On the evening of November 21, 1896, thirty men met at the Casa Loma Hotel in Redlands, California, for the purpose of organizing a golf club. From this group, these men were selected to serve as officers: A.S. Auchincloss, President; H.H. Garstin, Vice President; S.R. Hemingway, Secretary-Treasurer. These officers, along with R.T. Allan and John Auchincloss, made up the executive committee. The original course was laid out by A.E. Sterling and J.H. Fisher on land leased from the Ford family. The clubhouse was built by Mr. Fisher and Mr. Sterling in December, 1897 with the help of the Haver brothers, Harold and Sam, Don Hemingway and George and Leslie Gay. The clubhouse was 35’ x 18’ and was located on the center of the ridge now the intersection of East Mariposa Street and Country Club Drive.
Golf was enjoyed on a “skinned type’’ course, 9 holes, 2129 yards in length, bogey 38, with oiled-sand greens and all dirt fairways. This course from June, 1897 was located roughly in the area on the North Mariposa ridge to the Perry house, westward to a line running across the 14 and 16 fairways to the middle of 18 fairway, south to approximately the third green, eastward across the edge of the Dushane Hynson property, thence southeast along the south level of Mariposa ridge to the clubhouse. Three greens of this original course can be seen on the present course. One green called the ‘‘Crater’’ in the middle of 18 fairway on the hogback, one to the left and lower than 17 green called the ‘‘Midway,’’ the third recognizable green is located in 14 fairway 100 yards to the north of 15 green. It was called ‘‘Little Butte.’’
July 29, 1899, A.E. Sterling and A.S. Auchincloss journeyed to Los Angeles for the charter meeting of the S.C.G.A. Clubs attending this meeting were Los Angeles Country Club, Pasadena Golf Club, Redlands Golf Club, Riverside Polo and Golf Club and Santa Monica Country Club. Mr. Auchincloss was made Vice President of the S.C.G.A. at this organizational meeting. The first team match of the S.C.G.A. was held on January 26 and 27, 1900, at Pasadena Country Club. Redlands sent its team of A.E. Sterling, J.H. Fisher, L.D. Schaffer and Geo. S. Gay.
The interest shown in the Club, prompted the incorporation of the RedIands Country Club Company on June 25, 1900, with F.P. Morrison, Henry Fisher, A.E. Sterling, Halsey W. Allen and H.H. Garstin as Directors. The new corporation bought 80 acres of land from Arthur and Frances E. Ross on October 27, 1900, located immediately to the west and adjoining the original course. The second Clubhouse was a spacious building that served from the Summer of 1901 until February 28, 1942 when it was destroyed by fire. The first Clubhouse was moved from Mariposa Ridge to a location by the tennis courts and was used by the stewards for many years until torn down.
In November of 1901, Henry Fisher completed negotiations with George Lawson to become the first club golf professional. Mr. Lawson remained with this Club as Pro for 36 years, retiring in 1937. Mr. Lawson was born in Sterling, Scotland, April 21, 1864.
Golf was a lot of fun in 1900, much as it is today. The members competed each year for honors of the club championship at scratch and the Alonzo Hornby Trophy at handicap. A.G. Hubbard presented a handsome gold medal in March of 1906 to be won at the Saturday sweepstakes each month. The Mrs. A. Will ‘‘Year Trophy’’ was first donated in 1907.
Miss Katherine Harley of Fall River, Massachusetts, was a guest of Mrs. F.P. Morrison in the winter of 1906, and representing Redlands Country Club won the Ladies S.C.G.A. Championship. Miss Harley later won the Ladies National Amateur Championship in 1908 and again in 1914 as Mrs. Arnold Jackson.
Approach and putting contests were held, the men shooting from 100, 60 and 20 yards, and the ladies from 60, 50 and 15 yards. For variety, rounds were often played with one club only, member’s choice.
As early as 1906, Riverside’s Victoria Club and Redlands were engaged in team match inter-county competition for a trophy; the start of a spirited rivalry that lasted for many years.
The years of 1907 and 1908 saw activity in tennis take great strides with Maxwell Savage, F.C. Hornby and M.E. Ginn in charge of the activities.
Redlands Club activities were counted complete with the opening clay pigeon traps and a rifle and revolver range on the Club grounds in 1908. This year saw the remodeling of the 1901 course and play began on October 17, still a nine-hole course, 2974 yards, bogey 39.
January 27, 1909, the Club was fortunate in purchasing from J.W. Gill and W.E. Rabbeth 1½ acres along Canyon Road that now makes up our western perimeter and part of the 9th fairway. In 1907 and 1908, Redlands competed in the Southern Association Team matches with Annandale, Victoria and Los Angeles. In 1909-1910, San Gabriel Valley Country Club was added to the competitors. Our first Invitational tournament was held in 1910 and was won by E.S. Armstrong of Annondale Country Club. Redlands joined the U.S.G.A. in 1909 and to comply with the standards set each year, changed in the fall of 1911 from the Bogey score system to par. Bogey was known as consistently good golf, par was perfect. For Redlands, bogey had been 78, par was 72. For example, Morris Phillips, then Redlands’ best golfer was a +3 under bogey; under par, he had a 3 handicap.
Grave problems arose in the Spring of 1911 as the caddies struck for 35 cents per round of 9 rather than 25 cents, and 75 cents rather than 50 cents for 18 holes. There is no record of the results of the strike, but inflation was probably present then also. Perhaps this strike was brought on by the lengthening of the course from 2944 yards to 3007 yards, complying with the new U.S.G.A. measuring regulations. Virginia Country Club of Long Beach was added to team match opponents in 1912 and 1913.
The year 1914 was filled with firsts for Redlands Golf Club as the women’s team was inaugurated and entered competition. Members were: Mrs. W.R. Severence, Miss Katherine Williams, Mrs. D.C. Lefferts, Mrs. J.W. Gill, Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Mrs. Lawrence Moore, Mrs. M.S. Philips and Miss Lois Lehman, Captain.
Stag Dinners for men were first held this year and followed a familiar pattern. The Professional gave a talk on the “Mashie Club,” stereoscope pictures of golf links were shown and dinner was served.
Oliver Hewlett Hicks, West Point graduate, engineer and Club member was tendered a dinner on March 17, 1914, in appreciation of his work in cementing and damming the barrancas that wandered through the course. This substantial contribution to the course and Club was made from the personal funds of Mr. Hicks and incidentally could have cost his life. Mr. Hicks, kneeling to work in the barranca, was concealed from the golfers. Dr. W.B. Power topped a drive just as Mr. Hicks was standing erect. The golf ball hit him on the back of the head and he went down and out. With a doctor in attendance, Mr. Hicks did recover with no ill effects.
Morris Phillips went to San Gabriel Valley Country Club for the 15th S.C.G.A. Championship, losing 2 and 1 after 36 holes.
In 1915, Point Loma and Midwick Club joined the Southern California League for team match play. The Redlands City Council appropriated $250 to clear a tract of land in Smiley Heights for a 6-hole municipal golf course.
June of 1916 saw many members of the Club, or substitutes, clearing brush to lengthen the second, fifth and sixth holes a total of 208 yards. In 1916, par five holes had to be 425 yards or more, and #2 and #5 qualified after lengthening to 437 yards and 457 yards, respectively. A small adjustment of 20 yards only was made on #6, still a 4-par hole.
The greatest impetus to golf was given in 1922 with the introduction of turf on the Redlands Club, and the continued popularity of the game and the desire of the members for an 18-hole course led to the incorporation of the Redlands Country Club on December 22, 1924. H.H. Garstin was President; directors were Raymond Hornby, L.B. Boyd, G.F. Humphrey, H.L. Hubbard, C.J. Tripp, C.C. Hatch, E.M. Cope and W.J. Hartzell. On February 24, 1926, an additional 55 acres of land was purchased from H.H. Ford and Isaac Ford. The project of preparing the new greens, fairways and bunkers was completed under the prime direction of Club member Raymond Hornby with the counsel of Alister Mackenzie of Leeds, England. Mr. Mackenzie had previously aided in the design for such famous courses as Cypress Point, Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz and the Valley Club in Santa Barbara. There were 32 sand traps on the first 9 holes and 42 on the back 9. At this time, the bulk of the trees were planted on the course, mostly oak, deodar, acacia and eucalyptus. There were about 25 Monterey Cypress trees planted and 16 survived. A Redwood tree on number 10 was planted by Leslie Gay and the two Sycamore trees at number 6 green were planted by Dr. and Mrs. W.B. Power.
