Natanis Golf Course 
Natanis Golf Course
735 Webber Pond Road, Vassalboro, Maine 04989
(207) 622-3561                         info@natanisgc.com
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OUR HISTORY

On the Pond Road in Vassalboro, that runs parallel with the Kennebec River, is Natanis Golf Course. The course, skirts the shore of Webber Pond two miles east of the river and covers the green rolling knolls of an ancient Maine farm. Most of the farms in this area date back to the 1760's and most of them have gone full circle, from wilderness where Indians hunted and fished, through the prosperous period of well developed farms supporting many families and then into the deserted years of neglected lands that reverted to near wilderness. About 1960 Paul & Lucy Browne began buying some of these deserted farms, turning the rich, beautiful land back to crops and pasturage. Paul Browne had been manager of the Maine Breeding Cooperative for 15 years and was well acquainted with the area since the Cooperative had taken over one of these farms.

One of Paul Browne's interests, dating from an early age, was golf. He had caddied at the Bethel Inn Golf Course as a young boy and later tended the greens when on summer vacations. Browne had studied agriculture and had practiced farming for many years. So creating his own golf course seemed a natural fit. Paul & Lucy decided to give up farming and convert an old farm into a golf course because the farmer's share of the consumer dollar was shrinking. It was a tough decision, as there were kids in college and many other expenses to still be met. But, after much thought and discussion it began to appear as a possible venture, not only for the family but for the whole community. The Browne's chose a farm which extends from the shores of Webber Pond westward to what is now Route 201. The gentle sloping fields, the many never failing springs, the brooks, the stands of maples, oaks and pines added up to a desirable location.

Original farmhouse 1920 By 1800 this farm had been well cleared by the Chadbourne Family. For three generations they had developed and improved the land, built a large and attractive home. In the 1890's the Robbins Family took over and continued to improve both the land and buildings. Apples, hay and lumber, sheep and cows, as well as crops had flourished on this farm. When the Browne's took over "Fairview Farm", as it had been called more than a century ago, the land had been idle for a good 10 years and the fine set of buildings, house, sheds, and two barns had burned down to their solid ledge foundations. Nature had run riot in the fields and pastures, but the cool springs and fast running brooks remained unchanged.

From the very beginning it proved to be a major project. Friends and neighbors where immediately helpful with competent advice and useful suggestions. In fact it was the encouragement of Ralph Waning, a neighbor and conservationist, who actually got the Browne's started on their adventure. The Browne family's know-how in building farm ponds, fertilizing, seeding, clearing, bulldozing, and other farm tasks proved invaluable.  Paul and his son's, William, Robert, Paul Jr. and Jim, practically built the course themselves. They also solicited aid from the Kennebec County Soil Conservation Service, from a brother-in-law Phil Clark, who was a teacher and golf pro at Cobbossee Colony Golf Course, and also from Jimmy Jones, former pro at Augusta Country Club, for advice in laying out the course and ponds.

Despite set-backs and almost insurmountable problems the 9 hole course became a reality in July of 1965. Located on some 58 acres, the original course had four holes on the east side of the road and five on the west. The greens were all in different shapes. William, who liked to design, drew plans that called for each green to somewhat represent a different county of Maine.

Grand Opening Poster - July 1965
Original Grand Opening Poster July 1965

Chief Natanis After the greens and tees were ready for the golfers, the question of a name for the course was discussed. Both Paul and Lucy Browne had knowledge of the Indian lore which abounds in this area and consulted neighbor, Norman Fosset, who was Secretary and Treasurer of the Maine Archaeological Society. He gave them details of the activities of two notable Indians, Sabattus and Natanis who had both frequented the vicinity and guided Benedict Arnold's ill fated expeditions up the Kennebec River and on to Canada. Sabattus had received much recognition, but Chief Natanis had been honored little, and in the shuffle of history, all but forgotten.

Thus it came about that the Browne's decided to give recognition to Natanis, loyal friend to the early settlers. Paul, a native American admirer, collected artifacts of Indian lore, many of which still adorn the clubhouse. Chief Natanis is reportedly buried in a plot in nearby Oak Grove Cemetery. Today's two 18 hole layouts were named  Arrowhead and Tomahawk, as a way to pay tribute to the native Americans that so interested the elder Browne.

During the next few years a clubhouse was built and five more holes were added, making for a total of 14 holes. The result was that golfers could play an 18 hole round by playing the front four holes twice. This combined for a par 71, 6800 yard course. With the four more holes planned for 1974-75 Natanis would become one of the best 18 hole courses in Maine.

Original ClubhouseDining Outside

Drawing people from both Augusta and the Waterville area, as well as from the vacation resorts in the immediate area, Natanis Golf Course quickly became one of the busiest courses in central Maine. Although the family tree was setback with the death of Paul Browne in 1981, the dedication of the rest of the family allowed the course to continue to grow. Lucy worked in the pro shop. The second two sons, Bob & Jim, became partners. Bob was the course superintendent and general manager at Natanis and Jim had similar duties at  the Browne's other course, Lakewood in Madison. Bill the eldest son and wife Carolyn, handled special events and caterings. Youngest brother Dick, was the teaching pro, and sister Liz operated the driving range. Bob's wife Julie ran the pro shop and handled the books at Natanis, while Jim's wife Barbara did the same for the Lakewood course. And the third generation was also on it's way. Bob's sons Allen & Rob did course maintenance as well as Jim's son Kevin. With so much going on and everybody putting in their share of overtime, the family ties were beneficial.

Construction of Indian Territory - September 1988In 1985 work got under way to expand to 27 holes, one of only three such courses in the state, the others being Riverside in Portland, and Bangor Muni. Natanis had become so busy that things would tend to get backed up when holding any outings or special tournaments. It was a five year process, taking 16 months just to get the proper permits. The Browne's hired a green's shaper, and a supervisor for the installation of the automatic watering system, as well as architect, Phil Wogan of Topsfield, Mass to design the new 9 holes, which would be called Indian Territory.

Phil Wogan - Indian Territory Architect
Wogan who has created more than 50 courses in New England learned the craft from the famed Donald Ross, as well as his father Skip who was known for designing the prestigious Sankaty Head Golf Club on Nantucket island.

Work was completed, and the course opened in the fall of 1990, in time for Natanis' 25th anniversary. With 27 holes, in essence creating three separate courses in one, management could accommodate group outings and still keep it's members and public happy by starting everyone on separate nines.

Because of the 27 holes business soon doubled and it became apparent that a new and larger clubhouse would be needed. So in August of 1994 the original clubhouse was burned by the Vassalboro Volunteer Fire Department and a new expanded facility was started.

Original clubhouse burns - August 1994 New clubhouse construction - December 1994

When completed in the spring of 1995, a dedication ceremony on March 25th, was attended by more than 250 members and friends. Typical of the Browne's family values and humble appreciation for their neighbors, the Browne's dedicated the new 3000 sq.ft. clubhouse to the men responsible for the construction. Citing that every contractor lived within 25 miles of the golf course and most of the lumber in the spacious clubhouse was cut by themselves, the building was presented as a local project with local skills. The interior is a tasteful blend of oak, space, and sunlight broken up by a massive 14 foot stonework chimney. The new building is one the most appealing clubhouses, for a public golf course in Maine.

New clubhouse 1995 TO BE CONTINUED......