Fifty Years In The Making — The History Of Stuart's Yacht And Country Club
The Yacht & Country Club turns 50 this year, much to the delight of its residents. The gated community, coveted for the unprecedented boating and golfing amenities it brought to Martin County five decades ago, has been the place they call home.
Built in 1969 on a swath of scrub near the Manatee Pocket, the development introduced the first golf course community in Stuart. The club attracted an upper echelon of buyers—Air Force generals, Navy admirals, titans of corporate industry and retirees from colder climes—who came to live in a little-known piece of paradise. Established on the principles of family, friendship and fun, as well as luxury and quality, the place put the sleepy suburb of Stuart on the map.
“I watched the big earth movers dig it,” says Evans Crary, who out of 20 other original founding members is the last one alive. “It was both interesting, and I guess with a sense of pride to be a part of it, to have this facility become available to Martin County.”
Crary, 88, invested in the concept of the club by sublimely sinking $15,000 into a project headed by Charles Martyn. The rest of the founding members did the same.
“People don’t understand when you were born and raised in Martin County, there was little opportunity for business, etc., and any development that would enhance the community and the opportunity for business was deemed by many of us to be a good thing,” the Stuart native says. “It brought people into the county.”
Ground broke on Aug. 29, 1968, with dignitaries such as the city manager, the mayor and well-known insurance broker R.V. Johnson in attendance.
“It almost didn’t happen,” Crary says. “One of the founding members dropped out the night before the closing. The deal supposedly was going to fall through. My brother was representing the sellers, and he convinced me to borrow the money and become a founding member.”
He moved into a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home on Crooked Creek with his family, looking forward to hitting the links. But the daily demands of his law practice prevented him from pursuing the passion.
In 1983, he left The Yacht & Country Club to live in a nearby condominium. It would not stick. After the death of his wife, he eventually remarried a golf enthusiast who got him back into the game. He rejoined the club in 2006, and three years later bought another home—this one a two-bedroom, two-bathroom on the eighth fairway.
Designed by Martyn, the course reportedly was to have been another Pete Dye product. The story goes that Martyn claimed to know more about golf course aesthetics than the notable architect and dauntlessly drew up plans on his own.
“That would be Charlie,” Crary says. “He wrote a book… a very interesting tome about being one of the world’s greatest developers. He was like that. But it’s still one of the best courses in the county. When the wind blows, it seems to be on your face in every hole. That is a golfer’s lament.
“I don’t suspect that there’s a turntable under it,” he laughs. “It’s a unique design.”
The unique design was good enough for Jack Nicklaus, who made headlines at a 1971 charity tournament featuring Perry Como and Sam Snead. Crary remembers the occasion well.
“On No. 4, he hit his drive, and he wasn’t happy with it,” he says of Nicklaus. “It was one of the longest three-wood shots I’ve ever seen to the green—very, very impressive. When that ball passed by me, it sounded like it came out of a 105 howitzer.”
The pro-am raised more than $12,000 for Stamp Out Drug Abuse. In anticipation of it, the club created a new main entrance on A1A and installed a 24-hour guardhouse. Three dozen coconut palms and ficus trees were planted for curb appeal.
“That was the first tournament that was played on the golf course, and everyone was all excited about it at the time,” says Cheryl Kohloff, a member who is organizing and chairing the club’s 50th Anniversary Kick-off Cocktail Social and Anniversary Gala.
“Yeah, that was pretty neat,” adds Kevin Kohloff, Cheryl’s husband and the club’s board president.
While the couple did not live there at the time, they know how much publicity the tournament received. More recent publicity arose when Nicole Melichar, who grew up at the club, won a Grand Slam title in the mixed-doubles championship at last year’s Wimbledon.
“We had it on TV when we knew she was on,” Kevin Kohloff says. “We invited people to come watch it. We want to have her come and speak in February.”
The 50th Anniversary Kick-off Cocktail Social, a semiformal set for Feb. 9, ushers in a week’s worth of activities during the Masters that culminates with the 50th Anniversary Gala on April 13. The black-tie event includes live music, dinner and dancing. On April 6, the Tennis Club will have matches throughout the day and welcome the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast for an animal adoption event. The Yacht Club is organizing a poker run April 9 followed by a dinner benefiting the Hibiscus Children’s Center. The Mini Masters/Night of Champions Nine Hole Scramble is April 12. To recognize the milestone, 50th-anniversary golf bags, hats, shirts and other memorabilia—and a special flag—are being made.
“This is the original,” Kevin Kohloff says of what has been coined “The Gem of the Treasure Coast.” “Everybody knows each other. Everybody gets along. We’re a family here. We want to move forward as a family. We’re hoping we’re here for another 50 years.”
Ginny Doxanas relocated with her husband, Thomas, from Baltimore in the late 1960s, settling on Club Med Sandpiper Bay. A hotel had opened on the Port St. Lucie property, causing crowds at the course and pushing back their tee times.
“My husband said, ‘No way—we’re going somewhere else,’” Doxanas says.
They bought a lot on hole No. 5 at The Yacht & Country Club, chose a three-bedroom, three-bathroom floorplan and never looked back.
“We knew this was it,” she says. “It was the golf, and the people were very, very nice. We developed quite a few friends, but of course a lot of them are gone by now.”
The 95-year-old widow walks with a cane because of a knee ailment that has caused her to no longer be able to play golf. While in her prime, though, she nailed a hole-in-one on the third green “and then put the ball in the water on No. 4.”
On another outing, she put the ball in the water on No. 9 and fearlessly went after it.
“I wanted it,” Doxanas says. “I slipped on the wood and fell in the lake.”
And the ball?
“I got it, oh yeah,” Doxanas says. “They still say—some people, anyway—‘Keep away from the lake.’”
The former chairwoman of the Ladies 18 Hole Golf Association now spends her time going to the movies, playing cards and trying her hand at Mexican Train Dominoes. Saturday-night socials are her favorite.
“It has been a pleasure living here,” Doxanas says. I haven’t met one person I did not like or want to be with. The place has retained a nice atmosphere and environment. I would highly recommend it.”