Saucon Valley Country Club
|Saucon Valley Country Club|
2050 Saucon Valley Road
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Architect: H.B. Strong & Maxwell-Saucon, Gordons- Grace & Weyhill
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In the instances of DuPont Country Club and McCall Field, the clubs were founded by the companies. Not so in the case of Saucon Valley Country Club, though it is safe to say that Bethlehem Steel’s interest in it, from the beginning, was a very real one.
In 1920, 16 Bethlehem business leaders, including a core group from Bethlehem Steel Corporation, acquired 205 acres of farmland lying along the Saucon Creek, five miles south of the city. Helping to kindle the interest of prospective members was an exhibition match in mid-September at nearby Northampton Country Club that pitted Harry Vardon and Ted Ray against Chick Evans and Eugene G. Grace. Vardon, Ray, and Evans were household names in the world of golf. Grace, on the other hand, was a local amateur who played very close to par and who was, moreover, president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Golfing novices on hand that day could marvel at Ray’s explosive power, Vardon’s astonishing accuracy, and Evans’s brilliant iron play. They might also well envision joining the new country club their friends were talking about, the one Mr. Grace was going to make sure would be second to none.
Food service in the original clubhouse at Saucon Valley, a 200-year-old farmhouse, was cafeteria style.
Saucon Valley was to be a family club. The entrance fee was pegged at $100, with annual club dues of $50 and golf dues of $25. No charge of any kind was made for "the wife, unmarried daughters, and minor sons."
During the autumn of that year, especially on weekends, it was not uncommon to see members and their families laboring mightily to transform what had been an operating farm into a country club. There were contests to see who could pick up the most stones from the projected fairways. Pigsties had to be dismantled, as did the big barn. Chicken coops and corn cribs had to be taken down, but carefully—they could be sold. The wagon shed became the locker house (ladies upstairs, men downstairs). The old spring house and milk dispenser found new life as the golf shop. And the 200-year-old farmhouse was converted into a clubhouse, the most noticeable improvement being the addition of large porches. Food service was cafeteria-style. As the 1922 club handbook made clear, "Members and their guests shall have the privilege of eating their meals any place in the house or on the Grounds of the Club, but members so doing must return all trays, dishes, etc. to the service counter."
The original plans called for a nine-hole course, but this was not what Eugene Grace had in mind. It was one thing to make do with the farmhouse and to prevail upon three contractors to donate the cement for the swimming pool, but there would be no stinting on the golf course.
Herbert Strong, an Englishman who had recently remodeled Inwood, in Far Rockaway, Long Island, where Bob Jones would win his first U.S. Open, in 1923, was selected by Grace to design the course. Strong routed the eighteen through the cornfields and the wheat fields, over the grazing land and the acreage planted in clover. On five of the holes, including the final three, he brought the Saucon Creek prominently into play.
The course opened in 1922 to immediate acclaim. Even the uninitiated—and the majority of Saucon members were certainly that—could sense that this was an excellent design, a succession of diverse golf holes that amply rewarded well-struck shots, yet were not so penal as to discourage the novice. So sound and satisfying was the Strong design that only relatively minor revisions would be made to it in the years to come.
The new club had an 18-hole course of which it could be proud. But, as was the case at the DuPont Country Club, this was only the beginning. The coming decades would see the expansion of the club on such a scale—and with such extraordinary care and taste—that it would become a venue for five USGA championships and would provide its ever-increasing membership with a wealth of sporting facilities and social amenities matched by only a handful of country clubs in all the world.