Alderwood Country Club History 1924 – 1953


“The most difficult golf course in the Pacific Northwest”

For over fifty years, 1913 – 1964 Arthur Vernon Macan determined how the golfers of the Pacific Northwest played the game. He succeeded through his innovative design techniques. During the 1920’s and 1930’s the new generation of golf architects, such as Francis James, George Otten, and George Junor, followed his architectural principles in their designs. Today the newest golf architects are utilizing Mac’s original principles to renovate many of Macan’s early courses back to their original Macan designs.

Because the Depression in the 1930’s interrupted Vernon Macan’s career, one can view his fifty- year career in two sections (1913 – 1931) and (1940 – 1964). This article focuses on Vernon Macan’s best designed golf course in the first period. In his correspondence to prospective clients from 1940 – 1955 Mac referred to the Alderwood CC in Portland Oregon as his best designed golf course. This article captures the principles he used including one design technique that research shows he only used at Alderwood.

After the World War 1, the US experienced a golf boom like no other time in the history of golf. What created this boom. Probably the fact golf appealed to all age groups – children to grandparents, including men and women representing all economic classes in society. Few games can make this claim. Workers had more leisure time and increased disposable income. The automobile allowed the people to travel to locations they could only reach by train before the War.

During the 1920’s, in the northwest, more golf courses were constructed during this decade than any other period in our history. The success of the public golf courses, Jefferson in Seattle and Eastmoreland in Portland, encouraged municipalities to construct pay-as-you-play facilities. Because the traditional private course memberships were full or the new group of eager golfers did not meet the social class the original private clubs required, the new expanding group of entrepreneurs, the tradesmen, and the young professionals could not find locations to satisfy their “golfitis” desire.

Portland experienced the greatest demand for golf from the expanding population.  In 1920 Portland had three private clubs: Portland, Tualitan, and Waverley. Their restricted rosters were full. Eastmoreland with 150,000 – 160,000 rounds annually could not satisfy the growing demand.

In early 1921 a small group of “new golfers” met in the grandstand of the abandoned Rose City speedway to find a solution to satisfy their desire to play golf locally. They did not want to travel halfway across Portland to play on the crowded Eastmoreland layout. The group included: FH Young, H. Perry, AH Gould, Frank Katterlin, AH Craig, Frank Parsons, Russell Lawson, Clara Miller, George Otten, Paul Farrens, Van C. Wrenn, William Phillips, Harry Jaeger, HL George, and Ralph Tomlinson. Their leader A(Jay) Gould  suggested the group approach the Portland City council for permission to cut the grass in the inner area of the speedway track to layout a rudimentary course. Fortunately, the City agreed to their wish. But no funding was available. The group cut flags from red flannels, dug holes for tin cans in the field, and placed the new red flags in position to create their “new golf course”.  Soon neighbours asked to join the group to try this new game. Within six months the original group foresaw the growing demand required a formalized club and a proper golf course to satisfy the demand. On February 3 1922,  the group called a meeting in the grandstand for all interested golfers to determine if the demand existed for a new public golf course. Much to the delight of the founders 125 locals attended. The Rose City Golf Club formed on February 10th, 1922. George Otten, a local landscape architect, laid out the nine-hole course on the inner oval of the abandoned speedway. To finance the project, Gould decided to sell each hole. As Otten finished a hole, the eager members began playing. On July 1, 1922 AH (Jay) Gould drove the first shot on the completed Rose City nine-hole golf course.

Portland’s second public golf course proved so successful a third group formed in August 25th, 1922 to construct the third public golf course for Portland. The West Hills golf group hired Chandler Egan to layout an 18-hole course for them. The first nine holes opened in 1923 and the full 18 in 1925.

During the 1923 summer, the proud founders of the Rose City course reviewed the success of their undertaking. They asked themselves. Could we undertake to construct a private golf club in the area? Because the membership rosters for the restricted private courses were closed can we attract a group of potential golfers from the professional ranks, from the trades, and from the small business community?  On November 24th, 1923 the forward thinking founders incorporated the Alderwood Golf Club. The incorporators included: AH (Jay) Gould, AH Craig, Harry Jaeger, F. Harold Young, Paul P. Farrens. The group chose a 150 acres site on Scully road on the Columbia Slough north of their existing Rose city Course. The original Board included the Rose City Club president Robert Smith as the first Alderwood President, Paul Farrens Vice President, AH Craig Secretary; AH Gould Treasurer and additional directors LH Steele, VC Wrenn, WP Phillips, and Harry Jaeger.

A mistake in identification resulted in the name for the new company. When the founders viewed the property on the Columbia flood plain, they misidentified a group of trees. Over centuries the Columbia River deposited silt creating a flat flood plain area. The loam soil composed of mainly sand provided an ideal area for a golf course. While walking the potential site the group identified four groups of trees growing on the property – oaks, maples, cottonwoods, and alders. Later they discovered the alders were actually birch trees. To overcome the mistake, the club planted 200 alder trees during the construction process to justify the course name.

Over the life of Alderwood the founders such as Paul Farrens, Jay Gould, Ralph Tomlinson served as the club president for various periods of time.  Arthur Craig served the club as the secretary manager for 25 years. Working with the founders Adams directed the club’s success. First after the official opening of the 18-hole course in 1952, the Board joined the PNGA and the USGA. As it turned out to the club’s advantage. Alderwood never joined the WGA.

The Board targeted lawyers, doctors, tradesmen, small business entrepreneurs. In 1930 Adams made a survey of the membership. He argued every possible profession in Portland was represented in the membership. The board believed their original offering of 200 charter memberships at $100 each would finance the club. The offer to the Portland golf community commenced on December 1, 1923. During the first week, much to the delight of the founders, the club sold 200 memberships.  The Board then offered a second subscription of 150 memberships at $100 each plus an initiation fee of $100. This sold out in one month.

The instant success of Alderwood encouraged a second group to form – the Columbia Country Club. This group chose a site west of Alderwood on the same flood plain as Alderwood. In March 1924 the Multnomah Athletic Club decided to join the new golfing enterprises. The club canvassed their membership to see if their members wanted to include golf as one of the many sporting activities. The Board decided to proceed in the summer of 1924.Soon Lake Oswego hired Chandler Egan to create their course. Glendoveer formed to construct another public facility.  In 1935 Columbia CC reorganized their affairs to satisfy the financial challenges. The new enterprise chose the name Columbia – Edgewater CC. Also, in 1935 Multnomah GC and the Lake Oswego GC amalgamated to form the Oswego Lake GC. The new club sold the Multnomah golf course site for housing to ensure the new clubs’ existence.

At the end of 1924 Portland had twelve golf courses in existence or under construction. This was more than any other town or city in the northwest. With the expansion of golf in 1924 the Portland Park’s board feared Eastmoreland’s success would be hindered. Much to their delight the course experienced expanded ticket sales each year until 1930.

The Board offered the two best players at Eastmoreland, Don Moe and Frank Dolp, honorary memberships. These two nationally ranked players brought credibility to the club. Soon other northwest and state champions were given honorary memberships.

Probably one of the most forward thinking moves the Board made occurred in 1926.  Alderwood offered every junior, not a member of an existing private club, the opportunity to play free golf at Alderwood. To encourage juniors the club placed only a single restriction on the privilege –  no golf before 2:00 PM on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Alderwood soon became known as the ”Cradle for Portland golf” and “A Nursery for Champions”. In 1928 the Oregon State Golf Association decided to hold an annual state junior championship. Alderwood immediately offered to be the permanent host for the championship.  Ralph Tomlinson, an Alderwood founder, oversaw this championship as his “baby”. The juniors soon adopted him as the grandfather. Alderwood invited all juniors on the Pacific Coast to participate in the event. Alderwood assumed all costs. All state junior champions, who chose to accept the offer, became instant members of Alderwood. This provided the club with a source for future state, regional, and national champions.

The Alderwood Board proved to be the innovative leader in golf in the northwest. Giving free golf to juniors was the first example. The club offered their facility to the PNGA and the USGA for their events. Paul Farrens, the first Alderwood President became the PNGA and the USGA club representative.  When AS Kerry retired from the Executive Committee of the USGA he recommended Farrens as his replacement. This would prove later to be a real bonus for Alderwood. The Board encouraged all clubs in Oregon to join the PNGA and the USGA.  Later this worked to Alderwood’s advantage.

When the Depression hit in 1930 MANAGER devised a plan to ensure his membership could remain members of the club. He called his plan “The Equitable Dues”. The Board set a value on each round of golf a member played. From 1930 -1940 Alderwood members only paid dues according to the number of rounds of golf each player played per month. This plan proved so successful Alderwood actually had a waiting list during the 1930’s. Paul Farrens, the club’s USGA representative, convinced the USGA to support the plan nationally. Many clubs adopted the plan to save their club.

Due to the depression and a decrease in revenues Columbia CC reorganized in 1935 under the new name Columbia-Edgewater. Similarly, Multnomah and Lake Oswego in 1935 also reorganized under the name Oswego Lake G&CC. The new organization sold the Multnomah course for housing development to provide much needed funding for the new group.

Probably the most influential founder for Alderwood was AH Craig. He foresaw in his early days at Rose City newspaper coverage enhanced the success of the enterprise. A search of the Oregonian and the Oregon Journal illustrates how much exposure in the newspapers Gould generated. The extensive coverage in the newspapers for the 1937 USGA Men’s Amateur Championship certainly contributed to the $5000 profit the event created.

The Course

In his book Concerning Golf, John Low in Chapter IX outlined the new principles for designing a golf course under a strategic system.  Previously professionals and the top players laid out courses based upon a penal system. All bad shots were penalized. Under the new system the designer “Architect” created multiple routings on each hole for a player to follow. The architect wanted to create a golf course so all levels of player could enjoy his experience. Rather than plastering the fairways and greens with various hazards under the strategic system, the new design principles used fewer.

In Ireland, from 1905 – 1915, golf designers created more courses than in any other period. CH Alison and HS Colt created many of the new layouts. Alison and Colt, both members of St Andrews and close friends with Low, designed their creations using the new philosophy. Fortunately, Vernon Macan, a Dublin lawyer, also knew Colt, Low, and Alison through their Law Golfing Societies. Macan observed the new architects at work in Ireland and in Britain on his frequent trips to the British Amateur and the Bar Society competitions.

Vernon Macan arrived in Victoria in June 1912 armed with the knowledge and observations of the John Low’s new design principles being used in Britain. His first creation, Colwood in Victoria opened to rave reviews because Macan designed the course using Low’s strategic design principles. For the first time in the northwest players challenge themselves on Colwood using a route designed for their skill level. Vernon Macan created his golf courses so every player especially “the man who paid the bills at the golf club the average golfer would have an enjoyable round. He also designed a routing so the low handicap player would be challenged and rewarded.” Both types of players enjoyed Macan’s creations.

Alderwood represented his tenth complete course design. In chronological order, Macan’s earliest designs included: Colwood (1913), Qualicum (1913), Inglewood (1920), Manito (1921), Chehalis (1922), Rainier (1922), Fircrest (1922), Marine Drive (1923), Glen Acres (1923), and Alderwood (1924). At Alderwood he used all his design principles used on the earlier designs to create the most difficult golf course for the low handicap player in the Northwest. The results in the 1937 USGA Men’s Amateur Championship indicated Alderwood ranked as one of the most difficult courses in the US.

William Tucker arrived from New York to build the Macan’s Fircrest course in Tacoma. Tucker came with credentials indicating he had built courses for the best architects on the east coast such as Tillinghast, Mackenzie, and Ross. After viewing the proposed Alderwood site, Tucker believed the site could produce a great golf course. The alluvial soil would provide the important drainage advantage. Chandler Egan, the recognized golf architect in the area at this time, and Vernon Macan each competed for the privilege to create their masterpiece on the property.

Tucker’s praised Macan as an innovative new architect. “Mr. Macan is one of the coming great architects of the country. He is original in his ideas and has not reached the point where he has become stereotyped in his views, as many architects have. Further he knows golf and the needs of the average golfer. And probably as important as anything else, he takes plenty of time to a job and gets everything possible out of a layout.” Because of Tucker’s glowing remarks about Vernon Macan, the founders chose him over Egan.

Macan notified all prospective clients that he needed to be able to walk the property in order to gain “a feel for the land”. Macan. On each piece of land, Macan sought to create a championship course. He passed on many projects if he could not attain this objective.  During the Vimy Ridge battle in WW I, Macan had his left leg amputated below the knee. Blackberry vines and underbrush covered the property hindering Mac’s ability to walk this site.  To solve this issue, the founders rented an aircraft and a stenographer. The pilot flew over the sight many times in order for Mac to gain a feel for the land. The stenographer recorded all Macan’s comments about the site. In later correspondence Macan commented about his first flying experience as a nightmare. Macan initial report to the Board indicated this project would be his eighth complete design.

Before preparing any drawings, Mac provided the Founders with his feelings about the site.

“Alderwood will be either a good course or a poor one, depending on how the site is handled. The land is flat. To add character, the land requires mounds throughout most of the fairways to furnish natural hazards. Dirt for these mounds could be taken from the fairways which would in turn, take away this flat appearance., leaving small valleys and thus add further beauty to the layout. I may say there is no reason why with such favourable turf conditions the greens should not be playable and in good condition all the year. While a good seed bed is important to obtain a good putting surface three main points to be observed in obtaining good turf – first drainage; second, drainage; third and last, drainage. At Alderwood I do not contemplate any difficulty that cannot be overcome without abnormal expense.”

In February 1924 he presented his first preliminary drawing to the membership. The drawing showed an unusual course layout – 7 par 5’s, 5 par 3’s and 8 par 4’s for a par 74 6500 yards golf course. This preliminary drawing illustrated Macan planned to create a very unique one-of-a-kind golf course for the Alderwood members. “While I have designed 7 par five holes at Alderwood, it is my idea that the tigers of the game, the Egans, Willings, or Wilhelms will under favourable conditions reach most of these greens in two shots. As the course develops the tees at these par five holes will be adjusted so that at all times of the year the greens can be reached in two shots by these terrible young men. (Note Macan reduced the length of #2 and # 5 to make them par 4 holes – reducing the scorecard to 5 par five holes, 5 par three holes and 10 par four holes.

While these long holes will prove severe, I believe the short holes will establish the course’s reputation for general excellence, interest, and amusement. They are all difficult; while three of them entail the crossing of water hazards, all will prove extremely difficult threes. Weak players should have no difficulty in playing them in four.” Alderwood members and guests recorded fewer than less than 100 holes-in-one on the par three’s in the thirty year history.

In typical Macan fashion he created a course where the medium and high handicap player could choose a routing where they could enjoy their round of golf. The low handicap player would be challenged.  During the life of Alderwood’s 30-year life span few low handicap players ever broke 70. Frank Dolp and Don Moe, both Alderwood members, managed to conquer Alderwood regularly. Dolp set the course record 66 in 1927. Al Zimmerman, the club professional, held the professional course record 63. No top amateur or professional ever came close to breaking these numbers during Alderwood’s 30-year reign.

Whenever Alderwood hosted the Pacific Northwest Golf Association and the Oregon State championships, the top players who had no experience playing Alderwood believed they would be able to shoot a very low score at Alderwood because of the 5 par 5’s and the 5 par 3’s. These players did not succeed.  Pacific Northwest Golf Association Men’s Championship, 1929 and 1939 Oregon State Championships during the qualifying rounds no player broke 70.

George Otten constructed Alderwood under Macan’s supervision. Later, he constructed all Mac’s creations in the Portland area. Because of his amazing design for Alderwood, the Columbia CC Board gave him the task to create another masterpiece for them. The Multnomah Board wanted a new vision for their course so they assigned the project to Willie Locke, a California golf architect. Riverside near Columbia and Lake Oswego hired Chandler Egan to design their courses.

“I am an advocate of rewarding accurately placed tee shots and further that the centre of the fairway is not necessarily the correct place for the tee shots to finish. Golf is a game of brains as well as brawn, and while Alderwood will provide plenty of opportunity to use the latter, the course would not be up to the high standard I believe it will attain if it did not call for more than a modicum of the former. A study of the plan will show that there is little, if any, interference with the weaker players from the tee. The bunkers, generally are placed too far away to be reached except by the stronger better players.

It is true the greens are very closely bunkered. This is essential if good second shots are to receive their just reward. And wild ones their quota of golfing punishment. Anyone who has ambition and ability calls for a round of 90 or more can play the course without crossing a bunker at all if we except water hazards. If this point ais appreciated I can better explain that to provide a severe test of golf for the best players and at the same time leave the weaker players in peace to get their fives and sixes, is the ambition of modern golf course architecture. If this has, as I believe, been achieved at Alderwood.  I am personally content.”

The original drawings showed Macan planned to use angled fairway sand bunkers to challenge the long hitters. At some point during the construction process he introduced a new design principle to control these stars. For example, on hole #2 he eliminated all sand bunkers. For the long hitters he placed mounds and grass valleys in the landing area and decreased the width of the fairway as the challenge. He used this technique on other holes. The championship players who knew Alderwood well, had the feeling Macan favoured the short accurate driver because their tee shots avoided these very small landing areas. In later designs, for example Langara in Vancouver, Macan used his fairway grass bunkers rather than fairway sand bunkers throughout the course.

Before arriving in BC in June 1912, Vernon Macan ranked in the top five amateur golfers in Ireland. He annually participated in the southwest Ireland amateur championship held annually at the Lahinch GC. He won the event in 1910. Lahinch became one of his favourite British courses. The Lahinch course contained many variations of dogleg holes. In 1913 Colwood Golf Course opened to rave reviews. The Seattle Times described the new type of golf course architecture for the northwest as rivaling any top golf course on the east coast. What made Colwood unique? For the first time, Vernon Macan introduced a dog-leg hole to a golf course on the Pacific Coast. Colwood’s hole #3 used the same design as the standard dog leg hole at Lahinch. Alderwood’s #6 a ninety- degree dog-leg right par 5 hole, closely duplicated Lahinch’s right-angled hole #7. Macan frequently used recognizable British golf course holes in his designs. Players in the 1937 USGA Amateur dubbed this hole as “the suicide hole.”

In 1927 Macan returned to Alderwood to make alterations to the course based upon the wishes of the medium and high handicap members. George Junor placed a culvert into the ditch that traversed the 5th, 13th, and 15th. Macan covered the area with turf allowing the grass to grow to the length of the standard rough on the course. To eliminate the creek crossing the 10th and 17th fairways, Macan also had a culvert installed. In these cases, he constructed a cross bunker.  The 16th green, with the severe slope towards the creek on the right, proved to difficult for the average golfer to keep the ball on the green. Macan moved the green away from the creek allowing fairway rough to catch the sliced tee shots.

In all Macan’s creations throughout his sixty-year career, he attempted to prevent players from hitting high lofted clubs to his greens and making them stop next to the hole. He belonged to the old style of play, preferring the bump and run or the low pitch and run shot.

Don Moe, one of Alderwood’s champions, during his 1930 Walker Cup trip to Britain praised Macan’s Alderwood creation.          “I (Moe) begin to appreciate more and more the greatness of Alderwood and its architect Vernon Macan. Sunnydale is probably the greatest golf course I have ever seen. Royal St George’s is the cruelest and windiest course I’ve seen. St George’s is a composite of all sorts of blind shots, sand, great length, and wind. The features of the English courses are the keenness of the greens, the accuracy demanded of all shots, and the amount of trouble to be found. The roughs are long and full of bushes, heather etc. And the fairways are very narrow. Drives must be placed or one or more strokes will be lost. The greens are quite large, with plentiful trouble about them. They are very fast and have many rolls, but are very true. A ten-foot putt on Alderwoods greens would require a hit that would send the ball 35 – 40 feet on English greens.”

