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Fish Lake Golf Course celebrates 100 years

The foursome of Becki and Jack Stoddard, of Plankinton, and Kimmy and Wayne Henglefelt, of Mitchell, play the par 3 No. 1 hole at Fish Lake Country Club Saturday. The course's clubhouse is pictured in the background. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)

PLANKINTON — Golf, at its core, is a simple game. And it’s remained that way for the last century at Fish Lake Country Club.

The club, located almost halfway between Plankinton and Mount Vernon off Old Highway 16, celebrated 100 years on Saturday with a golf tournament for members, followed by a social hour and a dance open to members of the public.

The nine-hole course is a country club in name only. There’s rarely a need for tee times and the course has a come one, come all mentality. Member Craig Pickart said the men’s league groupings are selected by blind draw, meaning everyone plays with everyone else in the league and gets to know other members better.

“You could have a foursome and have a lawyer, a doctor, a farmer and a plumber,” he said. “Some golf courses can be sort of intimidating when you first join. This has always been a place where everyone is welcome and I think that’s what makes it fun.”

He said the course has always prided itself on being family friendly and encouraging families to play the game of golf by keeping their prices reasonable. Nine holes at the course costs $15; $25 to play the course twice.

“Whether you’re an avid golfer that’s fairly good or you’re just a beginner, we want as many people to play as possible,” said Gene Deinert, of Mount Vernon, who is on the course’s board of directors with Pickart. “Keeping the course affordable has always been a goal.”

The course was founded in 1914 by area residents, mostly from Plankinton and Mount Vernon, at a time when the state owned the land around Fish Lake. Later, the land was transferred from the Commissioner of School and Public Lands and to the Department of Game, Fish and Parks, who worked out a deal with the club to allow the course to remain and the state to develop a nearby game refuge.

Fish Lake is also proud of its clubhouse, which used to be a building at the State Training School and has since been renovated. That’s where Jake’s Bar and Grill is located, the club’s restaurant and bar.

Pickart, who lives in Mount Vernon and is the treasurer on the course’s board of directors, said he had no idea the course has been around as long as it has. Johnna Vissia, who runs Jake’s Bar and Grill inside the clubhouse, said it’s been there as long as she can remember. She was the one who dug out the old record books for Fish Lake and discovered it was the course’s 100th birthday this year.

“It’s like a family,” she said. “We have a lot of local support from area people who will come out here.”

Deinert said he’s been a member for about 20 years and he enjoys the pace of play at the course.

“The people are always courteous,” he said. “It’s never crowded. It’s just a real comfortable place to play.”

The country club has about 175 members and that’s mostly stable, Pickart said, adding that members come from as far as Kimball, Corsica and Woonsocket. The course also has a good reputation of being well-kept and this year the green course has benefitted from solid weather.

“We have members who are committed to seeing the course do well and our greenskeepers work tremendously hard,” Pickart said. “It’s a very community-oriented course and that’s what helps make us successful.”

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