Meandering through oak, eucalyptus and redwoods that frame dramatic mountain and valley views, every round at Contra Costa is different, every one a treasure. While you’ll love every inch of our 6,550-yard course, the heart and soul of Contra Costa is our membership – like-minded families who share a passion for the game, unpretentious companionship and a rich social calendar that makes for fast friends and lasting relationships. With a rich history, impressive membership and one of Northern California’s most acclaimed golf courses, this is that rare breed of country club that offers as much off the course as it does on. Central to the entire East Bay, the club sits on 145 verdant acres with views to Mt. Diablo, the perfect setting for championship golf and a vibrant year-round social calendar.
The new members of the Contra Costa Golf Club couldn't wait to get their golf course into a playable condition. While some volunteered their labor on fairways and sand "greens," others turned their attention to the existing structures. The Club's 314 acre site had two or three cottages and a barn near what is now the swimming pool. All were in poor condition. Harry P. Mudd was one of CCCC's original members and in the Club's "Golden Jubilee" 50th Anniversary booklet recalled that the Club President asked for volunteers for weekend work parties. Those who had hammers, saws and pry bars brought them; others brought and prepared food for all to enjoy. According to Mudd, after considerable labor they were able to weaken the barn so that a tractor could pull it down. One of the cottages was dismantled, moved to the top of the hill, and became the nucleus of the old Pro Shop/Clubhouse. Members referred to the run down, porchless building as the "Caddie House". Some felt the only thing keeping the building standing were the termites that were holding hands. Using lumber salvaged from the barn, another cottage was repaired and became the pro's residence. The first Club Pro, Bill Hackney, soon took up residency. Mudd related "In spite of the pioneer quality of our Club, we had some wonderful good times in the early days."
By spring, seven golf holes were ready for play and members could wait no longer. The first Directors' Cup Tournament was held in May, 1925. The winner is unknown; Al Aljets, the runner-up, won a silver cigarette case for his efforts. The course had a somewhat different routing in the early years. The par 4 Hole #1 played about as it is today. Then again, those darned oak trees were only 20 feet high or so! Hole #2 was a par 5 which began at about the current tee ground, but played in the opposite direction to a green situated in what is now the 16th fairway. Hole #3 was a tree-shrouded par 3 that played down into the nearby creek bed. The tee box for Hole #4 would have been outside our current boundary fence behind the current #16 tee. The hole played back toward Mount Diablo; ending near what is currently our #2 green. Old records describe holes 2 and 4 as "killers".
The Good News: We have a Course. The Bad News: How do we Water it?
The description of our original 3,045-yard nine-hole course continues. With the first four holes behind them, survivors staggered to the 5th tee happy to have three or four balls left in their bag. The par five 5th hole would later become our present #3 fairway and green. Hole #6 was a slicer's delight - a short dogleg right from what is now the #4 tee area to our present #5 green. Hole #7 was a 150-yard par three which played from the hillside next to the present #6 tee area to an area near that old, dead, forlorn tree now grows. [Grows? Hah! It's just a source of mistletoe for the Cub Scouts. . .]. Hole #8 was the 375-yard 9th hole that played from a tee area near the present #9 ladies tee to a green near the oak tree at the present #4 tee. Construction of the final nine holes would not take place until the late 1940's on Club property commonly referred to as "Indian Country."
Water, the lifeline of any golf course, was a rare commodity during the early days of the Contra Costa Golf Club. Before our founding fathers bought the property they had a 200-foot well drilled that produced 25 gallons a minute. Alongside the well they also constructed 110,000 and 15,000 gallon holding tanks. Not a lot of water, but enough to get some grass growing on the greens. Nature had to take care of the fairways.
Not so fast! After just a few months the water production fell to just five gallons a minute; another well was dug. This well produced for a short period of time, but also started to fail. Two more wells were dug, one near the present swimming pool. Again, history repeated itself, described as the "wells faded away like old soldiers" and members were forced to seek some other solution.
Getting Sued For Buying Water?In the first years of its existence, water, or a lack thereof , continued to dominate the on-course and 19th Hole conversations at the Contra Costa Golf Club. Numerous wells had been drilled and yet in total they failed to produce the water necessary for green fairways and putting surfaces. Then came news about a golf course in Dallas, Texas. It seems the Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas (which is still in operation today) had much the same water problem and solved it by creating the first complete golf course fairway irrigation system in the United States. Wasting no time, CCGC approached a local vegetable farmer and struck a deal whereby we drilled a well on the farm (located, we believe, somewhere in the area of what is now the Sun Valley Mall) and piped the water through a five-inch pipe up Golf Club Road, past the old quarry (hence the name Quarry Road) and onto Club property. The farmer was paid on a metered basis and had the benefit of more water for his own farm.
Water dominated the conversations of others as well, including neighboring farmers and ranchers. Some believed the new CCGC well would lower or deplete the water table and have a negative impact on their crop production. They hired a lawyer and claiming all kinds of bad things would happen, filed suit at the Courthouse in Martinez. After analysis, lawyers for the Golf Club delivered the bad news, a recommendation to discontinue the use of the new water system. The only remaining option for CCGC was to tie into the water main of the California Water Service Company. With water now too expensive to water the entire nine-hole course, we returned to watering only the greens.
Some relief was found in 1935 when a Greens Committee member suggested building a dam to store winter run-off water. The plan was approved and, using a bulldozer loaned to us by Shell Oil, the dam was built in its current location. The dam and resulting lake provided nine acre-feet of water storage and kept water bills to a minimum. A large hole was created as the dirt was dug for the dam; it later became our swimming pool.
We found relief in 1940 when construction began on the 47 mile-long Contra Costa Canal, a project of the US Department of Reclamation Central Valley Project. Built on land that ran through Club property and completed in 1948, a plentiful supply of affordable canal water became available to our golf course. The remaining nine holes could now be built.
The Sugar Shacks and the Depression Years
They called them "Okie Cabins", we called them "Sugar Shacks". A few are still here in one form or another, though hardly recognizable from their original design. How they got here and what they became is all part of our Club's rich history. When the C&H Sugar Refining Company was established in Crockett in 1906, more than 500 employees were quickly hired. To house these workers a village of temporary houses were constructed in Crockett, very likely with lumber supplied by the nearby Tilden Lumber Company. With much of the country represented in the new workforce - maybe even a few from Oklahoma - C&H workers soon coined the term "Okie Cabin" when referring to the small houses.
In the years that followed the newly hired C&H employees went on to buy homes of their own in the Crockett area and the temporary houses fell into disuse. With the strong presence of C&H employees among the CCGC membership, it wasn't long before a deal was struck. C&H sold the cabins for $1 each, delivered. They were dismantled, moved to small parcels of property on the golf course property and reconstructed. The Club sold them to members for $100 each, to be used as weekend cabins. The cabin owners referred to their location as "The Village." Other members called them the "Sugar Shacks."
