When Marion meat cutter Clive Jarvis plunked down $5,250 for 80 acres on the east edge of town in 1945, nine scattered circles of sand and a cement pond were part of the deal.
Such was Marion Country Club and its golf course in those days. Aside from a clubhouse constructed in 1950, it was little different when he sold the club to member investors in 1970.
With its rolling grass greens, watered fairways, modern pool, large clubhouse deck, and multiple sheds for carts and maintenance, the club might not be recognizable these days to Jarvis, who died in 1983.
Longtime member Chris Costello has little difficulty recognizing Jarvis’s legacy.
“He was the nicest, most gentle, most generous man you could ever imagine,” Costello said. “There definitely wouldn’t have been a golf course at Marion without his generosity. All he wanted to see was for it to continue as a golf course. He was dedicated to the place.”
Like many youngsters learning the game in the 1960s, Costello benefited from that generosity.
“He’d be out there on his antique mower,” Costello said. “He had a paint can on it he used to collect golf balls. Whenever he came by, he would toss me three or four of them.”
The spring-fed swimming pool, with a wood plank diving board, was often a welcome sight at the end of a round.
“The cement pond I can see today like it was yesterday,” Costello said. “The bottom was rough and chewed up your feet, but it was ours, and you could do about anything you wanted. The water was ice-cold all summer long.”
Five years after purchasing the property from Jarvis, members made big changes to the golf course, altering the layout and installing grass greens. Over the years metal bridges replaced rickety wooden ones, concrete paths for golf carts reduced wear and tear on fairways, sand traps were added, and a fairway irrigation system brought verdant grass to areas that summer heat once had baked pavement-hard.
Course superintendent Joe Lovelady has added his own challenging touches.
“There’s several holes he’s brought the rough in a little bit to make it harder,” member Don Noller said.
Conversely, an intermediate set of yellow tees for people 70 and older makes it easier for seniors.
“Some of them are a little closer to the men’s tees, some to the women’s,” Noller said.
All of the changes have kept the course fresh, Costello said.
“I don’t care if you’re the No. 1 player in the world or trying to break 100, it’s always a challenge,” Costello said. “You can’t master it; you can only try to improve. It never gets old.”
No. 9, the course’s signature hole, is picturesque and precarious. Hitting from a hillside tee, an elongated green is guarded by trees and a stream in front, a stream to the left, a hedge row and thick brush to the right, and trees behind.
“It’s daunting for some people standing up on the tee,” Costello said.
The course is not the only thing that has changed.
Additional cart sheds have been built, and out-of-towners can rent carts when they come to play.
Club members raised money to replace the cement pond with a modern pool in 1994.
The clubhouse has been enlarged and upgraded, with a large wooden deck in front and a patio in back. The club has social events monthly for members and guests. As they have for decades, community groups rent the clubhouse for class reunions, wedding receptions, business meetings, and other functions.
The country club can be a selling point for potential newcomers to Marion.
“It’s definitely an asset for the community to have that as part of our recreational package,” Costello said.
“When I’ve been involved with recruiting someone to come to town for business or school, that can be a big draw for them. If we didn’t have the golf course, they might not come.”