Nestled atop Lookout Mountain, just minutes away from downtown Chattanooga, the golf course property of the Lookout Mountain Club was originally founded as the Fairyland Golf Club in 1925, as part of Garnet Carter’s dream for an exclusive resort colony called “Fairyland.” It so happened that Lookout Mountain resident Scott Probasco Sr. had made an acquaintance with the noted golf course architect Seth Raynor in 1923, and upon Mr. Probasco’s request, the great architect was hired to design this great course.
Great things were going on in the mid to late 1920’s across the United States and Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain were no exception. Chattanooga native Adolph Ochs, then owner of The New York Times, was especially generous in his efforts to enhance Lookout Mountain. Thanks to his generosity Garnet Carter and O.B. Andrews planned an exclusive resort colony on top of the Mountain called “Fairyland.” This resort would be compared to Pinehurst, The Greenbrier, and The Homestead, and, obviously, a world-class golf course was an integral part of the plan.
As luck would have it, Scott L. Probasco, Sr., an avid golfer, attended the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, and he made a donation to his alma mater during a redesign of their nine-hole course in 1923. The architect on this redesign was C.B. McDonald’s former engineer and protégé, Seth J. Raynor. Through this connection, Mr. Probasco convinced Raynor that he should meet Mr. Carter, and the plan for the Fairyland Golf Club was in the works.
Tragedy struck as Mr. Raynor died of pneumonia at the young age of 51 while working in West Palm Beach, FL. With our course nearing completion, LMGC became Raynor’s last work. Charles Banks, an English teacher at Hotchkiss, left the school to join Raynor’s design team as a full partner. Banks, also known as “Steamshovel” because of his talent for moving dirt, did an admirable job in completing construction in 1927.
As the course approached completion, there was only one course in the USA more costly to build: Yale University’s course, which was another great Raynor design. The uniqueness of our “mountain-links” course would live on, although the course was not finished according to Raynor’s original plan. Some say they hit rock and completion became too expensive, and others contend that violent storms washed grass seed down to the valley necessitating balance of money to reseed. However, regardless of the challenges, nothing compared to the recession just around the corner, which put a sudden stop to the great plan called “Fairyland.”
Following the Great Depression, the return to normalcy established what became the private Lookout Mountain Golf Club as a wonderful course with camaraderie within the membership. Whether it was a competitive round of golf within groups such as the Bubble, Balloon, Whisperers, Elders, or Ladies, or a Club event run by the Golf Professional staff, the Club had something for everyone. There were also some wonderful social happenings that brought the membership out for some great times. The showcase annual event most talked about is the popular member-guest tournament called the Swing Ding.
With its physical location in Georgia, Lookout Mountain Club is a member of the Tennessee Golf Association, PGA, and the Chattanooga District Golf Association. As an active Club with a great Seth Raynor course, we have hosted many Championships over the years including the Tennessee State Amateur, Tennessee PGA, Tennessee Women’s 4-Ball, Chattanooga Amateur, the Women’s Southern Amateur and Dale Morey Senior Amateur. In addition, the Club hosts the annual William Bryan Memorial event for junior golfers. This event was most likely the catalyst for the AJGA JR tour which funnels players to colleges and on to professional golf. Although it is now a local event conducted for the CDGA, the Bryan event lives on.
Through the years, special care has been taken to renovate and maintain the course according to the high standards set forth in the original Raynor plans. Members of the Club were instrumental in creating the Seth Raynor Society, for the recognition and preservation of such courses in the United States. Such efforts have earned the Lookout Mountain Club’s ranking as a “Top #125 Classical Golf Course” by Golfweek Magazine.
The Lookout Mountain Club golf clubhouse boasts more than 18,000 square feet of dining facilities, event and conference space. Designed with Southern style in mind, the dark wood detail enhances the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the stunning Seth Raynor golf course and picturesque Appalachian Mountains. The Clubhouse is filled with comfortable and inviting details including a living room with fireplace, large dining room and covered patio overlooking the course and scenic vista views.
The Golf Clubhouse features:
- Large main dining room
- Intimate terrace room
- Full-service bar
- Large living room with fireplace
- Spacious covered patio for outdoor dining and socializing
- Golf shop featuring the latest equipment and apparel
- Ladies Locker Room
- Men’s Grille
- Men’s Locker Room
- Legacy Room
- Junior Room
The Course Architect
Seth Jagger Raynor
In his short career as a golf course architect, Seth Jagger Raynor designed many courses that are still considered among the best in United States. He was born on May 7, 1874 in Manorville, Long Island, N.Y. and attended Princeton University, studying civil engineering before leaving in 1898 without a degree. He married Mary Hallock in 1903, and for the first years of his working life Raynor engineered drains, roads and waterworks. He became interested in golf course design and the building of golf courses after being hired by Charles Blair Macdonald during the construction of the National Golf Links of America in 1908. (The pair also worked on Sleepy Hollow, Piping Rock, Yale, and the St. Louis Country Club, among others).
