It all started with Bert Stamps dream of a course east of Fresno. In 1954, he pursued the idea of a golf club and approached Frank J. Sanders, a local auto dealer and developer, who was also interested in an east Fresno golf course. Finding a location and building Belmont Country Club would be the second in a string of private courses built by Bert in Central California, which included Kings River Golf and Country Club in Kingsburg, and San Luis Obispo Country Club.
Frank and Bert, after an unsuccessful attempt to acquire land near Clovis and Belmont Avenues, found and then partnered with Walt Tomerlin. Walt owned a 94 acre former grape vineyard, on which the course now resides at the southeast corner of Belmont Avenue and De Wolf Avenue. The land was sub-divided for the golf course, a street, and lots. The sub-division was named Belmont Country Club Estates and the lots were sold to those who would later become early members. Sanders Court, the circle drive the course wraps around, is named after Frank J. Sanders. Bert was the course designer and later the first Golf Professional of Belmont Country Club. He also built the first home on the property.
Belmont County Club was built in 1955 and opened for business in October 1956. Frank, Bert, and Walt along with a few others, formed a corporation, Belmont Park Corporation, and sold shares for $100 each. A tidy sum in those days! Walt and Frank were major shareholders and responsible for much of the early success of the club. Ironically, Walt owned a set of golf clubs, but never played.
In 1956, the regular membership initiation fee was $250 and the monthly dues were $18.50. A couple of years later, the initiation fee was reduced to $150 with a goal of recruiting enough members to total 250.
The golf shop was run by Bert and his young assistant, Hap Rose. The building in which the pro shop and club office now reside is the same building these two men worked in 50 years ago. At that time, the building functioned as the pro shop, restaurant, office, and storage facility. There was a ranch house that stood just west of the pro shop where the current cart barn is located. Shortly after the course opened, the ranch house was moved to a lot just north of the current fifth tee.
A swimming pool and small cart barn were built where the ranch house previously stood. The pool was enjoyed by young and old, for many years until its demise in 1992, replaced with a larger cart storage building by George Alexander, a member and contractor.
The members bought the course from the corporation in 1962. At that time, the club sold "Lifetime Memberships" to anyone interested for $2,400 each. Fifteen people purchased them and were free from any monthly dues and assessments for life.
Bert Stamps was in command from the beginning until Hap Rose took over in 1959. Hap remained as the head golf professional until 1978. Larry Babica, Kelly Wolfe, and Mike Schy were resident professionals for roughly five years each. Kenny Collins served from 1994 to 2010, Todd Hansen, 2010 to 2017 followed by Derek Standridge. Currently, Richard Thompkins serves as the head golf professional.
The first superintendent was Owen Stone from 1956 to 1975. The Stone family has been in the business of looking after golf courses in the area for over 50 years. There are now several Stones affiliated at prominent clubs up and down the Valley. In fact, his grandson, Derek, is the superintendent at Belmont Country Cub now. It is said that, if you are fortunate to have a Stone at your facility, you have the wisdom of all of them put together.
The professional with the greatest impact and the longest tenure was Hap Rose. He lived on the course and did whatever necessary to keep the club moving forward. His wife, Pretz was also active in the club as well, helping whenever needed, and enjoying playing golf with the other ladies.
Hap’s other assistant was a black Labrador named appropriately, Jet. An amazing dog, he was trained to stay within the boundary of the course. He was a rescue messenger and delivery man. If a cart broke down on the course, Jet was summoned and then sent with a message back to the cart barn where a replacement cart would be dispatched. Jet would also amazingly deliver, upon command, things to Pretz at home, a small bag, the mail, or a note across the course to their home on the fifth tee. If someone tried to intercept him while in route, he would growl and not allow any interference with his mission.
In 1982, a fire caused by spontaneous combustion in the kitchen completely destroyed the clubhouse. Members living on Sanders Court saw the flames and called the authorities, but the fire department arrived too late to save it. It was difficult operating a golf club without a functioning clubhouse but, within a year and a half, a new building was designed, built, and back in operation.
The camaraderie was tremendous early on and established an atmosphere that continues to this day. The old poolside patio area was the site of many gatherings in the heat of summer. The original coffee shop had a modest kitchen that serviced the members for many years. Food was prepared in the coffee shop and sent to the banquet room for service until the clubhouse added a new kitchen in 1964.
Many projects were completed with the hard work of members. This was their club and their actions reflected their desire to make it successful and welcoming to all. It is impossible to list all the members who impacted the progress of this club and their efforts are immeasurable. Their legacy is carried on by the current members and staff who enjoy Belmont Country Club today.
Golf Course Built, 1956
Clubhouse Built, 1958
Clubhouse Ballroom Added, 1960
Clubhouse Kitchen Added, 1964
Course Fenced, 1980
Current Clubhouse Designed and Built, 1983
Course Sprinkler System Rebuilt, 1986
Course Cart Paths Added, 1989
Golf Course Fairway and Sand Trap Renovated, 2008
Clubhouse Renovated, 2008
Solar Electrical Generation Array Added, 2017
Greens Renovated to Champion Bermuda Greens, 2017
Research: Wes Johnson, Roy Telesco, Hap Rose, Otto Suda, Willy Suda, Larry Cloud, Kenny Collins