North Hills Country Club
|Golf Professional||Michael J. Sokalski||(215) 576-9875|
|General Manager||Michael Reilly, J J||(215) 887-8030|
|Superintendent||Steve Friedell||(610) 469-4262|
|Architect||J. Franklin Meehan|
|Tee Sheet||Front 9||Back 9||Course|
North Hills Country Club, as such, was incorporated in 1908, but its actual beginning goes back to 1907, when a group of businessmen led by J. Franklin Meehan formed the Edge Hill Country Club. Frank Meehan owned the tract of land on which Edge Hill’s course, a nine-holer, was built. Mr. Meehan designed the course, constructed it, and served as the club’s (Edge Hill and its successor) first president, from 1907to 1915.
A farmhouse that stood on the site of what is now the Oreland Swim Club’s parking lot was used as the first clubhouse. In 1911, the members voted to move to another farmhouse, which was located south of the present 18th green. The occupant, one Peter Wentz, still had some months remaining on his lease, so he stayed on, with the understanding that he could share the kitchen and dining room with the club and retain one bedroom for his private use. This cozy arrangement— the house had only seven rooms—must have worked out reasonably well, for when North Hills purchased the farmhouse, less than a year later, Mr. Wentz was hired as houseman at a salary of $50 per month.
Aerial photo of North Hills taken in September, 1939
The location of the new clubhouse called for laying out a new nine-hole course, and Frank Meehan promptly obliged. But not six months later, the membership of about 100 voted to build an 18-hole course. After all, they were paying annual dues of $25. Additional acreage was acquired, and Meehan went back to the drawing board. Now in the midst of his long tenure as president, he contracted with the club to design and build the new eighteen for $1,625. The course opened for play on July 12, 1913
Meehan next turned his attention to the clubhouse. Convinced that it needed a porch, he instituted a subscription drive among the members. This netted $800, some $700 less than his goal. So he called for the club’s constitution to be amended in order to sell Certificate of Membership bonds at $25 each. Any member buying a bond would be known as a Charter Member (this despite the fact that the club had been chartered three years earlier). Thirty-seven bonds were sold during the last four months of 1913, and, as the club history tartly reports, “Meehan got his porch.”
Meehan also brought a golf professional on board—a proper one, which is to say Scottish-born—in 1912. His name was John Carruthers, and he would later hold the same post at LuLu Temple and Sandy Run. Carruthers was succeeded by Bill Hackney. Then came Alex Smith, two-time U.S. Open winner, who was followed, in 1921, by Jim Edmundson, a former Irish Open champion.
The election of Louis C. Block to the presidency in 1917 prompted a radical change in the composition of the membership. Block was then president of the Philadelphia Automobile Trade Association. Many of his colleagues in the Association also joined North Hills, so that by 1920 fully sixty percent of the club members made their living—many as car dealers—in the automobile business. The infusion of this new blood sparked improvements in the course (in 1922 11 greens were planted with creeping bent grass by the new vegetative process, making North Hills one of the first clubs in the country to adopt this method) and the construction of a new clubhouse. A formal opening of the clubhouse was held on Aug. 7, 1924. The following day, golf reporter Frank McCracken hymned the occasion in the Public Ledger: “Whatever the North Hillers said, whatever they sang, whatever they wrote about their new locker house is right. It is the very latest thing in locker houses, something to delight the eye and fill with rejoicing the heart of the player privileged to use it.”