Arnold Palmer at the dedication of Palmer Park at Indian Lake Golf Club in June 2009.
An older view of Hole 11, which was Indian Lake Golf Club's original No. 1, and is now the location of Palmer Park. When the course was dedicated to Arnold Palmer in 2009, he teared up as he spoke.
Hole 13, a par 4 at Indian Lake Golf Club, home of the first course designed by Arnold Palmer.
The clubhouse at the Indian Lake Golf Club, home of the first course designed by Arnold Palmer.
Darrell Sapp / Post-Gazette
The Indian Lake Resort, which is also for sale, in 2001.
Indian Lake Golf Club
Course layout for Indian Lake Golf Club. The nine holes designed by Arnold Palmer in the 1960s are now holes 10-18.
Arnold Palmer in 1967 near Hole 1 of Indian Lake Golf Club, the first course he designed. Later this area was turned into Palmer Park and Hole 11.
Arnold Palmer prepares to hit a shot with one of his old Persimmon clubs at the dedication of Palmer Park at Indian Lake Golf Club in June 2009.
By Bob Batz Jr. / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Like a famous novelist’s first handwritten story or a master painter’s first sketch, Indian Lake Golf Club is “Arnie’s First” — the first course designed by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer.
And now this slice of history is for sale.
Located in the Laurel Highlands of Somerset County, just east of Somerset, the 240-acre parcel sits on a peninsula wrapped by private and pretty Indian Lake. The club that owns it is accepting serious offers for all 18 holes, nine of which were designed by Palmer before it opened in 1967.
Board member and spokeswoman Allison Troy Finui says the course was “conservatively appraised” at $1.4 million three years ago. That may not take into account the cachet of being associated with Palmer, who died Sept. 25 at age 87.
Days later, at the club’s annual meeting, members voted to pursue the sale of the property, which includes a putting green and driving range, pro shop, clubhouse, maintenance building and equipment. The clubhouse contains a bar, kitchen, dining room and deck overlooking holes No. 9, 10 and 18. Also included is the bronze plaque at hole No. 11 in “Palmer Park,” where a wood statue of Palmer was unveiled in a ceremony in June 2009.
More than a golf course is at stake. One parcel inside the front nine holes has been proposed to be developed into a fairway community, but club President Clair Gill says they plan to keep the course itself “open and functioning for golfers to enjoy for years to come.”
Preserving the course is the priority, he emphasizes, “not just unloading a property.”
Unfortunately, he said, the private club model hasn’t worked in recent years.
“The cold fact remains that we’ve been unable to sustain our membership. It becomes a death spiral” of increasing assessments and dues and decreasing investment in the facility.
The club seeks a new owner with enough cash and commitment to reverse that, so current members, including Mr. Gill, can keep enjoying the place along with newcomers. “I’m reasonably confident that something will work out and we can play golf next spring.”
After the club’s initial for sale announcement last week, there’s been interest from a handful of brokers, and Mr. Gill confirmed with a chuckle reports that a helicopter that looked to be from the Trump Organization was seen hovering overhead. The news that the club was for sale was published in several newspapers and was picked up by PGA.com and other online golf sites as well.
As Mr. Gill puts it, “It’s the real deal” in terms of bearing the fingerprints of the man known as “The King.”
Back in the 1960s, Allegheny Mountain Inc. built the dam that created horseshoe-shaped Indian Lake before building its namesake resort community. It needed a championship golf course, so the development company hired a guy from nearby Latrobe named Arnold Palmer.
He already was famous as a pro golfer among his fans — dubbed “Arnie’s Army” — having won four Masters Tournaments, two Open Championships and a U.S. Open by 1964. He visited the resort, and two years later, started designing and overseeing construction of the course. He was very hands-on, according to a history on the club’s website, www.indianlakegolfclub.com:
“Throughout the course of development, Palmer would fly in, walk the land, create plans with narrow fairways, clear the land and hit balls to better understand how the holes would play.”
Ms. Finui shared former resident Doug Baltzer’s period photos of the celebrity in a cardigan, tramping through the dirt. “I did it myself,” Palmer said.
Developers were thrilled with him “for going beyond the contract terms to guarantee success,” according to the club history. “His commitment to the project was total. This venture ... launched the beginning of a very successful career in golf course design with approximately 300 courses around the world now bearing his name.”
But this is the first. Indian Lake’s course, which was expanded to 18 holes in 1995, was a special place for Palmer. So much so that when he spoke at its dedication to him in 2009, he teared up.
His signature design may have made a few other golfers cry over the years. His holes, which became the back nine on the finished figure eight, are a veritable obstacle course. A giant oak tree used to block the fairway to No. 11, and golfers must drive across a wide pond at No. 15.
“He liked to make you think,” says Mr. Gill. “It’s not the toughest course in the world,” but with its narrow, woods-lined fairways, it’s “reasonably difficult.”
One local developer and past club board member who doesn’t think it will be a tough sell is Terry St. Clair, owner of nearby Indian Lake Lodge, which also happens to be for sale. With a lounge, restaurant, pub, banquet center and 32-unit hotel that are still in business, it’s priced at $997,000.
Other nearby attractions range from the Flight 93 National Memorial to Mountain Ridge ATV Park to popular public Northwinds Golf Course. Mr. St. Clair believes Indian Lake Golf Club “could easily be brought back to financial prosperity.”
He points out that he’s been pre-selling luxury waterfront townhouses as fast as he can build them.
“This only goes to show that the long-term future of the lake is very promising.”
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.
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