Quite a few of the cabins became full-time residences. Most were located along the present #1 Fairway and the road leading to the swimming pool. Kirby and Pearl Williams were like many others who bought cabins. They did most of their own carpentry, masonry, plumbing and electrical improvements. Mrs. Williams once related that "when the water supply failed in the cottages - and that was frequent - we would don bathrobes, grab a towel and soap and make our way to the clubhouse in the hope that the shower there would be in working order."
Perhaps the best part of the arrival of the C&H cabins was the sense of community they brought to the club. Pearl Williams described it best in the following excerpt from the "I Remember When" article she wrote for the Club's "Golden Jubilee" 1975 celebration: "As the years have passed and the club and the 'village' have grown, many improvements have been made and life is undoubtedly easier for those who now live around the club. But I doubt if the more effete life is any happier. I don't see how it could be. Only the isolation, the semi-pioneering conditions and the comparative youth of the group could weld the intimate friendships and generate the joyous good times we had in the club's struggling, early days."
The Depression and World War II
1929 found us mourning the passing of Wyatt Earp in Los Angeles. In South Dakota, Gutzon Borglum and his 400 workers were high atop Mount Rushmore chiseling the perfect mole on old Abe's nose. In the farming community of Pleasant Hill, the 100 or so families living there were more worried about the abundance of pumas, coyotes and squirrels threatening their farm animals and crops than the news of a great financial crisis facing the nation. On the fairways of the Contra Costa Golf Club, enthusiasm was running high as the 150 members continued to develop and improve their nine-hole course.
The Great Depression hit with full force and golf courses throughout America became some of the first to close their doors. Locally, Diablo CC went into foreclosure when membership dropped from 400 to 160. Berkeley CC (now Mira Vista) and Castlewood CC closed. Carquinez CC (now Richmond CC) struggled with debt and was only kept afloat by the assistance of the Atlas Powder Company, who, needing the fairways as a green belt near their gunpowder manufacturing, saved the club. Orinda CC survived, reportedly due to green fees received from the St. Mary's Preflight School.
Membership at the Contra Costa GC dropped to 40, yet we survived, possibly due to the membership and the "hands-on" attitude of the members. During the Depression years, C&H Sugar was able to retain their workers with reduced hours. (Each Christmas from 1910 until 1968, C&H workers received a Christmas bonus.) With C&H heavily represented in our membership, the club struggled on. When we could no longer afford a Golf Professional and Greenskeeper, club members stepped in and handled the multiple roles needed to keep the club in operation. As they say at 7-11, "We never close."
Progress at the Contra Costa GC continued, albeit at a slower pace. In 1935 the water-retention dam was built, and the following year the swimming pool and a pool house were constructed. By the late 1930's membership again began to increase.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war, military conscription (draft) began. In 1942, Camp Stoneman was built in Pittsburg on 150 acres. Over 1,650,000 military personnel were processed and trained prior to deployment to the Asiatic Pacific Theatre. The US War Department established the ammo depot and ship loading docks in Port Chicago. In 1942 Buchanan Fields was built on 47 acres of farmland purchased by Contra Costa County. In 1943 the US Military Council took over the property and based a squadron of P-39 fighters at the airport to be "on alert" for a possible enemy attack. Apparently successful, no enemy aerial attacks occurred in Contra Costa County during the war. The airport was turned back to the county at the end of the war.
During WWII, Diablo CC again closed, the fairways went to seed, and the hay was sold to local farmers. When membership at Sequoyah CC dropped to 90, legend has it that slot machines were installed to increase revenue. It did, until a 1944 police raid resulted in their confiscation and the arrest of the club president. By 1945, Contra Costa GC had 57 member families - and we struggled on.
When the war ended, tens of thousands of veterans and war industry workers remained in the Bay Area, and Contra Costa County was deluged with people looking to find a home in the area. The farms of Pleasant Hill and surrounding cities provided cheap land that quickly became developed into housing tracks. And the club began to grow. . .
The Club Grows
CCCC old timers believed the low point for the Club had been just before WWII began. Membership was down to roughly 40, and a single hired hand worked for 50 cents an hour maintaining nine small patches of green and long stretches of adobe covered with weeds. The phenomenal growth in Contra Costa County during WWII and the era known as the California Pacific War Rush (1942-1945) dramatically changed Pleasant Hill, and along with it, the Contra Costa Golf Club.
People from throughout the country came to Contra Costa County by the tens of thousands. Most were associated with the war industry - military personnel and their families, workers in steel mills and the refineries of Shell, Tide Water, Phillips and Standard Oil. As the war drew to an end and defense plants began closing, people stayed here. Farmlands rapidly disappeared as farmers sold off their hardscrabble fields and orchards to developers from Oakland and San Francisco. Subdivisions quickly grew in their place. New homes of 1,100 square feet on quarter-acre lots sold for $7,500 with as little as a $250 down payment. Within two years, the same homes were selling for $9,000. Voter registration rolls doubled. Schools, shopping centers and churches were built. Ground was being broken for Pleasant Hill's first Post Office. And now the new residents needed recreation.
With the completion of the Contra Costa Canal and the availability of an ample water supply, CCGC overcame one of its biggest obstacles; a period of rapid growth followed as friends of members eagerly joined a now much greener golf course. Improvements and projects were financed by selling more memberships and parcels of property. With a larger membership came the need for a second nine holes. On November 1, 1948 a group of club members began staking out the unused property they referred to as "Indian Country", and laid out a second nine holes. An irrigation system followed, financed by the sales of yet more memberships and a piece of property (to the left of the number 12 green). The second nine opened for play on July 4, 1950. Club memberships were selling for $100. By the early 1950's, membership had reached almost 500 and a limit was declared.
There seems to have been two important reasons why the Club survived its first twenty-five years. First, our founders sought members among working people - small businessmen, tradesmen, clerks, government and blue-collar workers - strong, young people who were willing and able to give of their time and energy to build and maintain the golf course. Among them, wealth was uncommon. Secondly, many members were strategically employed in local businesses, industry and government. When the Club needed a PG&E powerline, the first estimate was $2,200 - unaffordable at the time. Somehow - hardly by accident - the Club got a better offer: PG&E offered to install the line for free. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that some members were PG&E employees. Don't forget C&H Sugar and the sweet deal for the little cabins that formed the nucleus of our golf community. (Sorry!)
Shell Oil played an important role as well. The building of the water-retention dam in 1935 left a large hole that many envisioned as a future swimming pool. Shell Oil had a new material and wanted to exhibit their product. We wanted a swimming pool. Shell surfaced our hole as an experiment and for its advertising value, and we got our swimming pool. Tom Wentling (still a member in 2014) recalls going to parties at the old pool. His most vivid memory: how badly the rough surface scratched his young behind. . .
The New Clubhouse
The early 1950's found our now 18-hole course much greener but as challenging as ever. A thousand baby Monterey Pines - almost all long gone - had been planted along fairways. As they grew, a new dimension of difficulty was added. At home in British Columbia, Arthur Macan would be smiling.
