CHEHALIS GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
“Vernon Macan’s best nine hole design”
‘Formed in 1922 Chehalis would celebrate their centennial in 2022”
Vernon Macan GA (Golf Architect)
Macan’s friends in Seattle and Victoria thought he had flipped when he announced in July 1922 that he was quitting his secure government job in the Lands and Forest Department to become a GA (golf architect). People in the northwest had never heard of this profession. In Britain the term was more common. Bernard Darwin, the London Times golf correspondent used the term to describe the new golf course designers such as Allison, Colt, Low, and Mackenzie as early as 1905. “Mac has burned his bridges is now in the profession of golf links architecture for keeps – full time.” Prior to this day Mac dabbled in his favourite pastime. He began his career designing Colwood and Qualicum in 1913. After the War he became serious about the profession he had studied in Ireland before his arrival in 1912. His projects included eighteen hole designs at Inglewood and Manito, installed new greens at Seattle and Waverley.
Following his announcement, Mac’s mailbox began to fill with requests to design golf courses based on his new innovative principles for golf architecture. Macan’s decision proved to be an example of being in the right place at the right time. Golf began to boom on the Pacific Coast starting around the time he made the historical announcement. Through the roaring twenties, Mac became “the busiest golf architect on the Pacific Coast”. In typical Macan fashion, he probably turned down as many projects as he actually undertook. “If I cannot build a first class golf course on the property you have provided to me, I am not interested in developing a golf course for you.” Similarly, “I am a golf architect. I design a first class golf course according to my fixed set of principles. I do not construct golf courses. I spend more time than others supervising the construction process to ensure my design is followed.” Because of Macan’s refusal to supervise the actual construction of the course he passed on many projects. Francis James, who arrived in the northwest as Macan’s construction foreman for Fircrest, saw an opportunity for himself. James constructed most of Macan’s rejected proposals for a set price. Many owners wanted the security of knowing exactly what the golf course project would cost before construction commenced. Before WW2 Macan basically focused on high class 18 hole projects such as Royal Colwood, Gorge Vale, Marine Drive, Alderwood, Columbia, Fircrest, Manito, Inglewood, and California. In 1922 he constructed the nine hole Chehalis Golf Course. When asked to develop small projects after 1922, he referred to his Chehalis project “as my finest example of my handiwork on a nine hole project.”
For beauty Chehalis was second to none. Located ten miles east of the centre of Chehalis on the Jackson Highway (Pacific Coast highway, the old #99). Macan shaped eighty acres of the Lucas farm into a spectacular challenging golf course. “ The course is rolling and without hills and while all greens are well trapped at first glance the course looks extremely simple, and first timers have visions of low scores whatever their handicaps. There is something deceptive about it! The fairways are wide, the rough is fair, and the greens are large and as good as the best private clubs in Seattle and Portland. Somehow the low cards are hard to get on the Chehalis layout regardless of the player’s golfing ability. Just try it.”
Standing on the first tee a player had a view that rivalled any other golf course. “The Chehalis course has a mountain view that on a clear day is well nigh incomparable. Mt. St. Helens gleaning on the right as you face the 1st fairway; Mt. Rainier glistens on the left through the interlacing branches of a line of majestic firs; and Mt. Adams peeps through in the middle distance over a line of rugged foothills, completing the entrance view. ”The northwest newspapers gave few actual descriptions of the holes. Macan stated: “At Chehalis I have designed nine greens with bunkers strategically placed to challenge the low handicapper. Because of the ample supply of property (eighty acres) I had at my disposal for the first time in the northwest I set eighteen tees so the player is challenged by an appearance of a different nine from the front nine.” Bill Steedman, the Seattle P-I sports reporter, described two of the more challenging holes. “All of the holes are reasonably good; two of them are very good. The best the sixth is 390 yards long dogleg to the right. A good poke from the tee opens up a well-modelled green with trouble on both sides and behind it and an open alley facing the perfect drive. The third, 200 yards, is placed in a corner with out-of-bounds behind it and two big traps in front. The tee shot to be carried from the front nine tee if well placed has lots of room to roll onto the green and stop. A second tee to the left makes the hole a mashie iron distance (135 yards). From this tee one must play over a bunker slap against the green, making a different hole entirely. The shorter, trickier route is the twelfth hole.” Macan used clay models as early as 1922 to show the future membership what a particular hole would look like. “ Mr Burnett has a clay model of the 3rd green that is interesting the members of the club and those who are acquainted with the game.” To beautify the course Macan planted over two hundred trees “representing a splendid variety of English and black walnut, birch, beech, elm, and filberts.” Wells supplied an ample quantity of water for the course.
During the short time the course existed, less than twenty ears, Macan’s design withstood all assaults by the best players in the northwest. No player, amateur or professional, broke 70 until George Roguerude, the Chehalis pro, shot 65 in 1938.
Par: 4 4 3 5 4 4 4 3 36 4 4 3 5 4 4 4 3 5 36 Par 72
Ronguerude 4 4 3 4 4 3 4 2 4 32 5 3 3 4 4 3 3 3 5 33 65
The local Chehalis Bee – Nugget newspaper only reported five holes – in – ones during the life of the club.
Chehalis Club formation
“An active golf club in Chehalis is just another of those indications that Chehalis is a live community. The location for the course is most admirably located for general use by the home folks and visitors alike.” Ideally located half way between Seattle and Portland the community based enterprise appeared to have the ideal situation for success for one hundred years. In 1922 a group of local businessmen including MS Burnett, HC Coffman, Walter Emery, WF West, and JA Scollard established the club. “The group reached out to twenty business leaders in the community as to their willingness to support the project financially.” In a one day canvass the group felt the support existed because over $10,000 was pledged to the organizers. Within the month the founders had eighty per cent of the budgeted $25,000 in the bank. The supporters arranged a five-year lease with an option to purchase for eighty acres on the Lucas farm located on the Jackson Prairie on the north side Jackson Highway across from the Matilda Jackson Park, the Jackson Prairie School, and the County Courthouse. Five years later, the club exercised their option and purchased the land with another option for an additional eighty acres if the club wished to expand the course to eighteen holes. Initially the club sold memberships for $125 with monthly dues at $3.00 per month. After one year the membership price increased to $200. The monthly dues never increased during the club’s existence.
The course opened for play in July 1923. The Directors immediately began preparations for a modest functional clubhouse for the budgeted cost of $10,000. The new clubhouse formally opened on October 15th, 1923. The new facility purchased electricity from the nearby Guyerrier Sawmill. The main structure containing the entrance, offices, and dining room measured 42 x 46. Two identical wings on either side of the main room measured 13 x 42. The construction of this well furnished, large, functional clubhouse proved to be one reason for the success of the club.
Because of the perfect equal distance location between Seattle and Portland many associations and organizations used the course and the clubhouse for their meetings. The Kinsmen, the Elks, doctors, lawyers, and tradesmen associations held their annual gatherings at the Chehalis G&CC. All factors pointed to a long profitable life for the club.
To further the success of the Chehalis G&CC the Directors introduced a totally new golf competition never played in the northwest prior to 1927. Soon the event became the most popular competition in the area attracting players from Vancouver, BC to Eugene, OR. All the top stars from for a decade set aside the weekend around June 15th as a competition they did not want to miss. The local merchants donated all the prizes knowing that the 150 – 200 players who participated in the weekend event would stimulate the local economy. To be successful in the event the player needed to be at his best from the moment he started. The club allowed players to post a qualifying eighteen hole score at anytime during the week prior to the official start of the event on Saturday. The low 64 qualifying gross scores became eligible for play on Saturday. Each flight had eight players. The top eight qualifiers formed the championship flight. Each match lasted only nine holes. Hence the player required his “A” game immediately on the first tee OR he was soon eliminated. Hence the defeated had a “short stop “ a “short stay” in the event.
To speed up play the contestants in each match in each flight all teed off from the first hole. That is Flight two had eight contestants on the first tee playing four matches. By the close of play on Saturday each flight had two contestants remaining. On Sunday the finalists played an eighteen-hole match to decide the winner of each flight. The Championship flight played twosome matches over nine holes on Saturday to determine the finalists. This event proved to be so popular that clubs throughout the northwest soon introduced Shortstop championships.
Harold West Chehalis’ best player”
From 1923 – 1938 Chehalis had six professionals working for the membership. The list included: Henry Jones, Harold Speer, James Black, Joe Badley, Nelson Upton, and George Ronguerude. When Rongerude left Harold West, the club’s best amateur, turned professional. At age twenty-one, although Harold never won an amateur event, experts considered him one of the best amateurs in the state. Harold married his high school sweetheart in 1938 and turned professional. He served his home club until 1939 then moved to the neighbouring Centralia G&CC for another year.
Harold began his golfing career as a caddy at Chehalis. He formed part of the group of twelve year olds that attended the Jackson Prairie School across Jackson Highway from the clubhouse. From this early age Harold grew up on the course assisting all the club professionals. Naturally he lived golf and would become a professional himself. During his professional career he worked at Chehalis, Centralia, Longview, Tualitan, Pendleton, and Eugene. Although he never won an amateur event, he cashed the winners cheque at: the Utah Open (3), the Allenmore Open, the Oregon Open (2), and the Northwest Open. When he died January 25th, 1968, the Oregon Chapter of the Pacific Northwest Golfers Association named the Oregon Open Championship trophy in his name. His fellow professionals recognized him in 1981 when they inducted him into the Pacific Northwest Section Golf Hall of Fame.
Chehalis Closure A Mystery
We have researched many lost golf courses in the Pacific Northwest. Very rarely do we find one where we cannot determine why the club folded. At Chehalis, problems appear to have commenced when the club cancelled the 1937 Shortstop event. A search of the local Chamber of Commerce Report for 1936 indicated a robust economy existed in Chehalis. The area received government grants, the lumber industry prospered, and the four local privately owned banks showed robust profits. The local economy did not appear to be under stress from the Depression.
The club financial reports published for 1937 gave no indication it suffered financially. But few club activities were reported in the Centralia and Chehalis newspapers. The last club event reported in the newspaper was a club match against Centralia in 1942.
After WW 2 in November 1945, the old club attempted a revival by renovating the clubhouse. With an enlarged dining room and a nineteenth hole cocktail lounge, the club advertised daily dinners at the Chehalis G&CC clubhouse from 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM midnight. There is no indication the course ever opened after 1942. “The new program was made possible through the efforts of the old and new members including many charter members who are as active as ever. By 1961 the Centralia Daily Chronicle reported “The old Chehalis clubhouse is being renovated into club quarters for the Toledo Social Security Club.”
The museum is seeking any information on this great old Chehalis G&CC. It is disappointing the club could not celebrate 100 years this June. We are seeking photographs, scorecards, and club records. Perhaps you had a relative associated with Chehalis.
Contact us at : email: email@example.com
CHEHALIS GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB (Historical Facts )
1922 M.S. Burnett
1924 W.A. Schoel
1925 F.N. Beal replaced by O.K. Palmer March 1926
1926 Frank Taylor
1927 Frank Taylor
1928 Frank Taylor
1929 W.F. West
1930 W.F. West
1931 J.R. Robertson
1936 Dr G. .E. (Bob) Estes
1937 Ted Miller
1924(Oct) – ’25 (July ) Jones, Henry
1926 (Sept) – 1927 (Feb) Speer Harold
1927(Feb) – 1927 (Sept) Black, James
1927 (Sept) – 1928 Badley, Joe
1929 (Feb) – ’31 (July) Upton, Nelson
1933 – ’36 (Nov) Rongerude,, George
1936 (Nov) – 1939 West, Harold
Year Medalist Champion
1927 Harold Speer
1928 Harold Speer Harold Speer
1929 Bill Yost R. R. Nelson
1930 Bill Yost Bill Yost
1931 Bill Yost C.A. Fisk
1932 Barge Pease
1933 Bud Ward Bud Ward
1934 Jack Koler Bud Ward
1935 Bud Ward Bud Ward
1936 Morton Selp Dick Hedges
Hole in one
Sept 1928 JA Scollard Hole 3 200 yards
June 1931 Dr. G.E. Estes Hole # 8 120 yards
June 1935 Vic Orni Hole # 8 120 yards
June 1935 C.T. Tannatt Hole # 3 200 yards
June 1940 A.L. Hemphill Hole # 8 120 yards