Profile Golf Club, Franconia Notch


History of the Profile Golf Club

Profile Golf Links and Mount Lafayette from the 5th Fairway, by Detroit Photographic Co., 1901

Putting Green at the Profile Golf Club, c. 1905

A photograph dated August 1900 in our present clubhouse shows a gala opening of a new clubhouse ... The Profile Golf Club is the offspring of the Profile House, one of the great resort hotels in the White Mountains built in the late 1800's. The golf course became one of its features, and the name came from the rocky "Old Man of the Mountain", then called the "Profile". Colonel Charles H. Greenleaf, the owner, must have felt that the inn had everything a summer visitor could want so perhaps it was a shock to learn that in the early 1890's a ridiculous game imported from Scotland was in demand.

Jack Cornell remembers hearing that his grandfather, J. M. Cornell, a longtime visitor to the hotel, badgered the poor Colonel into consenting to the expensive addition. Mr. J.M. had seen the old St. Andrews Links in Scotland and had fallen in love with the game. He may also have seen St. Andrews in Yonkers, N.Y., the first golf course in the United States, a shaggy but viable six-hole course named after the old St. Andrews. It was built by John Reid, "The Father of American Golf", in 1888. Colonel Greenleaf, at any rate, gave in but asked help from his golf-minded guests in choosing a site.

From Eagle Cliff they saw beautiful clearing with just the sort of rolling hills they wanted. This they investigated and found it to be a group of three old farms no longer producing, and by the greatest of luck, bordering on the single track of the narrow-gauge Profile and Franconia Notch Railroad [then owned by Boston and Maine]. The Profile Golf Links came into being in 1899 when the Profile and Flume Hotels Corporation, owner of the Profile House, puchased the farms of the Chase Brothers and Obed Crane. This location proved a boon as golfers could play a brisk round in the morning and get back to the hotel for lunch.

According to Herbert Warren Wind, author of "The Story of American Golf", it was in 1900 that Harry Vardon, the famous British professional, made an exhibition tour of American golf courses which Mr. Wind claims numbered over a thousand by then, with at least one in every state. We are pleased that in a 1962 Guide Book to the State of New Hampshire, there is a quoted letter from Vardon. He wrote: "I have yet to see a lovelier place, or one with more natural advantages for golf, than the Profile House Links in the White Mountains and other clubs might well copy the way the Profile Club does in the matter of grass tees, and piped greens, and with good wet spring next year it will be a course anybody will be delighted to play on."

-from notes by Mary G. Cornell

The records of the early years are lost, but some who served as officers are mentioned here. William B. Symmes was "several times President". John B. Cornell, a founder, helped layout the course in 1899, served as President and Director, and was awarded Life Membership in 1963.

-from notes by John L. Rowbotham (Club President, 1991-92)

Col. Greenleaf hired Arthur H. Fenn (1838 - 1923), a remarkable golf professional from Waterbury, to lay out the course. Arthur Fenn was a remarkable golfer, and learned the game in just two years. A scratch player, he won the St. Andrew's in 1897.

Harry Vardon teeing off at the Poland Spring House Golf Course in Maine.
Arthur H. Fenn, who designed the Poland Spring course in 1895, is at left leaning on a golf club.

In the golfing annals of the present year the big open tournament of the St. Andrew's Golf Club, which finished Saturday, will be remembered as one of the most successful. Close, hotter, and more exciting golf has been witnessed during the past few days than can be said of any other similar event this year, and the member may just feel that their new eighteen-hold course at Mount Hope, in Westchester County, has been most auspiciously opened. The final event, which furnished the excitement and sport, was the handicap, for a silver cup, given by William H. Sands, the popular amateur champion of the club. Over fifty contestants finished the eighteen-hole round and the honors went to Arthur H. Fenn, who was recently congratulated by President McKinley at Lenox after winning the Lenox Golf Cup for the second year. Fenn was one of four scratch men, and his record for the links was 76. It was a grand score, and notwithstanding the large number of players whose handicaps ran up to nine strokes, the second best score was five strokes over Fenn's. Fenn also won the gold medal for the lowest gross score of the day.

-from "Arthur H. Fenn wins the Opel Handicap and Takes the Cup", New York Times, 11 Oct 1897

Arthur Fenn was considered a professional golf course designer. This is a partial list of his work:

Waterbury (CT) (1895)
Poland Spring (ME)(1896 - six holes, first resort golf course in U.S.)
Allston (1896)
Waumbek (Jefferson, NH) (1898 - expanded to 18 holes by Arthur Fenn. Course designed in 1895 by Willie Norton.)
Portsmouth Naval Yard (1896)
Bristol (RI) (1896)
Oquossoc (Rangeley, ME) (1899)
Profile Golf Links (1899)
Crawford House (1899)
Twin Mountain House (1899)
Fabyan House (1899)
Bryn Mawr (1899)
Abenaqui (Rye Beach, NH) (1899)
Fall River (Fall River, MA) (1900 - nine holes)
CC of Farmington (CT) (unk)

-from Golf, Bulletin of USGA, Jun 1899

Drawing of the Profile Golf Links as designed by Arthur H. Fenn in 1899,
published as an advertisement in the 1900 edition of Golf, Bulletin of USGA.