More professional people were joining the Club and they wanted a better physical facility. In 1951, Head Pro Walt Tibaldi was authorized to spend $3,000 on the construction of a Pro Shop near what is now the cart staging area. Architect and Club member Fred Confer designed the building and supervised its construction, donating his services. Tibaldi also worked on the new Pro Shop on his own time, and by finishing it at some personal expense, the Club acquired a valuable asset.
In 1952 the Concord home of Tom Pearson, the Club Secretary/Treasurer, burned to the ground. Tom lost his life and the Club's current and historical records were destroyed in the fire. The loss of these records during this tragic event reminds us how the Club, up to this point, had been managed by a Board of Directors who lacked a great deal of administrative support and "office" facilities.
By 1954, the Club's development plans had reached the point where a new clubhouse seemed essential. More professional people were becoming members and there was an overall desire for better accommodations and more services. Club members showed a healthy interest in the new clubhouse with 324 in attendance at a special meeting in July 1954. By a vote of over five to one, they authorized borrowing $60,000 for construction. Once again Fred Confer stepped in and served as the architect. The low bid for clubhouse construction was $61,400. Escalating costs and the addition of a few bells and whistles brought the eventual clubhouse costs to about $100,000, making it necessary to borrow an additional $10,000.
During the same year the Club's practice area was also built. Elsewhere, Elvis was recording "That's All Right" in Memphis and Babe Didrikson Zaharias was running away with the trophy at the 9th US Women's Open.
In 1955, the new clubhouse was completed. A March 27, 1955 article in the Oakland Tribune described the clubhouse a "contemporary design featuring much brick, redwood, concrete, plate glass windows and a view." The Tribune article also stated the following: "When the 5,200 square-foot clubhouse is dedicated in mid-April, Contra Costa will have reached the end of its basic improvement program. Reaching that end, incidently, has been a long trip. It took 29 years to travel the distance and at times the financial road was as rough at the uncut grass bordering the fairways." The article concluded that with the new clubhouse built, the Club "will be free to concentrate on further turf improvements plus completion of a tree-planting project which within a few years will make Contra Costa one of the most pleasant of golf courses."
CCCC History Chapter 11
How fortunate CCCC is to have such a professional and talented golf staff that has continued the longstanding tradition of excellence in the Golf Shop. Then again, they have big shoes to fill. One of the first was Will (Roy?) Rogers. Working in one of the C&H cabins that served as the Pro Shop (called the Caddie Shack in those days), Will and the Missus supplied sandwiches, coffee and pies on Sundays and were the host and hostess at many of the Club parties. There was a deep sense of loss when Will moved on to Tilden Park. During the heart of the Depression, members Tom Wilson and Al York stepped in and wore the hats of Manager, Greenskeeper, Concessionaire and General Handyman. Ang Bonini, while not the Pro, held things together in the late 1930's. But what most people remembered is 1946 and the arrival of Walt Tibaldi*.
From 1946 to 1953, Walter Tibaldi was the Club Pro. Known as a long hitter and a man who truly loved the game of golf, Walter and his wife Dorothy helped hold the club together during the dark days of very few members and even less money. If something needed attention, Walter did it. Prior to the construction of the new clubhouse in 1955, Walt's wife Dorothy served meals to members in the old facility. When Walter was authorized to construct a new Pro Shop, he did much of the work himself and spent his own money in order to finish it. Walt filled the display racks with woods for $44 a set and irons for $66--about what you'd pay for that box of Pro V-1's today--Walt hired Assistant Pro Vito Machado from the Antioch Golf Course when we went from nine to eighteen holes. Walt and Vito formed a good team. Even if you weren't going to play golf, the Pro Shop was the place to be.
Vito became the Club Pro when Walter died on September 11, 1953. Dorothy Tibaldi became the Golf Shop manager. CCCC President Ben Shaul later wrote about his memories of Walter. "Speaking of Walt Tibaldi, 1953 will long be remembered as the year the Club lost one of its most earnest and sincere advocates and many of the members lost a fine friend."
Not as outgoing as Walt, Vito was described as "quiet and reserved, a good listener, with a subdued and dry sense of humor." While making and repairing golf clubs was but one of his skills, Vito was perhaps most remembered for his deadly accurate iron shots. Not known for being a long hitter, the word "precision" is usually found somewhere in a description of Vito's golf game. Vito remained at CCCC until 1966 until he retired with his wife to Yuma, Arizona.
* While most references to Walter in CCCC documents have his surname spelling at "Tibaldi," we believe the correct spelling is Tebaldi.
CCCC Chapter 12 - Renovation
Golf Architect Ben Harmon came to the April 21 special meeting with the Board of Directors with the hope that he would add the Contra Costa Golf Club to the list of courses he had designed or renovated. Not content to rest on his laurels as the designer of the (North) course at Silverado and the Santa Rosa Golf Club, Harmon saw the opportunity to suggest improvements to the well-known original design of A. Vernon Macan. So far, 1959 had been good to Harmon and the golf business. The economy was growing. The Dow was well over 600 and still climbing, up almost 100 points in the last year alone. On the other hand, 1959 hadn't been all red roses and pretty balloons. There would be no more music from Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. And like others across the land, Harmon probably wondered how deep to dig the bomb shelter after he and the misses saw the debut of the movie On The Beach. Then again, if the meeting ran short, Harmon could get home in time to catch an episode of Rawhide, the new western series starring some cowboy who grew up in Oakland, of all places. Clint something. In the case the meeting ran a little long, Ben also had the hot-off-the-press ten-pound paperback about Hawaii by James Michener in the briefcase.
The Board of Directors met to discuss long-range plans for improving the golf course and Harmon's proposal was the center of attention. Head greens-keeper George Rasmussen had prepared an alternate plan, just in case. By the end of the meeting, the Board decided upon a combination of the two plans. There would be no radical changes in the general layout of the course. As a cost-cutting measure, much of the work would be done by club employees. Cutting down trees and relocating water pipes would be kept to a minimum. Greens would be reshaped, fairways graded, tee boxes enlarged, and the course lengthened by some 300 yards. What resulted was a course that became more playable and aesthetically pleasing. Even today, we enjoy the changes that occurred as a result of the April 21 meeting.
Work began on the 4th Hole. Previously, the green was located where the 5th green is currently situated. The 4th Hole dogleg was sharpened and a new green built in its current position. The 5th Hole became a new par-three. The 6th Hole was lengthened and became a par five. Extensive earthmoving on the 6th Hole added to the contouring and shaping of Holes 7, 8 and 9.
Ever wonder about the oak tree on the mound on Hole 12? Before the renovation, the earth sloped from the hill on the left down toward the 17th fairway. The townhouses would not be built until years later. Players had to hit their shots up and over the hill, then across the road fronting the 12th green. The 12th Hole was extensively graded, creating the severe slope on the left. The fairway was flattened and the oak tree left on its own pedestal. Earth from the grading was moved into the 17th fairway, leveling the landing area and filling a wide ditch that bordered the fairway there. The road that crossed the 12th and 17th fairway was eliminated, leaving the folks at the Netherby Ranch to find another way home.
The 13th fairway was regraded to reduce the number of balls that rolled into the creek on the left side of the fairway. The homes there did not exist and the chain-link fence would not be added until about 1978 or so.
Lastly, the 15th green was nudged a little to the west, away from a swale and creating a location for a new 16th teeing area.
And now the Contra Costa Golf Club was looking more and more like a country club. Hmmmm...
CCGC Becomes CCCC
At one time little more than farm lands surrounded the growing communities of Martinez, Concord and Walnut Creek. What is now the City of Pleasant Hill became a whirlwind of activity as we moved from the 1950's into the 1960's. According to George Emanuels in his book "California's Contra Costa County - An Illustrated History," three institutions were credited with the growth and expansion of this area of Contra Costa County. Number one on that list was our very own Contra Costa Golf Club. Area maps from the 1930's and 1940's show only one significant location - the golf course. And as our Club continued to grow and thrive, so did the City of Pleasant Hill.
In 1959, Walnut Creek made a serious effort to annex Pleasant Hill, essentially everything south of unincorporated Pacheco. A December 17, 1959 Pleasant Hill News editorial summarizes the feeling of most residents: "We didn't feel Walnut Creek has the slightest interest in the people of the area, but literally drools over the prospect of the open spaces that would make light industrial developments." The annexation failed, and in response, Pleasant Hill incorporated two years later. Up to that time our golf course address officially existed on Golf Links Road in unincorporated Pacheco. Pleasant Hill's incorporation changed our mailing address to Pleasant Hill, but we remained an unincorporated island under the jurisdiction of the County. We tell you this to set the scene for an annexation that would occur almost 40 years later - another important milestone at the Contra Costa Country Club. We'll talk more about this milestone in a future chapter.
Here at the Club, there was the issue of funding the golf course improvements described in our last chapter. (Note that in our last chapter, we referred to the course renovations by their current hole designations. To continually reference the old hole number and then translate to the current number left us, well, light-headed and more confused than normal.) Historically, the Board of Directors had been reluctant to incur debt; improvements were often funded by selling small parcels of property or by adding new members. Instead, an assessment of $30 per member was levied and over the next two years the work was completed. As work drew to a close, a petition containing 113 signatures requested the Board consider reversing the nines. After the completion of all eighteen holes in 1950, the first hole of play was what is now our current Hole #10. Keeping in mind that most members walked the course, many felt that walking would be easier by beginning play on the somewhat flatter nine beginning with what we now know as Hole #1. The Board agreed to the change, pointing out to members blessed with limitless energy who had disagreed that "they cannot escape, their turn will come."
On October 14, 1963 the Board of Directors voted to amend the Articles of Incorporation, officially changing the Contra Costa Golf Club to the Contra Costa Country Club.
Members approved the change at a meeting on January 30, 1964. Why the change? We're not sure but believe it may have been due to the changing demographics of
the Club and to give the Club's name status consistent with other country club titles here in Contra Costa County.
In 1963, the old pool was condemned and closed by the County following an incident in which a small child drowned. The present pool was built on the same site and reopened for use in 1965.
Electric Golf Cars at Contra Costa Country Club
The 1960’s: The simple name change from Golf Club to Country Club ignited a new level of interest in the Club, the golf course and facilities. With roughly 500 members and a waiting list of those hoping to join, improvements and additions continued at a fast pace to meet their demands. A new, modern swimming pool was built at its present site. An extensive irrigation system was installed throughout the golf course (funded by the sale of property to the left of the #12 fairway). A new cart storage garage was built (still in use today). A new Pro Shop was built atop the cart garage on what is now the cart staging area. Improvements to the Clubhouse included the addition of a card room, a dining room, an expansion of the men’s locker room and a new modern kitchen. In 1964 the Club received a favorable resolution to an important civil suit involving on-property homeowners. The homeowners wanted their membership to be part of the home sale. When the Board denied the membership sale, a suit and injunction resulted. Following eight months of hearings and testimony, the court ruled that CCCC would retain the exclusive right to sell memberships.
During the 1960’s there was never a shortage of local and national news to discuss and debate when members met for golf or social events - The Space Race, Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy Assassination, Vietnam, Civil Rights and Riots, The Beatles, inventions and new discoveries. Off the coast of Hawaii, oceanographers made the first sound recordings of the mournful mating calls of humpback whales; Roger Tatum bought the album. In the clubhouse and on the greens however, it wasn’t long before conversations turned to another, darker, topic. A few said the game of golf was in serious jeopardy. Some said they should be banned forever. And it all began with an idea of Southern California native Merle Williams.
Williams worked for the War Department during World War II and helped design a three-wheeled electric cart for use by veterans with disabilities. With the end of the war, Williams applied his knowledge to the golf course industry and developed a cart that could be used on the golf course. Williams discovered the 36-volt battery used to power the wing flaps of B-17 bombers was a perfect fit in his carts. With the staggering losses of B-17’s during WWII, there was an ample supply of batteries available in military surplus. In 1951 Williams began producing the carts commercially under the Marketeer label, the first in the U.S. By the 1960’s, member-owned carts were as common at CCCC as five-foot “gimme” putts at a Senior Home & Away Tournament. The Pro Shop bought four carts as rentals.
The golf course had no paved cart paths, and member use of the carts became problematic. There were complaints the carts were being driven too close to the tees and greens. [Sound familiar?] The ruts were the big problem. The carts had three wheels, two in the back, one in the front. Ideal on firm surfaces, the front wheel had a tendency to “plow” on soft ground and create deep ruts. Deep ruts. Memos were posted, requests were made and fingers were pointed. To reach resolution, the Board of Directors called a special meeting of the private cart owners and distributed maps of cart routes that were to be followed during play. While ruts weren’t eliminated, they were reduced in the fairways. The Board also directed Pro Vito Michado to reduce the rental carts fleet from four to two, and equip those remaining with balloon tires. All future carts were required to have wide tires. And those maps of the cart routes? They became, more or less, the blueprint for the paving of our cart paths in 1975.
The Naked Nine
As a little girl growing up in Lafayette, Carol Hart didn’t know that her neighbor was a member of the Contra Costa Country Club. She did know he was a pretty important man at UC Berkeley, but she just liked to roller skate in his driveway. He was so important he had his own assigned parking space on the Berkeley campus. Yes, as the Chancellor of UC Berkeley (1958-1961), Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg was an important man. As a UC Professor, he was the 1951 Nobel Prize recipient in Chemistry. Carol remembers that Dr. Seaborg introduced her to his friend, Professor Edward Teller, who Carol recalls, “had something to do with the H Bomb.” In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr. Seaborg Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. He would serve there for the next ten years. Carol also didn’t know that the entire time he was in Washington, Dr. Seaborg continued to pay his monthly dues at the Contra Costa Country Club. We welcomed his return in September 1971.
Dr. Seaborg returned to a more refined Contra Costa Country Club, judging by the following notice published in the June 1969 Golf Bawl, the CCCC newsletter:
“Male sun lovers may shuck their shirts at other than the Clubhouse area (defined as the central area plus the 1st, 9th, 10th and 18th fairways) on Wednesdays before 4 p.m., Saturday before 1 p.m. and Sunday before 11 a.m.”
We are pleased to report that the specified times were when only men were allowed on the course. When the ladies were present, “no one will be allowed to play, or be on the course, in that condition which has come to be known as topless.” It seems the ladies, and perhaps a few of the men, had grown tired of the “walking buffalo robes” and “smooth and hairless creatures.” And thus were planted the seeds of the CCCC Seniors “Naked Nine.”
The 1970’s saw CCCC membership peaking at 527 and a growing list of those anxious to join. As Apollo 14 was landing on the moon, CCCC dues were skyrocketing to $30 a month. Guest fees were $6 on weekdays, $8 on weekends. More than 20 years had passed since the course had grown to eighteen holes and it was time for improvements to be made – some out of necessity, and some to satisfy the never-ending desire for a more beautiful course. Greens on Holes 10 and 17 were rebuilt, as were tee boxes on Holes 2 and 18. Bunkers on Hole 18 were repositioned to make approach shots more challenging. Keeping with the Club tradition of frugality, much of the work was done by Club employees and members.
Land management and the sale of little-used acreage was a frequent topic during the 1970’s. Perhaps you’ve noticed CCCC has no tennis courts. It was considered in January 1971 and members were asked to cast their vote for or against a feasibility study which would determine how many, where and how much. The results were 273 “No Way” and 92 “you Betcha.” Motion failed.
Our 50 Year Anniversary
The votes had been cast, the ballots were being counted and the members were waiting patiently for the April 1974 Board Meeting to begin. As they waited, there was an abundance of important news to discuss and topics to debate: The Vietnam War was over, the cops were still trying to find Patricia Hearst, President Nixon looks to have stepped in it over at Watergate, and yes, it was true, Cher was divorcing Sonny. Some members may have passed the time by playing with the new little toy invented by Hungarian professor Erno Rubik, others by reading from Peter Benchley’s new book about a large and very hungry shark. A few likely discussed how much better the 14th Hole was looking now that the Midnight Marauder had been, well, dispatched. After weeks of an ugly churned fairway and trapping efforts capturing only a cute little doe-eyed fox, a worker spent several nights in a sleeping bag on the 14th green before putting an end to the nightly forays of a large, black and white pig. While the Club newsletter proudly announced that the worker had “brought home the bacon,” they also reported a coincidental decline in the sale of ham sandwiches in the Coffee Shop….
Finally, the votes were in – 364 yes, 62 no. With 92 members owning private carts, the decision to spend $35,000 for beautiful, wide asphalt cart paths was an easy one. Now came the hard part: how to pay for the work. Historically, CCCC did everything possible to avoid debt. This often meant improvements were paid for by the sale of additional memberships or a piece of property. Despite a waiting list of potential members, an already full membership roster ruled out that option. There was property to sell, but with interest rates hovering around 15%, borrowing the money was an unattractive option for both the Club and a potential property buyer. Ever creative, a new plan was devised.
The Club asked members who wished to participate in the plan for a loan of $1,000 each, the note to be repaid at 8.5% interest. [While we haven’t been able to determine the length of the loan period, it must have been attractive as some 70 members stepped forward with their checkbooks.] Additionally, private cart owners would be required to pay an additional $5.00 monthly fee to be applied toward the loan. With ample funds in hand, CCCC’s first paved cart paths were completed in September of that year.
On January 14, 1975 we celebrated our 50th Anniversary. Plans were made to have a “Golden Jubilee Week” celebration from April 29th through May 4th. It was a week filled with activities for everyone: tournaments for the Divoteers, the Women’s Golf Association, the Seniors and the Men’s Club. The week concluded with a “No Host” cocktail party where members were asked to dress in “Great Gatsby” era attire. No guests were allowed. Entertainment was provided exclusively by members, including the WGA Happy Hackers and the Seniors “Old Timers” Orchestra. Drinks were 50¢ each. To commemorate the event, Editor Arthur Wagstaff and the Golden Jubilee Committee produced a special edition of the Golf Bawl in booklet form. The booklet was designed to present the history of the Club by documenting the sometimes fragmentary reports of “old timers.” In his closing statement in the booklet, Art opines “…. It is frustrating to note the areas where story and photographs continue to elude us. Admittedly then, the story we hoped to present escaped us.”
In 1974, the Board of Directors adopted a resolution creating an Honorary Membership category. On January 31, 1975 and for the first time in its 50-year history, CCCC awarded Honorary Memberships to Arthur Wagstaff and JC (Cal) McKean for their long and devoted service to the Club. Art Wagstaff received his award from a grateful Board for having served as the Editor of the Golf Bawl, the monthly newsletter, for fourteen consecutive years. Cal McKean had been a member since 1928, served four terms as Board President, and spent many long hours on the course planning and supervising improvements to the property.
It was a really attractive offer, and wouldn't it have been grand! After all, we were now saving almost $8,000 a year by adding an office to the Pro Shop and moving the Club Secretary-Treasurer functions there. Management responsibilities formerly assigned to the Club Pro were taken over by the Secretary-Treasurer and the Pro went back do doing, well, what Pros do. It was September 1975 when the word spread among the bell-bottomed, polyester leisure-suited members about the offer. Discussions about that new Sylvester Stallone boxing movie and the computer simply named "Apple" were set aside as the talk turned to the possibility of an additional nine or even eighteen holes. Kaiser Pacific Properties, one of many companies started by Henry J. Kaiser after World War II, owned a large parcel of land adjacent to our back nine. KP Properties built and financed affordable housing. Perhaps due to double-digit inflation and interest rates that made home construction unattractive, they approached the Country Club with an offer of a 99-year lease for the land. The Club newsletter discussed the many positive benefits of acquiring the land, but also the one reality: money was very tight. The discussion was tabled, and quietly went away.... The 1976 budget was a whopping $358,000. Dues were raised to $45 a month and private cart owners added another $18 to their monthly statements. Monthly newsletter articles had a common theme: tight budgets and austerity.
