Games People Play: Golfing near Pasadena in 1899

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

A quartet of snapshot photographs from the Homestead’s collection taken of golfers playing somewhere near Pasadena in 1899 shows just how basic the game was some 120 years ago.

Six Women On Golf Outing San Gabriel Valley 2006.91.1.1
These six women stand on a cleared “course” during a golf outing near Pasadena in this 1899, one of four from the event in the Homestead’s collection.

The first golfing association in the area emerged just two years prior when the Los Angeles Golf Club opened the first Los Angeles Country Club with nine holes on 16 acres at Pico and Alvarado streets.  Shortly afterward, the club moved nearby to a location by Rosedale Cemetery off Hobart Boulevard and 16th Street.  Another quick move took place to Pico and Western, where the club remained for just over a decade.  In 1911, the facility relocated to a new course out in the sticks on Wilshire Boulevard where Beverly Hills and Westwood meet.

Professional golf hit its stride by the mid-1920s when the Los Angeles Open debuted at the club.  The tournament has been held at many courses in the area, but has been played over fifty times and each year since 1999 at the Riviera Country Club, which opened in 1926 in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.  The 2023 U.S. Open is to be played  at the Los Angeles Country Club.

Golfers With House In Background San Gabriel Valley 2006.91.1.4
A large canvas tent, a number of dark wood sidechairs, and participants stand in the cleared course near a large two-story house, perhaps that of the owner of the property where the outing was held.

Another early course was the Griffith Park Municipal Links, which opened in 1914, and lasted about a decade before a new facility was built and named for the recently deceased President Warren G. Harding.  Near the Homestead, Alphonzo Bell, an oil magnate and the developer of Bel-Air and other West Los Angeles communities, created the Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, with the first nine-hole section opening in 1920 and the second nine three years later.

Over the decades, as the popularity of the sport boomed, a huge proliferation of private and public courses developed.  In the City of Industry, where the Homestead is located, there are two courses, the California Country Club along Interstate 605, which opened in 1956 and was designed by William Bell, who worked on many prominent courses in the region, and Industry Hills Golf Club, which has two 18-hole courses, opened in 1979 and was designed by Bell’s namesake son.  For years, there was a golf museum with an impressive collection of rare artifacts about the sport at Industry Hills in the Sheraton Hotel, now Pacific Palms, though the institution closed years ago.

Group By Tent At Golf Outing San Gabriel Valley 2006.91.1.2
Participants stand near a tent with bold stripes and an awning on the open dirt area of the course.

As for these photos, it is readily apparent that the location was anything but a manicured, rolling, well-designed course!  If anything it looks like the “course” was a cleared area surrounded by orchards and gives a different meaning to playing “in the rough”!

There were some canvas tents, one with some sharp striping on it and another with the name of a Pasadena manufacturer or dealer printed on it, set out.  Another image shows a large two-story home in the background–perhaps the owner of the home allowed part of his or her acreage to be used for the day.  Then, there is a great photo of a sextet of well-dressed ladies, with the one on the far right holding a club, standing near a tent on a large expanse of bare ground and the San Gabriel Mountains off in the distance.

Golfers At San Gabriel Valley Outing 2006.91.1.3
In this view, a bag of clubs rests against a chair in the center and a dozen or so participants sit and stand near a canvas tent, over the door of which is the name of a Pasadena supplier or manufacturer of the tent.

No information came with the photos concerning the nature of the event, whether the participants were members of a golf club or other community organization, or the location, though it does appear to be several miles south of the mountains.  Still, the photographs are an interesting early example of golf being played in the San Gabriel Valley long before the sport was professionalized and before any major courses were built in the valley.

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