There are fifty-four spectacular holes of golf to welcome you to Oglebay and a tradition of excellence that goes back more than sixty years. Crispin’s front nine was the first recreation facility built at the Oglebay and the most recent is the intriguing Arnold Palmer designed Klieves Course at the Speidel Golf Club. Add a sporty par-3 and driving range, and you’ll understand why Oglebay is the perfect golf destination.
Until public links came to Wheeling, first at Wheeling Park, then at Oglebay, all courses were private. Despite hard economic times, interest in play at the two park courses grew quickly. It paralleled the phenomenal growth of public golf on the national scene in the 1920s and 30s, coinciding with and largely due to the immense popularity of the immortal Bobby Jones.
Crispin’s front nine was dedicated July 4, 1930. It was the first and last facility built at Oglebay before the Great Depression. In 1938, after the influx of federal funds, the second nine of the rolling Crispin course, and a golf shop, were opened.
The Crispin course has seen many special moments. Professional golfer Betsy Rawls drew the largest crowd to date when she presented a clinic and exhibition in 1952. Arnold Palmer, playing Crispin for the first time in 1963, equaled the course record of 9-under-par during an exhibition match.
Oglebay’s Caddy Camp was a unique part of the golf scene for seven decades. Although caddies were used as early as 1930, the actual camp was constructed in 1939 on the site of the former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) barracks in the woods near the main picnic area. Up to forty-four young men attended camp each year, learning golf skills and techniques while spending the summer in a wholesome environment. Demand for caddies fell off when golf cars became popular. When Caddy Camp closed in the late 1990s, it was one of only two such programs left in the country. It has been replaced with a “Golf Jobs for Juniors” initiative.
On the other hand, Oglebay’s junior golf program has grown steadily since it began in the early 1990s, assisted by and used as a focal point by the United States Golf Association. More than 350 youngsters participate in the program each year. Scholarships are available to those who might not otherwise be able to afford to participate, as they are for all youth sports programs at the parks.
The spectacular Speidel Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., opened in the early 1970s after five years of planning and construction. It was the first public course undertaken by the prestigious golf course architect, and he was enthusiastic about the challenge. On one of his visits to Oglebay, Jones described the proposed layout as “a fair test of golf, with no tricks, but an easy bogey, hard par course.”
Although the front nine opened in 1970 and the back nine in late ’71, there would be several more years of development and landscaping at the beautiful “monster course” on the hill. The rolling terrain offers “natural gallery amphitheaters unsurpassed anywhere,” Jones said. Amid excitement and anticipation, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) paid a visit to Speidel in 1974 for the first Wheeling Classic. The tournament, later called the West Virginia Classic, drew a top field and thrilled spectators for eleven years.
The beauty and intriguing design of the par-71 Arnold Palmer designed Klieves Golf Course at Speidel Golf Club completes Oglebay’s golfing picture. “Because of the unique topography, it’s one of the most interesting golf courses we’ve ever designed,” comments an official of the Palmer Design Company. Five holes are located adjacent to the Speidel Course, and thirteen holes are on the east side of the two-lane road that winds through the resort. Designed with multiple tees, the course plays from 4,500 to almost 6,800 yards. The Harry C. Hamm Clubhouse, complete with an award-winning pro shop and grill room, serves both courses at the Speidel Golf Club.