Oconomowoc, WI
A Legacy of

an illustrious beginning

Founded In

The Old Course at Lac La Belle was originally organized by prescription in 1895. It was located at Woodruff’s Hill, in the back acres of the H. H. Shufeldt family property. It then relocated to its current site, 80 acres acquired from club member George Seaverns and was incorporated on October 7, 1896.

April 25

The Course joins Milwaukee Country Club as the third Wisconsin club to be approved as an Allied Member of the USGA.

August 3

The Oconomowoc Open draws the top professional golfers in pursuit of the largest winner’s prize ever in American golf.

August 27

Founding member A. Montgomery Ward elected Club President.

September 15

H. Chandler Egan (left), nephew of club founder H. H. Shufeldt, wins the 1906 Oconomowoc Open, defeating his cousin Walter Egan (2nd from the right).

Willie Anderson, circa 1901
a new beggining

The Morse Family acquires this historic site and announces their intention to pursue the rebirth of this classic American treasure. Named Top New Wisconsin Golf Course for 2021 by Golf Digest.

Founded in 1896, the golf course at Lac La Belle drew immediate play from the yachting and equestrian set that populated the mansions on the shores of the lake bearing the same name. What the local players lacked in golfing skill, they made up for with unbridled enthusiasm. Oconomowoc and the surrounding lakes were commonly known in the high society circles of Chicago and Milwaukee as THE SEAT OF WEALTH… THE SUMMER SEAT. The golf course, like everything else built for this demanding clientele, simply had be the best, and it was. Iconic families, the Armour’s, Pabst’s, Montgomery Ward’s, Earling’s and Dupee’s fast became addicted to golf, and the search for the best teachers and players began.

Our Founders

Albert John Earling

Chairman, President
Chicago, Milwaukee
and St. Paul Railroad

A. Montgomery Ward

Montgomery Ward
& Company

John Dupee, Jr.

Schwartz, Dupee
& Company

William Nelson Pelouze

Founder, President
Pelouze Scale and
Manufacturing Company

Carnoustie’s Alex Smith, in his first summer in America, made a charge for the 1898 US Open Championship. Leading with 18 holes remaining, he earned $100 as runner-up to the eventual champion, fellow Washington Park Club professional, Fred Herd. Four weeks later, Washington Park and Lac La Belle members Walter and John Dupee made Alex an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Come with us to Lac La Belle, teach us to play, and we will make it well worth your while”. He accepted, and from the moment Alex arrived, everything at Lac La Belle changed forever. Pragmatically, he improved the links, the members playing skills, the caddies abilities, all while putting in place plans for the next season.

Twenty-four year old Alex Smith came to Lac La Belle weeks after finishing runner-up in the US Open of 1898, at the persistent urging of club member Walter Dupee. Five feet eight and one half inches tall, with pistons for forearms and wrists like tempered steel wire, this decade earlier blacksmith apprentice took the reins. Firmly in Alex’s grip, he paved our path to golf excellence.

For the 1899 season, he arranged for fellow Carnoustie Golf Club member, twenty-one year old Robert S. Simpson to succeed him. For the 1900 season, he convinced twenty-one year old Willie Anderson to take the lead, and for 1901, twenty-five year old Willie Hoare.

Local boys lined up to become caddies, and the most clever of them observed and apprenticed under these four top notch Scottish golf professionals. The Hackbarth Brothers now in their teens, were the best of the local stock, and took the reins for a decade, beginning in 1902.

The simplest way to measure golf excellence is championships won. Oconomowoc’s Alex Smith, Willie Anderson and Robert S. Simpson won eighteen major Golf Association titles.

Alex Smith

Lac La Belle’s FIRST Golf Professional 1898

US Open Championship

Lac La Belle Championship

Robert S. Simpson

Lac La Belle’s SECOND Golf Professional 1899

Western Open Championship

Lac La Belle Championship

Willie Anderson

Lac La Belle’s THIRD Golf Professional 1900

US Open Championship

Lac La Belle Championship

Willie Hoare

Lac La Belle’s FOURTH Golf Professional 1901

Willie Hoare won the 1899 US Open Long Drive Contest by five yards with a 269 1/2 yard shot, playing a gutta percha golf ball and a hickory shafted wooden head driver. He conquered the 49 man field at Baltimore Country Club, host of the 1899 US Open, won by Alex Smith’s younger brother Willie Smith.

The Hackbarth Brothers

Lac La Belle’s Golf Professionals 1902-1910

Upon losing their father in 1893, the four Hackbarth Brothers of Oconomowoc faced an uncertain future. Learning of their plight, the champions of Lac La Belle informally adopted the boys as their own. Beyond teaching them to golf, these kindhearted men instructed the boys in caddying, club-making, coaching and valuable life skills. In time, two of the boys would be selected to Golf’s Hall of Fame, another would become a successful author. Today, the brothers are fondly recalled as legends on par with the greats who mentored them.

The Oconomowoc Open - 1900

In August 1900, Alex Smith and wealthy club member Walter Dupee combined to create The Oconomowoc Open. The first-ever major golf championship in America not sponsored by a self anointed golf association. There was no entry fee and the players were treated like honored guests. Laurie Auchterlonie won top honors, as well as the $200 winner’s purse – an amount exceeding that of the most recent U.S. Open’s. This remained the top winner’s purse in America until 1906, when $300 was at stake for that year’s U.S. Open.

In 1934, Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts used this original blueprint to create The Masters.

Seven Come Eleven

At the turn of the century, Chicago was the celebrated center of championship golf in America because the best players from Scotland made the windy city their adopted home. The prowess of seven of these links legends resulted in their passing the U.S. Open Trophy amongst themselves eleven times between the years 1896 and 1910. And, in 1900 all of them came to Lac La Belle to compete in the Oconomowoc Open.

Jame Foulis

Chicago Golf Club
1896 US Open Champion

Fred Herd

Washington Park Club
1898 US Open Champion

Willie Smith

Midlothian Country Club
1899 US Open Champion

David Bell

Midlothian Country Club
|1900 US Open RESIDENT Champion

Willie Anderson

Glen View Golf
and Polo Club
US Open Champion

Laurie Auchterlonie

Glen View Golf
and Polo Club
US Open Champion

Alex Smith

Park Club
US Open Champion

Special Thanks to David Mackesey –
Historian/Curator, The Club at Lac La Belle