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June 29, 2017

Forest Park Golf Course – National Register?

Forest Park Golf Course – National Register?

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Looking at historic sites around Hamilton County, we can see that several are on the National Register of Historic Places.  A listing of them shows a variety of buildings and sites and even an object – the steam locomotive 587 at the Indiana Transportation Museum.  However, there is one possible site that most people probably haven’t considered.  The Forest Park Golf Course, which turned 90 years old this month, is potentially eligible for the National Register.

This may seem unusual, but there are other golf courses on the register.  For example, there is one in Ohio, one in Texas, and two in Florida.  There are also some in Indiana.  According to the National Register website, age, integrity, and significance are key considerations for a site to receive the designation.  Since Forest Park Golf Course is nearly a century old, age is obviously not an issue.

The course also has design integrity.  While the rest of the Forest Park has been adapted and altered through the years and thus wouldn’t be eligible, the nine holes of the course look to be just as they were in 1927.  If you compare past aerial photographs with today, the layout is virtually unchanged.  The two examples below are from 1941 and 2017.  (There is an aerial photograph from 1933, but it’s not very clear.)  The only apparent difference in the two photos is that the trees are bigger.

Incidentally, this original integrity makes it appealing to a unique subgroup of golfers.  There are people who enjoy golfing with historic equipment such as wooden-shafted clubs.  Modern courses are designed for modern equipment and can be difficult for vintage golfing.  There have been some vintage tournaments played at Forest Park within the last decade.

As far as significance goes, the course has a great deal of significance to the local community.  A group of local businessmen, with help from people like S. O. Levinson, organized the creation of the course as a part of Forest Park and did much of the construction work themselves.  It was designed by nationally-known golf course architect, Thomas Bendalow.  The complete history of the course can be found in Alan Hinds’ book “Forest Park Golf Course, 1927-1992” which is available at the library.

Golf courses are among the major attractions of Hamilton County.  Other county courses have held national tournaments and are recognized for their quality.  Forest Park Golf Course may not have the size or prestige of these new parks.  However, it has something that can’t be reproduced – heritage and memories.