We welcomed new Golf Professional Jack Kendrick in August, and appointed Norm Stewart as our new Greens Superintendent. The summer of 1976 was hot and dry, and as we moved toward an unusually cold winter there was little rain; the course began to suffer. The following January, the stuff would hit the propellers. The first letter came from the Contra Costa Water District. Because of the drought conditions, the Club was directed to immediately reduce water use, and expect a 57% water cutback effective May 1st. Oh, and expect a rate increase. By March, we had reduced water use by 50%. Shortly thereafter, another letter, this time the Northern California Golf Association. They needed a rate increase to acquire a hilly, wooded parcel of land on the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach where they planned to build an NCGA-owned golf course. NCGA dues went up to $10, a $4 increase. Apparently, the NCGA would not have to rely on CCWD for their water. In March, the Board enacted the "Special Privilege Golf Cart Plan" which established a strict 90 degree rule for those entitled to drive on fairways. By August the plan was cancelled and fairway privileges were suspended due to the critical water shortage, damage to the course, and abuse by a few members. Monterey Pine trees were dying faster than shuttle cart batteries. Golf balls were being lost in the cracks that were opening in the fairways. A few members requested we impose "Winter Rules." By October, the Board had authorized the drilling of a 300' well in the search for water and called for a vote to raise membership fees. The ballots were counted in November - 308 yes, 70 no, and memberships soared to $3,300. By December, rain had arrived fairways were starting to show some green.
More Bad News
It wasn’t much, but as they say, “every little bit helps.” After four years of severe drought conditions, we entered the 1980’s with our new well on Hole #13 providing a welcome 320- gallons per minute to the dried-out fairways and greens on the course. The drought had been especially hard on our trees; by the end of the decade some 400 trees would be gone, including 120 drought-weakened trees lost during severe storms. A November 1982 storm was particularly destructive; the single storm caused the loss of 17 mature trees, including a heritage oak which served as a backdrop for the #12 green. With careful management of our limited canal and well water, green began to slowly return to the course.
In September 1980 an Ad Hoc Committee of Board members began developing a job description for a Club/Business Manager who would be responsible for management of Club finances, clubhouse, lunchroom and maintenance. They didn’t need to look far; we found a well-qualified candidate in the Club Office where Shirley Reed had more or less been performing those duties for the past few years. Shirley was officially appointed to the position in November 1980. At about that same time, and based on a survey that showed other private clubs in the area had dues ranging from $95 to $145, our memberships increased to $4,500 and dues to $62.50. Dues would increase to $70 less than a year later.
Despite an era of leveraged buyouts and mega-mergers that created a multitude of new millionaires, interest rates remained in double-digits and the cost of living was still going up. Most monthly newsletters had some reference to budget considerations. In 1982 we implemented a “Junior Executive” membership program which made country club membership more affordable for men and women starting their business careers.
While ET was phoning home, Shirley was busy dealing with the struggling lunchroom. The lunchroom offered counter service but was hindered by the fact that many Club members brought in “brown bags” or “portable bars.” It was not food and beverage service befitting a country club. In April 1982, the Club arranged to have Villanova Caterers take over operation of the lunchroom. This arrangement, however, lasted only six months due to a lack of business and an out-of-date kitchen that could not service a full dining area. With the once modern Clubhouse almost 30 years old, the facility was, to quote then-president Jim Marsh, “bulging at the seams.” A surprise visit by the local Health Department found some of the kitchen equipment was, ahem, deficient. With foot propped on the bumper of the oven as he wrote the citation, the sunglass-wearing health inspector is rumored to have said, “You in a heap a’ trouble.” The citation went away when the grill, ice maker and countertops were replaced.
1983 saw us deciding between Sony’s BetaMax and JVC’s VHS, our parking lot full of the new “minivans,” and the first “spikeless” golf shoes making their appearance on the golf course. The Board had a nice chat with a representative from the City of Pleasant Hill as they discussed the pros and cons of annexation. The Club’s Spring 1983 trip took us to Oceanside where $195 per person got four nights of luxury accommodations, three days of golf, and four banquet dinners.
1984 started with 60 members having their names listed on the membership “sell” list. By mid-year, the economic climate had changed, there was no longer a sell list, and eleven individuals were waiting in line to buy a membership. In July 1984 the membership price went to $6,000. By the end of the year, over 50 memberships were sold. By the following January, the wait list had been exhausted and four memberships were offered for sale.
Change is Inevitable, except from a Vending Machine
She was born in Michigan. Like the rest of her eight brothers and sisters, her father chose her name; her mother had wanted "Patricia." When she was nine years old, the family moved to Ohio , where she grew up and lived until she came to California in 1986 with her husband. She came to the Contra Costa Country Club in 1988 in response to an ad for a waitress, liked the job and liked the people; she decided to stick around. Our Girl from Ohio remembers Club Manager Shirley Reed and how she handled the Club's business by herself, except that is during payroll when Jo Santiago and Carol Rose would drop by to help out. When she had free time, Shirley also liked to drop by the kitchen and help cook and could always be counted on to help out during the invitational tournaments and large club events.
In 1989, Marilyn King became the first woman to serve as a Director for the CCCC Board. Marilyn was appointed as the Board’s Secretary and chaired the Policy and Planning Committee which, over the years, has become known as Strategic Planning. One of Marilyn's memories of her years on the Board: taking minutes and typing them on an Apple IIe computer. It was about that same time that the membership decided that the name of the Club newsletter - "The Golf Bawl" - was due for a change. Following a vote, the Oak Tree was born.
News about Tony Award-winning stage productions Phantom of the Opera and M. Butterfly, and Burt Reynolds marriage to Loni Anderson got lost in the folds of the newspaper when the San Francisco Chronicle reported on their investigation into local golf clubs following a June 1988 Supreme Court decision. An East Bay golf club had a policy of restricting the ladies from playing on certain days and times. A reporter surveying golf and country clubs made an inquiry about tee time policies at Contra Costa CC. At the time, Wednesdays were "Men Only," and women could not tee off on Saturdays until after 12 noon and on Sundays after 10 am. When the results of the survey appeared in the Chronicle, the fragrant matter hit the propeller blades for us, and others. The Franchise Tax Board waded into the fray, as did the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. It was strongly suggested that if CCCC wished to hold public events like weddings and golf tournaments - and serve alcohol - the policies would need to change.
Shirley Reed was retiring at about this time, and we welcomed new General Manager Steve Bolerjack to CCCC and the still-spinning propeller blades. Steve had just left the Turlock Country Club where a new template of comity of tee times had been instituted. To save you the quick dash to your dictionary, "comity" is defined as a state or atmosphere of harmony or mutual civility or respect. Using Turlock's model, and still recognizing the preferred tee times of the various CCCC groups - Divoteers, WGA, Seniors - tee times policies were changed and opened to all, where they remain to this day.
Oh, and that Girl from Ohio? Her father named her Delores but you know her better as Dee. Stop by The Bunker and say hello as she approaches 27 years of service to all of us....
Club History Chapter 20
It was his swan song, of sorts. Barry Brumfield became our Head Professional in 1985, the eighth Golf Pro in the Club’s history following Bob Clark, William Hackney, Will Rogers [No, not that one!], Walt Tebaldi, Vito Machado, John Zontek and Jack Kendricks. Barry liked to be close to his work; for his first 20 months at CCCC, he lived in a trailer in the Maintenance Yard. After four years at the helm, Barry announced that he would be leaving to become the Head Pro at the San Jose Country Club. There was one piece of unfinished business: Barry would play in a fund raising American Cancer Society Golf Marathon at CCCC, as many holes as possible in a 24-hour period. The event took place beginning at noon on Monday, August 1, 1989. After 24 hours, 222 holes of golf and a check for over $4,000 for the ACS, Barry limped off the course. Barry’s scores ranged from a first round 70 to a midnight 84. During darkness, Barry played a Nightlite glow ball and was joined by Examiner sports writer Mark Soltau, who, apparently with better night vision, shot 83. Barry was later heard to complain about the loss of distance with the glow ball. “Hitting two woods and an iron to a par four isn’t easy.” Welcome to the world of senior golf, Barry.
Think about it - 222 holes of golf in 24 hours? That’s over 18 holes per hour. Jeez, it’s like playing with John Teverbaugh or Bob Brotherton….
As 1989 became 1990, memberships were selling for $24,000 and we had a list of anxious buyers waiting to join. We were learning from the oil companies, and by May memberships went up again to $27,000. Something about supply and demand….
Assistant Pro Joe Curry kept the Pro Shop humming during the search for a new Head Pro. Joe reminded most of us of our favorite grandfather and had the personality to match. Meanwhile, the search for a new Golf Pro found a great replacement in the hometown of Burl Ives and Jerry Van Dyke - Terre Haute, Indiana. Ray Goddard was the Head Pro and Director of Golf for the city’s two golf courses and held the course record on the municipal Forest Park course with a 61! Uh, that’s gross, not net. Ray had also been quite the college basketball star in his day. He took over in January, 1990 and became Head Golf Professional number nine. With the Pro Shop now running smoothly, we look to the golf course, where things weren’t going so well.
In the 1950’s, about 1,000 Monterey pine trees were planted on the course. Earlier, this history column mentioned the drought in the early 1970’s and its devastating effect on our trees and shrubs. It was about that time we learned Monterey pines weren’t the best choice for our 100 degree summers and adobe soil. Consultants predicted a severe die-out and by 1990, their prediction was proving accurate. The Greens Committee recommended a $37,000 tree and shrub replacement project. It was funded by a $72 assessment and by mid-year, the dead trees had been removed and 680 new trees and shrubs planted. Fortunately, not all the experts were correct; four different tree experts told the Greens Committee that the demise of the signature oak tree on Hole 12 was imminent….
Water and water storage and delivery systems were always an issue. Even with two wells producing 250,000 gallons a day, we needed more, especially during the mid-summer months. The storage pond needed to be dredged to hold more water and eliminate silt that clogged pumping equipment. We hired geological consultants who reported that CCCC was located on top of a prolific underground reservoir, and talk quickly turned to the possibility of drilling another well. Diablo, Sequoia and Marin were facing similar water problems; all tried to drill for water with negative results. The search for affordable solutions and a source of funding went on.
One solution – a tried and true option in the past – was the sale of surplus land. The Real Estate Committee determined that four unused parcels of our property were buildable and had a value of roughly $6.9 million. When a poll of members found that the majority favored the sale of land rather than an assessment, work began to ready one of the parcels for sale. Members were pretty clear about what they wanted done with the proceeds: put it right back into the golf course!
In August 1990, members turned their eyes and ears from Club issues to the news that Iraq had invaded Kuwait. It was rumored that a group of high-school students had been given a box of pins and a map and asked to identify the location of Kuwait; allegedly, pins identified Nova Scotia and Malta as the location of the fighting. Our Board of Directors couldn’t afford to spend much time on the news from Kuwait; there were important issues right here at home.
Private clubs quite often struggle to provide food and beverage service within their budgetary constraints. We were no exception. The Board examined a plan that was becoming widely popular at other private clubs, although “popular” might be better served by “necessary.” Our monthly food and beverage revenues had little black ink. To continue providing food service at the level expected by members, the Board of Directors studied, and later adopted a Quarterly Food and Beverage Bail-Out Program, more affectionately known as the Food Minimum. With little change, it remains in effect today. It was not the only important issue; a much different and equally important problem was growing in importance.
As the man credited with the invention of the golf cart, it’s a fair bet that Merle Williams would have stood wide-eyed and slack-jawed on the cart-staging area and asked himself, “What have I done?” By late 1990, there were 178 private golf carts at CCCC. On weekends, the cart-staging area outside the Golf Shop looked like the Nordstrom’s parking lot on the first day of the women’s half-price dress sale. With chrome wheels, candy-apple paint, supple Corinthian leather seats hand-tooled by Italian artisans and six-channel stereo systems, the carts bore little resemblance to the three-wheeled carts Williams designed and built for disabled servicemen following WWII. There were fewer than 160 spaces in our cart barns for storage and a proposal to have private cart owners fund the construction of an additional storage building was unsuccessful. The “Haves” had one of the spaces; the “Have-Nots,” well, didn’t. To acquire a space, a member placed his name on the Cart Space Waiting List. Emphasis on the word “waiting;” it was a v-e-r-y slow process as one moved up the list to the number one position and the momentous occasion of The Phone Call. Although income derived from cart storage space and trail fees was substantial, there were only 19 CCCC rental carts. Events where a large number of carts for non-member use were needed (outside tournaments, for example) required that a fleet of carts be rented from a rental agency. The Club had also acquired a number of large and expensive items of maintenance equipment which had to be stored outside. The needs of the Club versus the private cart issue could no longer be ignored. The answer came in the form of a modified version of the San Jose Country Club Cart Plan; it was a painful solution, but in the end best served the long-term interests of the Club.
The Club would lease or buy a fleet of carts and they would be stored in the cart storage area. Private cart storage in that area would no longer exist. Maintenance equipment would be stored in the maintenance yard sheds; good-bye private carts. A cart lease plan was developed for those who wished to use carts each time they played; considerably improved over time, it remains in effect today. Private cart owners were those most affected by this radical change as they now owned a cart but had no on-course storage. Over time, most private cart owners got rid of their carts. With fewer private carts, a new fad began to gain in popularity – walking. Presently, 60 members are enrolled in the Cart Lease Plan. The Golf Shop estimates that over 50% of our members are regular “walkers.”
50 Trains, 200 MPH
The old girl was starting to show her age. Back in 1955 she was a real beauty and everyone who saw her couldn’t hold back their ooh’s and ahh’s. An article in the March 27, 1955 Oakland Tribune even described her as “stunning.” But time had taken its toll and even a little fresh lipstick every now and then wasn’t the answer. Yep, it was time for a new Clubhouse.
It was a big milestone and on July 22, 1994, 94% of the members cast their vote. It wasn’t a landslide by any means, but with 240 “Yes” and 188 “No,” the wheels were set in motion. Members were given the opportunity to select one of five assessment options to finance the project; 117 members chose to finance over time while the balance “paid up front.” A relatively small number of members disapproved of the project and left the Club; despite the assessment, a strong waiting list provided many applicants eager to become members.
How fitting that past President and future Senior Tour caddie Dave Baker would be the one to “step up to the plate” to serve as the chair of the Clubhouse Building Committee. The committee’s first task was to select a contractor from a field of 16 builders. Important to the committee was the builder’s financial strength, golf clubhouse experience and use of their own crafts. The Lusardi Construction Company based in San Marcos, California won the contract. Their company motto: “If we can’t pay cash for it, we won’t buy it.” [Jeez, send these guys to Washington.] Dave stated in the July 1995 Oak Tree, “I could never have imagined the amount of work that it takes to bring all the pieces of this complicated puzzle together.” Committee members spent countless hours meeting with the architects, design professionals and government officials to move the project forward. Subcommittees were formed, each focusing on a specific area of concern (locker rooms, furnishings, dining facilities, financing, paint and lighting, etc.) An important aspect of the design was to make the new facility consistent with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Work began on August 10, 1995 with construction to take one year. The contract sum was $3,695,217.
Staff and members worked together to set up temporary trailer facilities near the present first tee. Maintenance staff installed carpets and vinyl flooring, senior volunteers moved furniture, member Ray Trebino handled the utility connections, and the ever-present Tom Santiago did the painting. Golf, of course, continued without interruption.
Lusardi began demolition of the old clubhouse on September 10, 1995. Members brought their cameras for the ceremonial groundbreaking while member Don Gustafson photographed the event. By November the old building was gone and members had to be warned – sternly and frequently - to keep back from the deep hole that remained.
By the following March, walls and wood trusses were in place and soon thereafter members were offered tours of the construction site – quite likely to keep them from doing so on their own. By May the roof was being tiled and patios were being laid around the new clubhouse. A high priority of the new design was to capture the spectacular views of Mount Diablo and the preservation of the oak trees on the patio. There were some downsides: the original plan was to transform what is now the cart-staging area into a large and beautiful putting green with a majestic view of the course and mountain. Alas, structural experts determined that the space could not support the weight of a putting green; there were few options other than to place a small putting green next to the #1 tee. And then there are the light fixtures. Former Board member Terry Johnston and “The Wolf” Heinritz were instrumental in the selection of paint colors, furniture and fixtures for the new clubhouse. And the lights – well, they weren’t their first choice. Or the second for that matter, but there was a budget and it prevailed. And of course there was the rain. Some 26 days of it through June and while we smiled at the lushness of the course, the contractors, well, weren’t smiling. Along with Mother Nature, we had to deal with the regulatory agencies overseeing the construction. As the building neared completion, we held our breath as we awaited the Permit to Occupy and permission to tear down the old Pro Shop and temporary facilities. As construction wound down, Dave Baker astutely wrote “I have often described the end of the project as 50 trains traveling 200 miles per hour that need to come into the station one minute apart.” Somehow, Dave and his long list of helpers brought all the trains in by the second week of August, 1996.
The new clubhouse had its Grand Opening on Saturday August 31. The day began with a golf tournament and ended with a black tie and evening gown dinner and dance. Each Club member was given a beautiful watch bearing the Club logo to commemorate the event. With music, good friends, good food, dancing and an ample supply of beverage, the event went long into the night.
And we still had a 66 page punch list….
As 1996 drew to a close, there was a renewed energy at the CCCC; members were both proud and pleased with their new clubhouse and a new, higher level of service. It didn’t hurt that the DOW was continuing to climb at a supersonic pace; 1996 ended at 6,448. With interest rates down to 8.25%, the minimum wage up to $5.15 an hour and gas selling at $1.22 a gallon, even the news that Diana had divorced Prince Charles failed to dampen our spirits. Though the 66 items on the punch list were rapidly being corrected, there was still much to be done. As Greens Committee Chair Paul Nichols put it, “… we are a bit like a new couple moving into their first dream house. We have the house, but it is going to be quite some time before we can afford to do all the things we had envisioned.
Things were a little quieter around the clubhouse as the new “softspike” policy went into effect on November 1. Poppy Ridge, Ruby Hill and a few other courses had already made the change; we were the first local club to do so. Paul Nichols estimated that 40-50% of our members were already enjoying the benefits of softspikes. Some didn’t care much for softspikes, but it gave them a new reason to explain those otherwise majestic slices and diving duck hooks that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. In the clubhouse, a new policy of “no spikes” protected our new carpets from wear and tear. Within a year the policy was revised to allow softspikes in the clubhouse.
Inside the clubhouse, the new Board of Directors and their sub-committees had their hands full looking for solutions to reduce or retire our excess debt. Like most projects, construction of the clubhouse had resulted in cost over-runs and a loan deficit. Board Secretary Wayne Smith stepped forward to head a sub-committee to explore the numerous options available to us. Selling parcels of unused land on holes #6 and #15 was one path investigated. Cutting the budget, dues increases and assessments were all explored in depth before a recommendation could be made to the Board. None were perfect – or easy – solutions. Once our land is sold, it is gone forever. Budget cuts result in fewer services and less golf course and facility maintenance, and assessments – well, not a popular choice among members. Many had strong opinions, which they voiced loudly and often. Despite the rancor, the sub-committee worked through every option available to them and on March 12, 1997 made their recommendation: a $33 dues increase (not to exceed six months), 100% of capital transfer fee funds from membership sales in 1997 go toward debt, fees from lifetime memberships go toward debt, and issue a ballot to members regarding selling unused land. The subsequent ballot results showed a majority of voting members favored sale of the property, and just like that, Wayne Smith’s committee became the Real Estate Committee and moved forward with the sale of land on Hole #6. One important issue was that the sale not impact the fairway or play on Hole #6.
Moving forward, Smith’s committee began to explore annexation of Club property to the City of Pleasant Hill as the two issues were closely inter-twined. At the time of our founding in 1925, the Contra Costa Golf Club was listed in official records as “Pacheco, California.” In 1925, Pacheco was a large, vibrant city – larger than neighboring Martinez - and Pleasant Hill, well, didn’t even exist. The area was mostly farmland described by a government surveyor in the late 1800’s as “The Pleasant Hills;” the first real landmark was the golf club. When Pleasant Hill incorporated in 1962, our mailing address was changed to Pleasant Hill but we remained an unincorporated island under the jurisdiction of Contra Costa County. By 1997, the City of Pleasant Hill was anxious to add CCCC as a city landmark, especially with our sparkling new clubhouse. Permitting through Pleasant Hill was also advantageous; we were able to sell more lots on the space than through the County, and the City was willing to forgo a considerable amount of fees and expenses for the land development as part of an annexation agreement. Members liked the idea as well; a large voter turnout resulted in the overwhelming approval of the land sale (for $1,400,000) and annexation. Finally, we’re officially located in Pleasant Hill…