Where was the first golf course in Richmond? Lakeside Park! In 1893, Lewis Ginter, a prominent Richmond businessman, real estate developer, and philanthropist began the development of Lakeside Park that included a man-made lake for swimming and boating (and skating in the winter months), extensive grounds for hiking and bicycling, and a zoo of with exotic animals for the time. Around the same time, the Lakeside Wheel Club was founded for those who enjoyed the athletic amenities.
In 1895, Ginter decided to add golf to the activities available at Lakeside Park by hiring Willie Tucker to lay out a Scottish style course there, the Lakeside Links.The course, the first in Richmond, opened in 1896, The nine-hole course included: (1) The Zoo, 264 yards; (2) The Pines, 155 yards; (3) Tip Top, 213 yards; (4) The Maze, 253 yards; (5) Corner, 348 yards; (6) Windmill, 217 yards; (7) Orchard, 192 yards; (8) The Brae, 311yards ; and (9) Lakeside, 323 yards; totaling 2,186 yards.
Also in 1896,a club of golf enthusiasts developed a separate golf membership as part of the Lakeside Wheel Club. Many early golfing members of the Lakeside Wheel Club carried their clubs as they pedaled their bicycles to the golf course at Lakeside Park.
After a few years, the Lakeside Wheel Club took over control and maintenance of the links and clubhouse and built a membership of approximately 300. Initiation or entrance fees were $20 and annual dues were $12. In January 1898, Golf Magazine reported that the Lakeside Wheel Club boasts that “in the natural lay of the land course its course is second to none in the country.” The magazine article, entitled “Golf in the South,” goes on to report that “The pine forests make a delightful background to a most picturesque course which is throughout in excellent condition for play. The club numbers 275 members and their home is one of the handsomest in the United States, having every convenience.”
Over the years, the club has experienced several name changes. The Club changed its name to “Lakeside Country Club” near the end of the century. (It was this club in 1904 that won the first statewide golf competition and helped to found the VSGA.)
The Lakeside Country Club gave way to the Suburban Club at Lakeside Park in 1917. In 1920, the club reverted back to the Lakeside Country Club name and hired the highly regarded architect Donald Ross to create an 18-hole course on the club's property, our current course. In 1933, the club merged with the Jefferson Club to form the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club.
In August of 2020, after strategic planning that included a review of the club’s history, the club returned to its roots with one last name change – Lakeside Park Club.
Lakeside Park members play over the same ground on which golf was played before 1900, and its 18-hole course remains substantially the course laid out by Donald Ross. In fact, a recent visit by architecture experts of the Donald Ross Society concluded that the course had retained a remarkable amount of his original design elements.
A curiosity on the course even today are the remnants of metal cages and concrete basins that 100 years earlier served to display “lions and tigers and bears,” as well as other exotic animals featured at Ginter’s zoo. The golf course is also the beneficiary of Ginter’s extensive efforts in developing Lakeside Park because the property now features over 56 types of trees, including many personally selected by Ginter and imported from Europe.
The compact, very walkable course features sufficient elevation changes and variety to still make a round of golf at Lakeside Park Club challenging as well as a most pleasant “walk in the park”.
Some content courtesy of the Virginia Golfer.