Reportedly, he didn’t want his designs to deteriorate to his level of play – Raynor felt that “the golfer should learn to play the ideal links and that the ideal links should not come down to the playing ability of the lesser skilled player.” Seth Raynor
He lived too short a life, dying in 1926 at the age of 51 but left behind an impressive resume of designs including Lookout Mountain, Fishers Island, Fox Chapel, a revised Chicago Golf Club, Yale University, Camargo, Shoreacres, Yeamans Hall, and the long gone Lido Club.
In 1908, Long Island civil engineer Raynor was hired by the legendary Charles Blair Macdonald – known as the “father of American golf course design” — to survey the property that would become The National Golf Links of America. “When employing him to survey our Sebonac property (the site of NGLA), I was impressed with his dependability and seriousness…he scarcely knew the difference between a golf ball and a tennis ball when we first met,” Macdonald wrote in his book, Scotland’s Gift – Golf. Macdonald was so impressed with Raynor’s engineering knowledge that he hired him to supervise construction of the course. Raynor would go on to be heavily involved in all the remaining courses designed by Macdonald.
While everyone from his mentor, Macdonald, to Harry Colt, AW Tillinghast talked and wrote about the world of golf course design, all Raynor left behind for us to judge him and understand his theories of architecture were the golf courses that he designed, expanded or renovated.
It was while working at Yale, viewed by Macdonald as Raynor’s crowning achievement that Raynor travelled some 60 miles north to the Hotchkiss School. The Hotchkiss School was closely aligned with Yale and they wanted Raynor to build a nine-hole layout. The school chose popular teacher Charles Banks, who had no golf design background, to act as Raynor’s contact person. Banks so fell in love with golf course design that he left Hotchkiss and joined Raynor’s firm.
As the Yale and Hotchkiss work progressed, Raynor was also building what are now judged as some of his finest works: Fishers Island, Camargo, Lookout Mountain and Yeamans Hall. When Raynor died, Banks was left to complete them and others, in the process establishing his own reputation as an architect. Like Raynor, his career ended with a premature passing. He died in 1931, five years after Raynor, at age 47. Macdonald outlived both of them, dying in 1939 at age 83.
Macdonald fondly remembered Raynor in his book. “Sad to say he died ere his prime at Palm Beach in 1926 while building a course there for Paris Singer. Raynor was a great loss to the community, but still a greater loss to me. I admired him from every point of view.”
Raynor still has 13 courses ranked by many publications among the Top 100 Classical Courses in the United States and his work continues to inspire architects and delight golfers.
Excerpts from “Paradoxical Designer” by Anthony Pioppi, Executive Director of the Seth Raynor Society and which appeared in Golf Course Architecture magazine, were used in this article. Click here to view the full article.
LMC Members In The Tennessee Golf Hall Of Fame
John T. “Jack” Lupton (1926 – 2010)
Although Mr. Lupton is most noted in golfing circles for The Honors Course and Golf House Tennessee, his contributions and support of the Lookout Mountain Club were extremely generous, and his love for the game helped shape golf at the Club. Along with John “Hollywood” Stout, Mr. Lupton created the Swing Ding, and with Mr. Stout as his partner won the inaugural event in 1959. To this day the Swing Ding is one of the top member-guests in the South. As projects at the Club needed to be tackled, it seemed that Mr. Lupton was often there not only with his generosity, but also with his great ideas. Mr. Lupton was Chattanooga’s only member at Augusta National and most likely the only Chattanoogan to serve on the United States Golf Association’s Executive Committee.
Lewis West Oehmig (1916 – 2002)
Mr. Oehmig was one of the finest Amateur golfers to ever play the game. He was a natural athlete and a Champion at both Baylor School and the University of Virginia, winning his first of eight Tennessee Amateur Championships in 1937. Likely the finest senior Amateur to play the game, Mr. Oehmig was a six-time finalist for the USGA Senior Amateur Championship, winning in 1972, 1976, and 1985. Possibly his two greatest achievements in golf came as a non-player when he captained the United States Walker Cup team to a 16 – 8 victory over GBI in 1977 and was presented the USGA Bob Jones Award for Distinguished Sportsmanship in 1994. In 1992, fellow Club member Lex Tarumianz, a past President of the Tennessee Golf Association, created a tribute to Mr. Oehmig that continues today as the Lookout Mountain Club plays a tenacious inner Club match with the Chattanooga Golf & Country Club. The Oehmig Cup Match is played the first weekend after Labor Day.
Betty Rowland Probasco (1929- present)
Mrs. Probasco was winning Championships in her home state of Kentucky and at Rollins University before becoming a Chattanoogan in 1955. She won her first of four Kentucky State Amateur Championships in 1949 and the National Intercollegiate Championship in 1950.Betty met her future husband, Scotty Probasco, at the Women’s Southern Amateur played at the Chattanooga Golf & Country Club and was married shortly thereafter in 1955. She won her first Tennessee State Amateur that same year and won her record eighth Championship in 1986. Betty also won the Women’s Southern Amateur in 1955. In 1982, Mrs. Probasco received a high honor in serving as the Captain of the United States Curtis Cup team. During a wonderful career as a Senior Amateur, she won several events most notably the Championship at the Western Senior in 1991. That same year, Betty received her biggest honor as the first woman golfer inducted into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame.