Donald Ross designed the York Golf course in the early 1900’s. Now known as the William Wilson Course (in recognition of the long time Club golf professional), it remains a showcase for golf throughout the Maine and New Hampshire area.
In addition to the golf course, the club includes six Har-Tru and two hard tennis courts, a pro shop for both golf and tennis, a new club house and the original historic “Old Club House” for weddings and celebrations available to both members and non-members.
There are no restrictions on members based on property ownership.
York Country Club in the 1890’s
In the 1890s, York Harbor was a flourishing summer resort that attracted affluent vacationers from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Providence and other winter retreats. It was during this period that the country club movement began in the United States. The yacht club, the social club and the country club were manifestations of a movement to provide private facilities where the socially prominent could interact without interference from the locals.¹
York Country Club once boasted twenty-seven holes of golf, twelve clay tennis courts, a golf pro shop, a locker room, a croquet ground and a club house. The golf course has been named for William “Willie” Wilson, a colorful import from Scotland who gave golf lessons for sixty years.
The history of the club reflects the changes that have taken place in a community that was the rural home of farmers and fisherman when the club was founded. The depression, World War II and international travel combined to change the vacation habits of summer visitors and local residents began to find their way on to the golf course and into the club house.
In the 1970s it became obvious that local participation was the only cure for the ailing club. Recapitalization provided funds for repairs to the buildings, course and courts. A population explosion and a successful membership drive insured a bright future for one of Maine’s oldest and most beautiful country clubs.
Photograph (Library of Congress) of Donald Ross, brother of Alex Ross, first golf professional at the York Country Club. Donald Ross, the famous golf course architect who helped to lay out parts of the York course. Between his birth in 1872 in Dornoch, Scotland and his death in Pinehurst, North Carolina in 1948, Donald James Ross managed to help reshape the face of American sports. He left behind a legacy of 399 golf courses that he either designed or redesigned.
During Ross’ heyday in the 1920s, he was the country’s most prolific creator of golf courses. From 1919 through 1931, eight of the thirteen U.S. Opens were contested on layouts he had designed or redone. (Excerpted from the book by Brad Klein, Winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award, “Discovering Donald Ross”, Sleeping Bear Press, Chelsea, MI).
July 4, 1940 on the Tennis Courts
On July the fourth was the visit to the club of Don Budge, world famous tennis player and professional champion. People began to arrive long before it was time for the professional matches to begin on Saturday afternoon, the porches were crowded and all of the seats on the embankment were taken. It was estimated that some three hundred people watched the matches.
Although the guest player won the singles matches, York Country Club members were extremely proud of the play of tennis professional Malcolm Hill, of Exeter. Mr. Hill expertly returned many of the world renowned “shots” of his opponent, returning the ball so skillfully that his playing won him well-merited applause.²
Spectators were present from Kittery, Ogunquit, Portsmouth and Kennebunk.
¹ This material is from the book A History of the Country Club at York, Maine, by John D. Bardwell, Peter E. Randall, publisher, 1988. It is used with the permission of Dwight Bardwell. The book is available at the York Public Library, The York Historical Society, and can be purchased at The York Historical Society Museum.
² by Florence Amelia Paul, The Old York Transcript, Friday, July 12,1940