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The Story of Cypress Lake Golf Club

The year was 1959…Fort Myers was the only city and the only retail center in the entire county. The population had just passed 50,000 residents and Lee County was known as the “Gladiolus Capital of the World”. Dwight Eisenhower was president, Fidel Castro had just taken over Cuba, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states. Fort Myers Country Club was the only golf course in Lee County. A group of local businessmen, spearheaded by Harry Popham, a golf professional from Galesburg, Illinois, proposed a plan to build the first private golf club in Fort Myers.

Read more about Dick Wilson

Dick Wilson*, was hired to design the golf course

Three area landowners (Joe Povia, George Allen & Donald Bass) agree to donate 164.8 acres of farmland just south of Radio Beam Road (Cypress Lake Drive). Renowned golf course architect, Louis Sibbett “Dick” Wilson*, was hired to design the golf course.

Ground Is Broken

A part-time golf course superintendent is hired and ground is broken. The golf course design featured elevated greens, with the axis set on a 30-45 degree diagonal and usually a sprawling bunker on the inside of the short angle. The course design would compliment and challenge the aerial game of the modern player.

Three Hall Of Famers

On February 22, 1961 the first nine holes are ready and the course opens for play with 203 members. A new road (Winkler Road) leading to the clubhouse is built and opened by the county. The original golf committee members were: Bob Parks, George Allen, Sam Galloway, Donald Bass, Patty Berg**, Herb Graffis**, Gene Sarazen**, Jim Suffridge, John Newlin and Harry Popham.

18 Holes Completed

In July the remaining nine holes are completed and opened for play. The club accepted some daily fee patrons and greens fees are established at $1.00 for 9-holes and $2.00 for 18-holes. Members paid and annual fee of $75, with an additional $75 for golfing privileges.

Golf Digest Ranked

The club membership has grown to 144 Founder Members and 37 Associate Members. Annual dues for golf members are $300 and $135 for social members. The golf course is recognized by Golf Digest and ranked as one of the “200 Toughest Courses in the United States.”

Clubhouse Gets Built

The club breaks ground on a permanent clubhouse that will open the following year. Local golf professional, Dick Miller, is hired.

Memberships Growing

Membership has grown to 242 Founder members and 77 Associate members. The stock price is raised to $2,000.

Club Hires Tom Case

The club becomes totally private on May 15, 1972. There are 342 members and the stock price increases to $5,000. In October, the club hires Tom Case from Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina as the head golf professional.

Pool & Tennis opens

The club opens four tennis courts and pool complex adjacent to #1 tee.

Ron Leatherwood is hired

Ron Leatherwood is hired as Head Golf Professional. Ron would lead the golf operation for the next 36 years and retire as an Honorary member of the club in 2014. Among his many professional accomplishments, he received the highest honor, “Golf Professional of the Year”, in 2005.

Golf course architect Arthur Hills is retained

Golf course architect Arthur Hills is retained to develop a long-range renovation plan for the golf course. Economic conditions prevent plan from being executed.

Clubhouse Renovation

A plan to renovate the clubhouse is proposed and defeated in February. A special meeting of the membership in November votes to approve construction of a new clubhouse which is built and opened in 1989.

Membership Continues to Grow

The club has grown to 279 Founder members and 340 golfing members overall. Annual dues are $3,000 and the stock price is set at $17,500.

Golf course architect Chip Powell is hired

Golf course architect Chip Powell is hired for a greens renovation project which was successfully completed in the summer of 1995 with the course reopening in October.

Pool Gets Closed & Demolished

The club membership has grown to 363 golf members. Several club projects are approved and completed including improvements to the snack bar and patio, the addition of two new clay tennis courts and an extensive golf course drainage program. The pool was closed and demolished.

Golf course architect Ron Garl is retained

Golf course architect Ron Garl is retained to do a complete renovation of the golf course and practice facilities which are successfully completed in the summer of 2001. Ron introduces some modern design elements and addresses long-standing drainage issues in the first full renovation of the golf course.

Industry-Wide Recession Hits Club

Industry-wide recession in golf reduces membership levels to 242 golf members. Stock price reduced to $7,500 and new membership program introduced.

Club retains golf course architect Ron Forse

Club retains golf course architect Ron Forse to restore the course to original Dick Wilson design concepts. Mr. Forse has restored a number of Dick Wilson designs including Top 100 Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach, FL and Hole-in-the Wall Club in Naples, FL. Renovation successfully completed in summer of 2017.

*Dick Wilson (1904-1965) Designed more than 60 golf courses; notable designs include Royal Montreal, Coldstream, Bay Hill, Coghill, Doral Blue Monster, The Greenbriar, and Laurel Valley. His design are credited with ushering in a new era of ahotmaking that put an emphasis on attacking the green by aerial approach as opposed to the conventional thinking of the time that encouraged shots to run up to the green.

**Member of the World Golf Hall of Fame