It all began in 1933, when thirty members of the Overlook Public Golf Course got together and obtained a charter as a non-profit corporation under the name Overlook Country Club. The charter allowed Overlook to enter regional and statewide events with the distinction of a country club name. Dues were one dollar per year.
Several years later, the owner of Overlook Public Golf Course announced his intentions to sell the course. He offered the Overlook Country Club an option, which was never acted upon. It did, however, encourage a vision for the future; a vision which would eventually become Conestoga Country Club.
Lacking sufficient funds, the group investigated business opportunities. They decided to build a much needed bowling facility. Twenty-two first class bowling alleys would cost $45,000 – much less than the cost of a golf course, but still a substantial investment for a handful of golfers. Each member raised $100. Notes were issued by the club, and eventually it raised $10,000 to be used as a down payment. The group rented the third floor of a downtown Lancaster building and went into business as Overlook Recreational Center. By 1947, the alleys were paid for, and they produced a dependable net income of $10,000 per year.
Clair Alexander, then president, was responsible for locating a proper site for a country club golf course. Following an extensive search, he found and obtained a 97 acre farm (plus two parcels) that became Conestoga Country Club. The property cost $34,000, but the club only had one-third of the money. A new issue of notes was offered to members, relative and friends. The gross cost of the property was reduced by harvesting and selling the standing crops. One of the two farmhouses, as well as a barn and tobacco shed were sold. A few building lots to insulate the course from a bordering public road also were sold. In the end, the group had 118 acres at a net cost of $11,000.
The sale of notes was disappointing, raising only $44,000 (the largest single investment was $3,000). In those days, architects required $100,000 to lay out golf courses. A worried delegation contacted William Gordon, a well known golf architect, and explained the situation. The members asked if Gordon would lay out the course, stating they would build it themselves. He agreed and proceeded at a reduced fee.
Members began the work using a truck (so ancient that a dealer gave it to them), a tractor ($50 at a junk yard) and a supply of axes and saws. A plow and disc harrow were borrowed from neighboring farmers. Long hours followed as the group removed 2,000 trees and tons of rocks.
The golf course opened for play June 20, 1948. By the middle of 1953, it seemed that Conestoga Country Club had it made. Then, in September of that year, the group’s bowling center (and the income on which they were relying to build a clubhouse) burned to the ground. Fortunately, it was covered by insurance, and they recovered $70,000. Several major projects were completed in the intervening years since the mid 1950’s. The current clubhouse, for example, was built around the original facility in the late 1980’s. A much needed golf course irrigation system was completed in the 1990’s. However, the largest series of expansion projects since occurred between 1998 and 2000. During that span, the club added a new pool complex, a completely new and expanded pro shop, targeted renovations to the golf course (including new bridges over the Little Conestoga) and major renovations to the clubhouse dining facilities, common areas and offices.
Inspired by the strength, will and perseverance of its founders, Conestoga Country Club looks to the future with confidence and pride. The heritage lives on.