This drawing appeared in 1900 in advertisments for the Profile House in the back of Golf, Bulletin of the USGA. It's interesting for a couple of reasons: it's the only drawing we're aware of that shows how closely the Profile and Franconia Notch Railroad came to the clubhouse. It also shows the small shelter for passengers which functioned as an early clubhouse. The golf course was developed from three farms which were no longer being operated. The road from Franconia Village to these farms was up Cole Hill Road to Magowan Hill Road which then, after crossing Black Brook, came into the golf course near the 6th tee. The road from the farmhouse past the 7th green became Butter Hill Road.

Section of a Franconia map from the 1892 edition of Hurd's Atlas showing the W.B. Chase Farm
(where the tennis courts are now) and the Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad.
Click here for a large version.

The Daniel Webster Highway (now Route 3) came from the south into the Notch and ended at the Profile House, and the only road north from there was the Three Mile Hill Road. (A road was eventually built from the Profile House to the Golf Links. Route 3 from the Notch to Twin Mountain is shown on a 1929 Topographical Map.)

The following are some newspaper clippings from the Society pages of the New York Times from the early 1900's:

The Profile Golf Club in the White Mountains has announced an open tournament for Aug. 28, and the following days of that week. The competitive season has already begun, and events for men and women are of weekly occurrence. The annual meeting of the club was held last week, and the following officers elected for the year: President-W.N.P. Darrow of Columbus, Ohio: Vice President-Arthur B. Twonbly, New York; Secretary-Irving Cornell, New York: Treasurer-C.H. Greenleaf of the Profile House. Mrs. Darrow is Chairman of the House Committee, and John Kendrick Banks is one of the Directors.

-from Golf Notes of Interest column, New York Times, 1 Aug 1900

... The Profile House Golf Club, in the Franconia Notch, is exceedingly well kept, as since April it has been under the watchful eye of Gen. W.N.P. Darrow of New York, who is one of the keenest golfers in the White Mountains, and with his wife, an equally expert golfer, an annual visitor to the White Mountains.

This club has an exclusive membership made up of New York and Boston society people, and among the New Yorkers already arrived are, besides Gen. Darrow, Mr. Charles Steward Smith, John Hawkesworth, Jr., Irwin Cornell, John M. Cornell, George, Frank and Adams Ratcheller, Judge Martin J. Keogh, Phelps Montgomery, George Roe Lockwood, Dr. Charles Atwood, John Kendrick Bangs, second. Cornelius N. Bliss, Jr., and many others of equal prominence. The teas given weekly at the Profile Club are very smart affairs, and Mrs. W.N.P. Darrow, Mrs. Arthur B. Twombly, and many other society women act as hostesses in turn.

The August events at the Profile club are always noteworthy, particularly since the Misses Fanny and Hannah Osgood of Boston are there during the month. ...

-from "White Mountain Golf Courses" column, New York Times, 2 Aug 1908

The Profile golfers drove down to the Golf Club on Monday morning for a strenous day's play, taking their luncheon with them to serve at the clubhouse, which is gay with striped awnings and comfortable for a midday rest. Fishing has been uncommonly good this week in Profile Lake, and Mr. and Mrs. W.N.P. Darrow, the Messrs. Stuart, Mr. William F. Bridge, Mr. John C. Tappin, and Mr. R.H.P. Durkee are of Profile guests who often go out in their boats at sundown or early in the morning when the dew is still on the grass to take a string of speckled trout.

-from "In the White Mountains" column, New York Times, 1 Aug 1909

... Irwin H. Cornell has taken the cottage formerly occupied by the late William F. Bridge at the Profile House and will arrive with his family in August. Mr. and Mrs. John M. Cornell will arrive about the 20th with Mrs. Frederic Wendell Jackson. ...

-from "In the White Mountains" column, New York Times, 7 Jul 1915

PROFILE HOUSE, N.H., Mrs Bernie H. Evans, H. Ray Paige, and W. B. Symmes, Jr. are the committee in the annual tennis tournament at the Profile House which comes to finals today. Mrs. Hermann Fleitman has joined Mrs. Ewald Fleitman at her cottage here. ...
-from "Tape Races in the White Mountains" column, New York Times, 24 Aug 1915

View of the Farmhouse and Clubhouse in 1901, by Detroit Photographic Co.

This next section covers the period after the devasting fire that destroyed the Profile House.

