CRAZY. Yup. That’s the word. Bizarre. Ridiculous. These words, by which one and all might describe Charlie Chaplin’s connection to Waterville, Maine.
Eco-bargain hunters on the Internet have been snatching up maps and reports for years indicating that one of Chaplin’s favorite resorts, Waterville Golf Club, made for a backdrop for movies he filmed in, including “The Great Dictator” (1940), “The Great Dictator” (1941), “The Kid” (1939), “The Crucible” (1949), “The Love of the Last Tycoon” (1953), “Laugh-In” (1956), “Tootsie” (1982), “The Gold Rush” (1974), “Prince of Tides” (1991), “The Champ” (1996), “Trainspotting” (1996), “Trainspotting” (1996), “Trainspotting” (1996) and “Catch Me If You Can” (2002).
An online search for “Charlie Chaplin golfing in Waterville” brings up more than 800 results, most of them from 2012 and ’14, with many reports saying that Chaplin and his entourage would visit the club every year, including in 2010.
“Everyone knows Charlie Chaplin visited Waterville about 15 times, but not everyone knows where he came from,” co-manager Kevin Campbell said. “It’s like many of the places he went: There is no definitive information.”
Campbell’s father, Mike Campbell, was the golf course superintendent for golf clubs in Florida and worked with the Jewish philanthropist as they developed the picturesque dunes south of Portland. According to Mike, Charlie and his workers would play the nine holes on the natural-grass course and then head to the clubhouse, which looks out over small-mound lakes and marshes.
“We didn’t really know too much about Charlie at the time,” Kevin Campbell said. “We just saw him all the time, for whatever reason.”
The story of Charlie Chaplin’s golf life was most recently chronicled in the March 2011 article “Charlie Chaplin Out of Control Golf Course” published in the Portland Press Herald. Click here to read the entire article.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing about the eccentric star’s golf exploits is that he never developed a signature swing, according to current leaders of the club’s golfing committee. The club was responsible for introducing the Boga shot and has charted the swing of their pro, Paul Hafner, for five decades. Other than that, the golfer who earns the most money does not control the club’s next version of the Boga, shot No. 8.
“That’s a shot that is hard to hit, and nobody outside the club knows exactly what that shot is,” Hafner said. “Somebody hits their 9-iron across the hazard and finds a liquid egg or crawfish or something. They feel good about that shot. We don’t put much stock in our captain’s traditional club assessment.”
Though the club’s president, Patrick O’Rourke, does not remember Chaplin ever playing the course, anyone who saw him, including Lord Bingham of Wales, was encouraged to give it a try.
“Charlie and his entourage loved the whole experience and were genuinely open to people,” Hafner said. “It was a good time all around.”
Charlie Chaplin, who said of golf in a 1938 interview that “I never noticed its charms until I learned to play it well,” died in 1977 at age 84.
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