The Ballinger Country Club was founded 96 years ago on January 26th, 1923 and sits on 24.5 acres of land. The land was purchased from the First National Bank of Fort Worth for the sum of $17.50 per acre. The membership at the country club has always been a cross-section of the community with a membership type to accommodate everyone.
The country club holds 9 golf tournaments every year and each tournament usually benefits some cause in Ballinger, such as the Carnegie Library tournament. They also host “A Round with Marvin” tournament to honor Marvin Clark who was a member and passed away on January 31st, 2014 after a valiant struggle with Alzheimer’s. Clark was a highly respected member of the community who supported many charitable endeavors. He and his wife, Patsy, once owned the Golf-land Miniature Golf course in City Park in the seventies. They then owned City Bakery in the eighties. He was a little league baseball coach in Winters and a girls softball coach in Ballinger. Golf was one of his lifelong pursuits and he shot his first hole-in-one at the Ballinger Country Club at the age of 73 on August 24th, 2005. He also worked with youth through his church, First Baptist Church in Ballinger. Clark was not just active in Ballinger, he was active in church mission trips around the world.
Another honored member was James Mueller. His contributions to the community can never be measured. During his life he positively affected the lives of most every person in Ballinger in one way or another, either directly or indirectly. Another highly respected member, Doc Hermann, spoke with me about Mueller, “This course would not have survived without James Mueller. Every cart shed is here because of him. He put more time and money into this place than anyone else. He was a tremendous benefactor.”
The lives of those men, their character and ethics helped form the foundation of the country club membership. The members are men and women who are community leaders or are former members of the city council, community organizers, members of civic groups, business owners, artists, average Joes, coaches, teachers, nurses, doctors and students. But they have a tradition of contributing to causes and that is one of the attributes that binds the whole thing together. They care.
Don’t be mistaken though, the members absolutely love to razz each other after a shanked tee-shot or celebrate a great shot, and they do both with equal enthusiasm. Some of the members don’t play much golf anymore but there is always a game of dominoes or cards waiting in the clubhouse, along with cold beer and snacks. The camaraderie runs deep and is the lifeblood of the membership.
The club has experienced great times and slow declines, but remains true to their roots. Their heyday was in the 1980s with the oil boom. Walking into the club is like walking back into history. The club is proud of its history and Hermann is a walking, talking history lesson. Hermann, like Clark, Mueller and the rest of the members, truly cares about the club and the community, “I moved here from Sonora on April 7th, 1977 but had joined the club a couple of weeks before that. I signed the check for my dues and handed it over to Gene Keel. In 1977 there were about 90 members. The initiation was $100 and the dues were $6 - $8 per month. When the oil boom hit in the 80s, the membership grew to around 230 members.”
The growing membership helped the club continually evolve, “The club grew as the membership grew because we upgraded. In 1985 Ben Alexander helped put the course through an extensive upgrade. We improved the greens and fairways, put in a new sprinkler system and made several other improvements. Even today the course condition is great because people like Ben and James (Mueller) helped make it great. The grass is natural. It’s Bermuda-328. James paid for all of the water boxes on the course. We planted all of the trees on the course in 1987.”
They still have the same traditions that started all those years ago. Friday nights are game nights where they play cards, dominoes, shuffleboard, etc. They are popular social gatherings for many of the people in the county who visit with old friends and catch up on what is going on around the area and in the lives of each other.
Thursdays are “scrambles.” They are hugely popular with the membership and people head there immediately after work to join in the fun. They are played without keeping scores as everyone hits a tee shot and all of the players on that team hit the next shot from that spot.
Other traditions that continue are Super Bowl parties, Christmas dance and New Year’s Eve party. Hermann said that this year they’re bringing back the luau, “When we started this tradition, we used a whole pig cooked in the ground. We want to bring the tradition of the luau back.”
They’ll also have swimming lessons during the summer. One of the popular tournaments is the adult-child tournament.
The club always works to create a family atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed. Being located in west Texas means that golf is a year-round activity. Abe Jean is the greens keeper and he works to keep the course in excellent shape, “It’s a 7-day a week job. I like to play golf and I work to keep the course in great shape. We deal with droughts and also with heavy rains, heat and ice. It’s always a challenge but we want to course to always be in great shape.”
There are more than golf and other games at the club. They have a swimming pool and a stocked pond. The pond has been stocked over the years with various species and this year it’s already been stocked twice with Channel catfish, Crappie and Largemouth Bass.
The country club board oversees the operations of the club and has 7 board members. The current members are; Melvin Lee – president; Bob Rostine – vice president; Cecilia Cannon – secretary; Mark Travis – treasurer; Mark Carter; Larry Lange and Jeff Smith. The board members serve for 2-year terms and are elected by the general membership at the January meetings.
The club has several membership options for golfers and non-golfers. There is a “social membership” that runs $64.05/month. The member is allowed to fish in the pond, use the swimming pool and the clubhouse and games inside it. The regular golf membership is $90.74/month includes all of the above plus golf. If you want a golf shed with your membership, the dues come to $112.09/month. Right now they have open membership so anyone interested can go to the country club and join up. Ballinger Country Club remains committed to the traditions that started with it in 1923. Laughter and conversations fill the clubhouse and you find that enjoying golf and the other benefits of membership are simply the by-product of deep friendships.