Grand Hotel, Of Course
For more than a century, Southern California has been a vacation paradise, a magnet for weary Americans (and Canadians) battling through long, cruel winters. The coming of the railroads to Los Angeles brought with them millions of vacationers who flocked to the region's great resort hotels from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
Most of the courses that joined the SCGA in its first decade of existence (beginning in 1899) were not private country clubs. They were courses that, in large measure, drew their golfers from the nearby grand hotels in cities such as Santa Monica, Riverside, Redondo Beach and Pasadena.
Among the more prominent were:
Hotel del Coronado
One of the last great hotels still in business today, the Hotel del Coronado was the height of opulence at the turn of the century when Presidents, Kings and other well-to-do vacationers flocked to its beach location (for rates of $4 a day and up).
Although there was a pitch-and-putt course on the property, most guests preferred journey a few blocks south to the Coronado Golf Course, one of the oldest courses in the Western United States. The original layout was nine holes, employed Southern California's first golf professional, T. W. Tetley, and was the first to have grass greens. In 1900, a Scottish professional, Alex Smith, helped lay out an 18-hole course on what is now the site of homes in an area called "Country Club Estates."
The current Coronado Golf Course, a lovely and busy public facility, was built in 195x.
Hotel Casa Loma
Built in 1896, the Casa Loma (The House on the Hill) was named from its location on a hill north of Redlanads. This Spanish-styled hotel was a major tourist draw for the Inland Empire and - the del Coronado - had its own nine-hole course which was laid out by Thomas H. Arnold, publisher of Western Golfer, a magazine published in Chicago. As with most resort courses, it was open to both hotel guests and residents of Redlands alike. And, like other hotels, it had its own resident professional: William Watson from Chicago.
Like many of the great hotels, the Hotel Redondo advertised its proximity to the railroad, in this case "100 yards from the Los Angeles to Redondo railway station." A beachfront hotel, the Hotel Redondo's had a nine-hole course and it joined the SCGA in 1900.
Considering that an English syndicate was exploring for gold on Catalina and held an option to purchase the island, it's no surprise that golf sprung up there. Judge Ernest Windley, owner of the weekly newspaper, the Catalina Islander, states that a three-hole (later seven-hole) course was in play as of 1892 but it wasn't until 1898 that a nine-hole course was constructed on the island. Although the course was expanded to 18 holes, it eventually shrunk back to its present nine-hole configuration.
Like most courses in the region, it had dirt fairways and oiled sand greens. A Los Angeles Times article described its difficulties: "The course plays havoc with scientific golfing and puts a premium upon mediocrity and all-around punkiness . . . In fact, the one way to play the Catalina course . . . seems to be to jerk any old drive that will clear the ever-prevailing canyon; then if you find your ball the same day, take a flat-faced iron club, spread your shoulders, shut your eyes, say your prayers, and let her go like sixty. By religious observance of these means, you will generally find yourself on the green with an unlikely putt for a three - unlikely, because nobody who is anybody ever thinks of making one on these greens..."
The Pasadena Hotel courses
The focalpoint of Southern California's hotel/resort golf courses was undoubtedly Pasadena. The extension of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad to Colorado Street and the Rose Parade, which began in 1890, made Pasadena a mecca for visitors from the East and Midwest.
When they came, those visitors flocked to dozens of hotels and boarding houses in the area, many of which catered to golfers; among those were the La Pintoresca (formerly the Painter) Hotel, which had its own six-hole course. Many also played the Pasadena Country Club course and later Annandale GC (where they could play for $1 per day or $10 per month).
Originally built by Walter Raymond in 1886 and located Raymond Hill on what is now the border between Pasadena and South Pasadena, the Hotel was the first of the opulent Pasadena hotels. It subsequently burned to the ground in 1895 and was replaced in 1901. Among other things, the hotel had an entrance at the foot of the hill where guest could enter and take an elevator to the top, thus negating the long climb. Also at the foot of the hill was the hotel's nine-hole golf course.
Built alongside of the Santa Fe Railway line and just steps from the station, the Hotel Green was an opulent, expansive hotel constructed in a Moorish style, built by Col. G. G. Green. There were three buildings, two of which were connected by a covered bridge over what is now Raymond Street (one of the buildings remains today as Castle Green). The hotel's golf course, located on what is now California Institute of Technology, was a nine-hole, layout that one source says was 2,143 yards and another claims was over 2,700 yards. Thomas H. Arnold, publisher of Western Golfer, called it "the best hotel course in the State." It was reached either by electric railway, horse-drawn carriage or that new-fangled invention, the automobile.