Clubhouse, golf facilities and course. The front 9 were under water for days and thousands of trees on the course were lost due to the winds and destruction. Not only was our clubhouse destroyed, but many of our members suffered personal losses as well. The membership stepped forward and through much discussion, debate, and struggle, moved ahead with the plan for the “Second Century” of the Pensacola Country Club. The course was redesigned by our own Jerry Pate and the course construction got underway despite another year of battering hurricanes in 2005 and further tree loss due to storms and disease. For a period of time, our dues-paying membership belonged to a country club that did not have a clubhouse, golf course or pool facilities. Eventually, the membership was able to gather and enjoy fellowship with one another in our illustrious “triple-wide” trailer which served as our temporary clubhouse for over two years.
As the course was rebuilt, earth was moved to elevate the current club site 17 feet to meet the army corps of engineers’ new flood zone. Carter Quina of Quina Grundhoefer Architects designed a traditional and stately new “home” for our clubhouse. When the course reopened in 2006 for the golfing membership, the clubhouse ground-breaking was held and construction began. The grand gala event held on January 18, 2008 welcomed almost 600 members back to begin our “Second Century” of creating memories and celebrating families and friends in our new elegant clubhouse and facilities.
As we continue to forge ahead into the future, any account of the Club’s history is incomplete without a salute to the pioneer golfers, with their brassies and midirons and niblicks. The soaring flight of the old “gutty” ball was a sight to behold. The “skin greens” were tricky. There were National handicaps in those days. Ellis Knowles, scratch man at the Club, had a National handicap of 2 or 3.
The first hole-in-one has been credited to Pickett Jones. Club champion tournaments were medal play until the second nine was built, when match play took over. The first Club Champion by match play in 1926 was J. McHenry Jones. His name tops the list engraved on the original trophy cup, which was retired by Sinclair Watson in 1939, after three straight wins.
The golf pros serving the club have been Charlie Roe, Jack Dingwall, Pickett Jones, Rockwell Scally, Claydon Attridge, Jack Sargant, and Charlie Hendley.