|In 1858, Anthony Wolff purchased 180 acres of farmland near Long Pond in northwestern Sullivan County. Farming was a tough life, and like many farmers in the county, by the 1890’s the Wolff family had begun taking in summer boarders to supplement their income.These farmers-turned-inkeepers offered their summertime guests fresh milk and vegetables, clean spring water, and relief from the oppressive heat of the crowded city. As the new century dawned, several hundred farmhouses, boarding houses and small hotels offered accommodations for 23,000 tourists countywide. Sullivan County had entered into an era of economic prosperity based almost exclusively on this tourism industry: The Silver Age.By 1907, Long Pond had become known as Tennanah Lake, the Wolffs had expanded the original farmhouse to accommodate 80 guests, and catering to these “vacationists”, as they were known, supplementing their income with farming. But they still needed more room, and in 1910, Peter Wolff financed the construction of a magnificent new building that would serve as the center of the Tennanah Lake House as it continued to grow over the next few decades.
By this time it was no longer enough to offer guests fleeing the intense heat of the city shaded lawns and fresh food. So, shortly after the new building was completed, Wolff constructed a nine hole golf course for his guests. By 1935, the tourism industry in Sullivan County had changed – large, well-equipped and feature-laden hotels had replaced the farmhouses and boarding houses of the earlier era – and the Tennanah Lake House had changed, as well. With Sullivan County poised to enter into its Golden Age, the Wolff’s 400 acre resort had expanded to accommodate 500, and offered “tennis, boating, baseball, fishing, horseback riding on 8 miles of bridle paths through virgin forests and motoring” in addition to golf. The Tennanah Lake House also boasted the largest hotel Bird Sanctuary in the world – comprising hundreds of birdhouses and thousands of birds of all varieties – and had its own theatre.
In 1952, the nine hole golf course was redesigned by the legendary Sam Snead and expanded to 18 holes. Six of the original nine holes were utilized in the design. Snead was in the midst of one of his most productive years, which produced five tournament wins, including his second Masters Championship.
The present course is very much the way Slammin’ Sammy conceived it. It is one of just a handful of courses he designed, and it is the oldest golf course operating in Sullivan County today.
John Conway, Sullivan County Historian
For more on the history of the surrounding area, and all it has to offer Tennanah Lake Golf and Tennis Club guests, visit the Sullivan County Website.