The club under the wing of the Profile House flourished until 1923 when one hot dry summer day that splendid hotel burned to the ground. After the shock had worn off many of the guests decided not to leave the White Mountains and I think the golf played a big part in their decision to stay. Since the hotel was not to be rebuilt, they bought land and built summer cottages or went to other hotels nearby, ... proud of having, as Harry Vardon had prophesied, "a course anybody will be delighted to play on." He never wrote truer words.

-from notes by Mary G. Cornell

After the Profile House fire, Tracy Voorhees and a group of prominent summer residents under the leadership of William B. Symmes, Jr. joined together to form Profile Properties, Inc. which bought the golf club property from the Profile and Flume Hotels Corporation. Community ownership proved successful in spite of the ups and downs of succeeding years, but problems raised by World War II brought Profile Properties, Inc. within sight of failure. Lowell Ross Burch was President of Profile Club during the leanest years of depression and war, keeping it going with a very small membership. His daughter, Katy Symmes, recounts that during those years only five members paid dues, as few had sufficient gasoline (because of rationing) to make the trip. The sale of lumber and gravel delayed the crisis, but in December 1945 the directors of Profile Properties, Inc. decided to sell the club and property to Mrs. William (Gladys) B. Symmes who had agreed to maintain the golf course and facilities.

The Profile Club, Inc. was incorporated in 1945 by Gladys Dwight Symmes (widowed in 1942), Roland Peabody of Franconia and Attorney Jobn Carlton of Manchester, N.H. Working with Roland Peabody, she restored the buildings and club, and ran the club until 1949 when she died. Her children, Barbara, Dwight, and David continued until 1952, when the responsibilities of operation had become too heavy for one family to maintain. Under the leadership of Milton Cornell a new corporation was formed in 1952, the Profile Golf Club, Inc. The club was now owned and operated by the members, but leased the real estate and facilities from the Symmes family.

In a few years, many members of the Golf Club expressed a desire to become owners of the property. The President appointed a Long Range Planning Committee in 1959 under the Chairmanship of Francis L. Blewer to investigate ways and means of returning the property to community ownership.

The plan adopted was enthusiastically supported by the Golf Club and Symmes family, and involved selling the ownership corporation (Profile Club, Inc.) at what the Directors regarded as a favorable price of $30,000. Golf Club members in good standing were offered a total of 90 shares at $300 per share representing 90% of the stock (the Symmes family retained 10% for themselves). The offer was accepted by the membership and completed in early 1960.

-from a letter by Josephene P. Voorhees, Club President (1959-60) and notes by John L. Rowbotham, Club President (1991-92)

In 1961, the Profile Golf Club, Inc. corporation was dissolved leaving the single Profile Club, Inc. corporation.

Map of Profile Golf Club showing the Old Golf Club Road from Cole Hill Road,
Peckett's Black Brook Camp, greens for holes 4, 5, 6 & 7, and tennis courts, c. 1940
Click here for a large version.

Map of Profile Golf Club from 1929 by R.T. Gile, redrawn Sept 1959 by David Symmes
Click here for a large version.

-History compiled by Bill Symmes, grandson of William B. Symmes

Presidents of the Profile Golf Club:

1902-08  General W.N.P. Darrow (first president)   
         John B. Cornell
         John F. O'Brien
         William B. Symmes, Jr.
         Thomas F. Vietor
         Lowell R. Burch
         many others
1952-56  Milton L. Cornell
1957-58  David Symmes
1959-60  Josephine Voorhees
1961     Francis L. Blewer
1962     Louis L. Cornell
1963     Captain David Burns
1964     Tracy Voorhees
1965-66  Benton L. Moyer, Jr.
1967-68  James Alexander
1969-70  Joseph Connors
1971     Edward Morehouse
1972     William M. Deutsch
1973     George Roorbach
1974     Marcia B. Holder
1975     Robert Whitney, Jr.
1976-77  H. Ashton Crosby
1978-79  Charles Weston
1980     David McPhaul
1981     David Schaffer
1982     Shelly Connors
1983     Robert Scully (interim)
1983-84  Dorothy Guider
1985-86  Bertram H. Dube
1987-88  William E. Tucker, Jr.
1989-90  Frederick W. Griffin
1991-92  John L. Rowbotham
1993-94  H. Taylor Caswell, Jr.
1995-96  George Roorbach
1997     William E. Tucker, Jr.
1998     William M. Hallager
1999-00  Edward Carbonaro
2001     James McCusker
2002-03  Beth Perlo
2004-05  C. Boyd Bush
2006-07  Charles de Rham
2008-09  Bradley R. Thayer
2010-11  Jack L. Ernsberger
2012-13  Milton C. "Bud" Weiler
2014-15  James K. Cornell
2016-17  Jennifer R. Opalinski
2018-19  Randall Kunz
2020     Jack Resch

2020-08-19.01  ©