Most golfers’ memories run toward great finishing holes, their all-time low round and, for the most blessed, that hole-in-one on the always difficult seventh hole on a sunny Saturday morning of June 16, 2007 – two hops and it popped in the cup.
Howard Pruitt’s golf course memories run more toward the morning he went to work at the Seatonville Springs Country Club to find all nine greens under water.
And Bob Redmon looks fondly back to the day when he would load his golf clubs and beagle hounds into the car bound for the same Seatonville golf course, and then go hunting rabbits up in the surrounding Floyds Fork hills once the round was over.
“The place,” said Redmon, perhaps a little unnecessarily, was “a poor man’s country club.”
Now that country club course is a long, flowing field stretched out below forested hills; The Parklands Turkey Run Parkway headed up into those hills; the walking trail fading off in the distance; a canoe launch at the lower end closer to the old Seatonville cemetery.
Photos of Seatonville Springs Country Club reprinted with the permission of The Courier-Journal. All Rights Reserved
The once-proud clubhouse complex built above all that; two carefully-designed stories of glass with locker rooms, restaurant, big kitchen, dance floor, stone fireplaces, expansive bar and swimming pool is now barely a memory. Its decayed remains were torn down and buried. Also gone are the horse barns that followed the inevitable death of the golf course – a complete folly from hopeful start to sad finish.
Howard Pruitt was 20-years-old when he began working there in 1963. He was born in an old farmhouse on Yates Road at Rivals, KY. – the same house in which his father and grandmother were born.
He graduated from Taylorsville High School, worked in Louisville for a while as a mechanic, and when a friend who worked at the golf course told him it needed more help he applied.
“I just needed a job at the time,” he said, “and I didn’t like driving to Louisville every day. I had never been on a golf course before and I kind of liked it.”
And what was the condition of the course when he began working there?
“Nothing extra,” he explained.
The May 26, 1960 story about the golf course in the Courier-Journal promised a little more than “nothing extra.”
Written beneath a headline that read Huge Golf Center To Cost Millions it outlined “a huge recreation development, including three 18-hole golf courses on a 1,000-acre tract near Seatonville in Eastern Jefferson County 12 miles from the heart of Louisville.”
Sponsors of the project were George Roche, Jr., of New York, and Robert Trent Jones of Montclair, N.J., whose name and architectural imprint would eventually be seen on about 500 golf courses in 40 states and 35 countries – including the forever flood-prone Floyds Fork at Seatonville.
Initially included in that Executive Country Club venture – which was announced at the very posh and private Pendennis Club – would be a $2,000,000 club motel, golf clubhouse, swimming pools, tennis courts, riding and bowling facilities.
Later in 1960 Roche announced the golf complex would eventually include three upscale golf courses surrounded by executive homes, including one 18-hole-course up along nearby Echo Trail.
What Pruitt found three years later was a nine-hole course without any irrigation for the greens – unless Floyds Fork did it for him.
“You had to haul water to the greens,” he said. “We hauled it every day and we had a guy hauled water at night and watered them.
“We got it there from Floyds Fork and pumped it into a truck and then sprayed it on the greens. There was a 2,200-gallon tank on that truck and we’d spray it on two greens, and after you watered the second one you could have gone back and done the first.
“You couldn’t even tell it had been watered.”
Indeed by then Roche had backed far away from his early plans, only temporarily saving the venture after buying at a sheriff’s auction in April, 1963 what was by then a 230-acre tract off Seatonville Road.
The name given his newest venture was Seatonville Springs Country Club – a name that would later become Irongate Country Club as Floyds Fork continually flooded any golfing dreams.
Pruitt – who stayed on at the golf course for 10 years until 1973 and eventually became course superintendent – had some contact with Roche, whom he characterized as “all right,” but with maybe more money than golf course location sense.
“I know I came in one morning and had nine greens underwater,” he said. “I had one or two of the greens that would get underwater quite often, but that was the only time I ever had all nine.
“There wasn’t really anything you could do. You just had to haul off all the trash the water left. I know one time I had to take a pump down there and hose off the green … it was a mess.”
The additional problem was the fairways would dry up in a drought, then be seeded in crabgrass during the floods.
The long-run plans included having one of the golf courses built on the high ground well above Floyds Fork, but that never fully materialized either.
He said a big cement “vault” was created in the hill above the lower course to store water for the clubhouse, and to water any greens that might be built up on the hill.
“I could see, most of the time, the golf course wasn’t going to make it,” he said. “A lot of people would lease it and they’d come in there and sell memberships and get the money and take off. That had to have happened several times. I know the last bunch was from Colorado.
“When I first started I thought the course would make it but it kept getting worse.”
He said at the end of his 10-year tenure the payroll checks began to bounce for all the employees:
“At one time everybody quit but the bartender. He kind of took over as manager and I think they beat him on his check, too.”
Pruitt said the course closed for good about the time he left in 1973 – also the victim of worthless checks.
“I told them ‘the next bad check I get I’m out of here,’” he said. “When I quit I think I was making about $125 a week, and they got me for over $1,000.”
Legendary Louisville high school football coach Bob Redmon said he began playing golf at then Seatonville Springs in high school. His father was good friends with assistant Jefferson County school superintendent John Ramsey.
As a result Redmon often played the course with Ramsey’s son – James Ramsey – now president of the University of Louisville.
“It was a great location sitting down there in that little valley,” said Redmon, “except for that creek.”
He remembered the big clubhouse, the long gravel road required to get to it, and the occasional fallen tree washing up on the greens.
“The layout was nice,” he said. “Right along the creek was pretty. It wasn’t overly difficult but it was a decent course.”
Beyond that, he remembers hunting the hills above the bottomland layout.
“I was a big hunter,” he said. “Still am. And you could play golf and then go back up on the hill, taking your beagle hounds up there and turn them loose hunting rabbits.
“I’ve done that. I’ve done that several times. That country club was a multi-purpose facility.”
About the Author
Former Louisville-Courier columnist Bob Hill is a historian for The Parklands of Floyds Fork. He travels Floyds Fork writing of the people, the places and the history of the stream within the 20-mile park system – all of which is to be preserved in the Filson Historical Society. Some of Hill’s stories appear in A Landscape and its Legacy, the commemorative book for The Parklands of Floyds Fork project. Hill has also compiled a Floyds Fork “Places & Faces” presentation that adds imagery to the words.