The full 18-hole course was opened for play on November 26, 1927; 6130 yards in length, par 70 and has remained basically the same.
Phillips Finlay, a product of Redlands Country Club links, was entered in the National Amateur championship in 1927, 1928 and 1929. He was defeated only by the best (says Sherwood Strong, U.S.G.A. secretary) by Francis Ouimet 3rd round: Robert T. Jones, Jr., semifinals: Lawson Little, 1st round.
The considerable investment of the Club in land, irrigation system and equipment to operate the new 1st hole course placed a debt upon the entire plant. The unforeseen event of the Great Depression caused troublous days for the Club and control passed to a bank in November of 1938. On January 7, 1941, the bank sold the land and physical assets of the Club to James McGee Johnson, who operated the Club for private gain in conjunction with the still existing group of members. Mr. Johnson, along with Elizabeth Woods and Allen Nutter, formed the Redlands Country Club “Inc.’’ on May 20, 1941. In August 1941, Mr. Johnson sold the property to Lorin C. Mead. In February 1942, the clubhouse burned and the course began to go to pieces. When Mr. Mead was drafted into the Army in September of 1942, he had abandoned the Club for several months. It soon became apparent that the land comprising the golf course would be ultimately diverted to another use. To prevent the loss of the golf course, a syndicate was formed by J.R. Finlay and Dr. Walter B. Power, including Robert McCulloch, Mrs. Hugh McCullough, E.M. Cope, Mrs. E.G. MacDonald, Paul Jennings, Dr. Lawrence Heim, Dr. D.C. Mock, James W. Simonds, Leonard Keith, Gordon Donald, and George Cortner for the University of Redlands.
The syndicate negotiated with Mr. Mead in the spring of 1943, and when the property was sold on default on July 13, 1943, they secured the lower property and placed it in trust with the Pioneer Title Insurance Company. The upper 9 was sold to the University of Redlands with a repurchase plan agreed upon.
During the years 1943 and 1944, a dedicated group of men led by Dr. Walter P. Power, Edam Anderson, Paul Jennings, Leslie Gay, Ashel Cunningham, Jr., Madison Finlay, Dr. D.C. Mock, Clarence White and others, spent many hours irrigating, trimming trees, mowing greens and fairways to keep the Club in playable condition. Victoria Country Club helped at various times with equipment and skilled help. During this period, an honor system was established for the golfers so that they would pay their green fees by dropping money in a locked box. Dr. Power noticed that the fees were dropping off and discovered that a young man had learned to pick the lock. Needless to say, this was corrected. When the syndicate employed Mr. Spaulding to supervise the course and players, it was found that the green fees increased by 50 percent.
As the war was drawing to a close, there was a desire on the part of responsible citizens to reactivate the golf course as a social and cultural center of the community. To assist this group in developing this sentiment, the syndicate agreed to deed the land for the clubhouse site to the Redlands Golf and Tennis Assn. incorporated February 14, 1946. Directors of the new group were: L.E. Heim, J.R. Finlay, Will Tillotson, Esther Scherer, Ashel Cunningham, Dr. W.B. Power, Luther Holden, Madison Finlay and Paul Jennings. Lewis McKee completed the new clubhouse on October 28, 1948, and the land around the clubhouse was conveyed to the members on March 28, 1949. As the Club prospered, the inside 9-hole course was purchased from the syndicate previously mentioned on June 13, 1951. The balance of the land was transferred from the University of Redlands on January 13, 1953. In 1954, an addition was made to the clubhouse to accommodate an increase in the number of members. In December of 1961, a fire of undetermined origin destroyed the Clubhouse except for a portion of the men’s locker room and office. The spirit of the Club was maintained by continuing to hold most of our regular social events with the help of the Redlands American Legion and other Country Clubs in the area.
Through the years, Redlands Country Club has been fortunate to have found professional help of outstanding quality to serve us as teachers and managers of our Pro Shop. The following is a list of these men: