Basin Harbor

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Discover Basin Harbor’s magnificent golf course, which has been worked on by renowned landscape architects Alex Campbell and Geoffrey Cornish.

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Basin Harbor’s golf heritage dates back to 1916.

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Golf at Basin Harbor dates to 1916 when the owner of the Basin Harbor resort, Allen Penfield Beach, constructed around a half dozen holes. He drew on inspiration from his winter visits to Florida to build his golf course, hoping it would attract more guests from big cities like New York and Boston. Then in 1927, the resort requested that the accomplished Alex Campbell thoroughly renovate the course. An established professional golfer from Scotland, Campbell had specifically gained international fame for his five top-10 finished at the U.S. Open during the early 20th century. Even though most of the holes that Campbell designed have changed in some fashion of the years, two of the holes no longer exist in any configuration. For instance, the green complex for his fourth hole—a short par-three—once sat right next to the resort pool. When the hole was eventually taken out decades later, it acted as the short game practice area for a number of years. In fact, many errant tee shots from the original fourth hole found their way into the resort pool! Campbell’s work nonetheless succeeded in transforming Bason Harbor into a celebrated retreat for golf enthusiasts from across the Northeastern United States. Indeed, the rise in its popularity heralded the creation of many outstanding services to help make golf at Basin Harbor truly special. Among the steps the resort undertook was to employ a real professional golfer to serve as the supervisor for all golf operations. Just months after the Campbell course opened, Basin Harbor specifically hired another renowned Scottish golfer named Danny Wilson to be the Head Professional. The talented Wilson would remain with the resort as its main golf professional for the next 50 years!

The course was redesigned twice in the 20th century: first by golf course architect William F. Mitchell in 1955 and then again by world-renowned architect Geoffrey Cornish during the 1980s. Mitchell himself worked diligently to further enhance the golf course’s appeal, expanding its size exponentially to a full 18 holes. The celebrated Cornish then contributed when he led a massive restoration of every fairway on-site that lasted for months. Although he implemented many fantastic changes throughout the project, perhaps his greatest was his work on the current versions of the 7th and 11th holes. He masterfully developed the entire layout of the picturesque 7th hole, while also rerouting the existing 11th hole to accommodate the construction of the practice facility. Today, Basin Harbor's 18-hole championship course is a delight for any golfer with its rolling terrain, well-placed bunkers, beautiful trees, contoured fairways, and friendly service. While the golf course itself has seen many iterations over the past century, it still maintains its “Golden Age” charm with its gentle rolling fairways and fescue-framed green complexes. This beautiful lakeside course serves as the perfect complement to any family resort vacation or corporate retreat. The Basin Harbor Golf practice facility offers a grass practice tee and putting green for warming up, too. Golfers can hit three different elevated greens, practice chipping, pitching, lob shots, and bunker play, or work on putting. The course was even the first in Vermont to become a sanctioned Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Golf Course—a program that is dedicated to preserving natural resources and enhancing wildlife habitats.

  • About the Location +

    Located in the city of Vergennes, Basin Harbor resides right next to the majestic Lake Champlain. Named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain—who encountered it in 1609—the body of water itself is rich in history. Indeed, the first people to inhabit its 128-mile-long shoreline were Native Americans of the Iroquois Confederacy, namely the Abenaki and Mohawk. The lake specifically served as an important terminus to the Confederacy’s eastern domain, with the various inlets providing access to both the Hudson and St. Lawrence River valleys. This strategic ability eventually attracted the attention of Great Britain and France throughout the 18th century, which often quarreled over its control. Both sides constructed fortifications all over Lake Champlain, with the most notable being the two French citadels Fort Ticonderoga (then known as “Fort Carillon”) and Fort St. Frederic. The greatest conflict to encapsulate the European struggle over the lake was the North Americans theater of the Seven Years’ War, known today as the “French and Indian War.” Fighting raged across region, as the French gradually worked their way down Lake Champlain from Québec. Capturing the British garrison at Fort William Henry, the French were eventually driven back into Canada in 1759. France would ultimately lose the Seven Years’ War, leaving the contested territory surrounding Lake Champlain firmly in British hands.

    Peace was not destined to last, however. Lake Champlain soon became the site for numerous battles between the British and its American colonists, who had begun to settle the region en masse. In fact, some of the first fights of the American Revolution occurred around Lake Champlain, starting with Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen’s capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. They subsequently turned the British munitions over to Henry Knox, who then sent them east to the Continental Army stationed outside of Boston. The successful surprise attack on Fort Ticonderoga was followed by a frantic naval engagement at a place called “Valcour Bay” a year later. While the American fleet was practically destroyed, the contest nonetheless bought the local American forces enough time to strengthen their defenses throughout the region. The lake would see additional fighting over the course of the war, including British General John Burgoyne’s invasion and subsequent defeat at the Battle of Saratoga. Fortunately, large-scale fighting would drift further south as the revolution progressed, giving the area a respite from constant warfare. Euro-American settlement resumed at a slow pace as such, which gathered energy significantly once the British conceded and recognized the independence of the United States in 1783.

    But Anglo-American relations remained tense for many years thereafter. British restrictions on American trade—particularly with Revolutionary France—and territorial friction eventually spawned another conflict called the “War of 1812.” For two years, the British and Americans fought indecisively in a number of theaters—the British managed to defeat another American invasion of Canada, while the United States secured its claim over the Midwest. The British proceeded to mount a counterattack in 1814 though, assaulting the Chesapeake Bay and capturing Washington. At the same time, the British attempted to capture Lake Champlain in an effort to cut New England off from the rest of the country. An American force went north to counter the threat, instigating the Battle of Lake Champlain. The central part of the contest involved a fleet battle, which saw the American squadron completely route the British. Indeed, the bout even saw the destruction of four British ships, as well as the death of their naval commander, Captain George Dowie. (Interestingly, a few American ships used in the fight had actually been constructed at the shipyard formerly owned by Platt Rogers—the first owner of the land that is now home to Basin Harbor.) The American victory had serious ramifications for the outcome of the war. Indeed, the triumph—along with the successful American defense of Baltimore—eventually inspired the British to negotiate an end to the fighting via the Treaty of Ghent.

    In the years that followed, Lake Champlain quickly became a site of great economic activity. Industrialists particularly found the area attractive, as the water enabled them to power a group of early factories. The growth expanded the size of several towns throughout the region, too, including Plattsburgh, New York, and Burlington, Vermont. Regional commerce was then augmented more by the debut of the historic Champlain Canal, which connected the lake to the Hudson River. Merchants and sailors subsequently flocked into Lake Champlain like never before, making it one of the most active places in the northeastern United States. But not all of the lake saw the arrival of mass industrialization. Indeed, nearly all of its beautiful coastline remained pastoral for the rest of the 19th century. The preservation of its gorgeous, bucolic landscape inspired many Americans from across New York and New England to observe its beauty. As such, Lake Champlain emerged as a tourist attraction around the start of the 20th century. This desire to visit the lake increased tenfold in the aftermath of World War II. Pent-up demand in the country to travel gave birth to a renaissance for tourist travel to Lake Champlain, making it among the most popular vacation hotspots in the whole country. Lake Champlain has since retained its prestigious reputation as a renowned holiday destination, hosting thousands of people from around the world every year.


  • About the Architect +

    Alex Campbell: Campbell was born Scotland during the late 1870s, the son of Alexander and Margaret Campbell. Golf ran deep in his family, as five of his brothers eventually matured to become professional golfers. Campbell himself pursued the sport as a career, immigrating to the United States at the end of the century to participate in its growing competition circuit. He played magnificently at several prominent tournaments, with his best showings occurring at the U.S. Open. Indeed, his greatest performance occurred when he ranked third at the 13th U.S. Open in 1907. But when Campbell was not busy competing, he worked as the main professional at the esteemed golf complex known as “The Country Club” in Brookline, Massachusetts. Many hailed Campbell for his knowledge of the game, including a young Francis Ouimet, whom he helped train personally while at The Country Club. Toward the end of his tenure at The Country Club, Campbell began to experiment with golf course design. He specifically undertook his first assignment in 1915, designing the layout of Baltimore’s first public golf course in Clifton Park. (Clifton Park was designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers, who were also active in Campbell’s adopted hometown of Brookline.) The experience gained Campbell additional work throughout the United States, designing additional golf courses for the Baltimore Country Club, the Miami Valley Country Club, and the Moraine Country Club. In total, Campbell created some 30 wonderful golf courses that quickly gained praise of their interesting and accessible layouts. Nevertheless, Campbell remained an avid golfer for the rest of his life, continuing to act as the Head Professional for a few other golf clubs located in Maryland and Ohio. He even continued to compete professionally, too, finishing ninth at the 1923 PGA Championship.

    Geoffrey Cornish: Few in this history of golf have left such a profound impact than Canadian golf course architect Geoffrey Cornish. Originally from Winnipeg, Cornish first got his start professionally while working as a greenskeeper at the Capilano Golf Club. He had taken the role upon completing his studies in agronomy during the mid-1930s. He subsequently used the experience to get a job with the renowned architect Stanley Thompson, specifically serving as his understudy for four years. Cornish’s time with Thompson proved fruitful as he was able to obtain a coveted landscaping position at the great St. Charles Country Club in Winnipeg. Unfortunately for Cornish, the outbreak of World War II briefly put his career on hold, as he enlisted to serve in the Canadian Army. (In fact, Cornish participated in the opening landings of the historic Normandy invasion in 1944.) When the war finally concluded, Cornish returned home to Canada and resumed working for Thompson. But Cornish soon relocated to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in order to help scientist Lawrence S. Dickinson experiment with golf course maintenance. Cornish eventually established his own design firm in the early 1950s, which proceeded to craft the appearances of some 240 golf courses throughout North America. Among the greatest courses that Cornish designed or renovated included the Colonie Country Club, the Allendale Country Club, and of course, the Basin Harbor Golf Course. His Pines Course at The International Golf Club was also the longest course in the world when playing from the “Tiger” tees—a record that still exists today. Cornish’s talents also netted him numerous awards, too, and even served as the president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects for a couple of years in the late 1960s.


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