In the early 1960s two Anderson golf courses opened, much to the delight of youngsters just learning the game and older linksmen wanting shorter courses to play.
Meadowbrook Golf Course, a nine-hole course on Marine Drive near the city’s south side, accommodated many golfers from the young and old alike. Golfers had the option to play nine holes one time around, or twice for an 18-hole round. The par 62 course was tailor-made for the beginning golfer or retirees with its five par 3s and four par 4s. If a golfer decided to play 18, he or she simply teed off from a different angle or location while playing the back nine.
Though the course was only 2,125 yards in length, golfers still found it not easy to reach some greens in regulation. Hole No. 4 was a 415-yard par 4 with a sloped green making it difficult for putting and getting approach shots to sit. Many frustrated golfers walked away from No. 4 with a bogey or double bogey adding strokes to an otherwise descent round. Par 3s included hole No. 9 that was a mere 120 yards from tee to green. However, low hanging tree limbs often forced golfers to hit low tee shots on Meadowbrook’s shortest hole. The 175 yard par-3 seventh hole put golfers to the ultimate test. Golfers not only had to worry about their ball finding water in a pond lining the left side of the fairway, but dealing with a sloped green much steeper than that on the fourth hole. Hole No. 6 was a 275-yard par 4 that produced many birdies and eagles for long hitters. Golfers could cut a stroke or two off their final score on this short and easy par 4. (In later years, hole numbers changed at Meadowbrook but it remained a par 62 course.)
Meadowbrook Golf Course pro Ivan Geiger had been on the Madison County golf scene for many years. Geiger knew many golfers by name and was a true ambassador to the game. Geiger, who encouraged youngsters to learn and play golf, started the Joe Campbell Junior Golf League at Meadowbrook in the summer of 1966. The novice golfers ranged in age from 8 to 18 and competed in their respective age group. The league met on Thursday morning for eight weeks during the summer months. For $1 a youngster could play nine holes of golf with enough change left over for a hot dog and Pepsi. If there happened to be a low turnout of golfers on any given Thursday, Geiger allowed league participants to play an extra nine holes for free after their initial tournament round. Trophies were presented to golfers finishing first and second place with the lowest average scores. The junior golf league was in honor of Joe Campbell, an Anderson High School and Purdue University graduate, who played on the PGA Tour in the late 1950s through he mid 1960s. The gregarious cigar smoking golfer was present at the inaugural event, where he signed autographs and conducted a golf clinic for participants.
The Joe Campbell Junior Golf League wasn’t the only tournament held at Meadowbrook Golf Course. Long before the current Madison County Junior Golf Tournament was established, Meadowbrook played host to the annual Anderson City Junior Tournament. Meadowbrook had a men’s and women’s club, tournaments for fathers and sons, holiday tournaments, and in later years was the site of the infamous Meadowbrook Pizza Open.
While golfers enjoyed the newly established nine-hole Meadowbrook Golf Course, a course of a different kind opened on the northeast side of town. Boca Ree-Al, located at Cross Street and the 109 bypass, was an 18-hole par-3 course. Like Meadowbrook, Boca Ree-Al was best suited for the younger and older golfers, or those who simply wanted to play a quick round of golf. Unlike Meadowbrook, Boca Ree-Al had a 25-tee driving range and a 36-hole miniature golf course. Putt-Putt had yet to arrive in Anderson leaving Boca Ree-Al, Killbuck Park, and Arnold Palmer Golf at Southdale Plaza, as the only miniature golf courses in the area.
Boca Ree-Al had a unique concept to draw golfers to the driving range. In the middle of the range was a fish bowl on a stand containing $100. If a golfer was able to hit the glass bowl with a teed ball, the $100 prize money was theirs to keep.
Boca Ree-Al had a top-of-the-line pro shop that was well stocked with clubs, balls, bags, pull carts, hats, and clothing. The snack bar offered hot dogs and soft drinks for golfers to enjoy after finishing the front nine or completing an 18-hole round. The par 54 Boca Ree-Al was 2,904 yards in length with No. 11 listed at 229 yards making it the longest and most difficult hole on the course. Many golfers brought only irons with them to Boca Ree-Al, keeping their drivers and fairway woods at home. To many, Boca Ree-Al was the perfect place for weekend golfers to card a once-in-a-lifetime hole in one on the short par 3s.
What made Boca Ree-Al so unique from other golf courses in Madison County, was that it offered night golf. On the Boca Ree-Al scorecard it was listed as “America’s Finest 18 Hole Lighted Par 3.” Motorists driving north on the Indiana 109 Bypass (now Scatterfield Road) could see the lights from Boca Ree-Al filling the night sky. It wasn’t unusual for interested parties to park along Cross Street to watch this newfangled way of playing golf. Nicholson File, Delco Remy, Guide Lamp, Anaconda, Container Corp., and Emge packing house all sponsored night leagues at Boca Ree-Al for the nocturnal golfer.
One of the biggest events at Boca Ree-Al was in July 1962, one month after the course opened for business. PGA legend Sam Snead played a round of golf at Boca with course pro Bill Mills, professional golfer Patty Berg, Anderson resident Julie Hull, and race car driver Rodger Ward, who won the Indianapolis 500 that May. Hundreds of people walked alongside “Slammin’ Sammy” where they witnessed the sweetest swing in golf. Snead did not let the gallery down when he posted a 4 under par 50 that was the course record at the time. Berg carded a 4 over par 58, Hull registered a 68, and Ward finished his round with a 64. Snead remains the winningest PGA golfer of all time with 82 victories including three wins each at the Masters and the U.S. Open.
It was once said that old golfers never die, they just fade away. The same could be said about the old nine-hole Meadowbrook Golf Course and Boca Ree-Al. In 1987, a golfer whose name remains unknown, sank the last-ever putt at Meadowbrook Golf Course. Seven years later, the final round of golf was played at Boca Ree-Al. Though the old Meadowbrook Golf Course and Boca Ree-Al no longer exist, they had their day in the sun, as did the golfers who played them.