In 1930 the Founders hired Chandler Egan, a nationally recognized golf architect, to review their course. They wanted Egan to raise the standard of the course to meet USGA regulations for a national championship. Chiefly Egan wanted to place bunkers in strategic locations on the course to challenge the scratch golfers in a tournament. The average club player would not be affected. Also, he shortened #14 from a 240 yard par 3 to 170 yards creating a more challenging short hole.

After playing in the 1937 USGA Men’s Amateur Championship, Chick Evan’s praised Alderwood.

“To me Alderwood has much of the best there is in golf. The general condition of the whole course was splendid. The tees were well placed and of good dimensions; the fairways were liberal; but not too liberal; and the greens pleased me very much on one particular point and that is their contour. There have been too many championships decided with lucky long putts. The entrances to the Alderwood greens are skillfully worked out.  I liked looking towards the greens, and, in sizing them up, came much of the pleasure of the shot to be.

Perhaps the most agreeable feature of the course is the way in which the dangerous ground patches have been woven into the landscape. I must also compliment the designer on the short holes, for all of them will remain forever in my memory. I especially liked the last four finishing holes are very good indeed, even down to that monument of picturesqueness, the 18th, which perhaps is the last hole I will play in the northwest. The members have a great golf course of which you can be proud and you can rest assured that Alderwood ranks among the first-class golf courses of the world.”

George Rotan, USGA Executive Committee member, praised Macan’s masterpiece.

“Your five short holes are the best group of short holes – #3, #9, #11, #14, and #16- on any course in the country. Another feather in Alderwood’s cap is hole #2. Only one player birdied the hole during the entire week. The natural design with no artificial hazards such as bunkers is one of the finest designed holes in the country. No 6 which was dubbed ‘the suicide hole’ by the players is one of the hardest holes on the course because of the fact that it dog-legs acutely to the right. It takes an accurately placed drive of nearly 200 yards to reach the dog-leg and should a player attempt to cut the corner, he would have to clear. Some tall poplar (alder) trees. Some long drivers attempted to cut the corner during the practice rounds, but in the championship the players never attempted the feat to gain a few yards.”

John G. Jackson, the USGA President, confessed he had never seen a hole like #2. “that second hole is one of the greatest golfing holes in the world and the entire course is truly an excellent one. The layout wasn’t easy is reflected in the medal play rounds when only Roger Kelly the medalist was able to crack par. Bud Ward and Arthur Doering equaled par.” Research of the medal rounds and the matches showed no player birdied #2. Similarly, no player posted a round in the 60’s. Throughout Alderwood’s 30-year history only a handful of players ever posted rounds in the 60’s or birdied #2.

There is no doubt the 1937 USGA Men’s Amateur Championship definitely brought national recognition to Vernon Macan as an architect. Alderwood became a nationally recognized golf course ranking on the same level as the top golf courses in the east. To illustrate this fact Sports Illustrated in November 1937 produced an All-American 18-hole golf course. Alderwood’s number two ranked as the 2nd hole on the magazines golf course.

Club House

In 1927 the new Spanish style clubhouse opened on the banks of the Columbia. This location caused backups on the 12th hole, so the club asked Mac for permission to change the number for the holes. Macan agreed. In the 1960’s Mac loved to inform people of this fact. “If the original boundaries for the property I was given have never changed then the original routing for my design has never changed.” Alderwood hosted PNGA, OSGA, Oregon Open’s., and the Oregon State Junior. The course gained the reputation as the best, most beautiful, and most difficult course in the northwest. Tournaments Hosted by Alderwood

The 1937 USGA Men’s Amateur Championship at Alderwood

Because of the success of the 1929 USGA Men’s Amateur at Del Monte, the Alderwood Directors believed the tournament would return to the pacific coast within a decade. They wanted their course to be selected to host this prestigious event. The Board would do everything possible to make this happen. Paul Farrens, the club’s USGA club representative and AJ Gould, the club’s publicity man, directed all their energy towards this goal. OTHERS In 1931 when AS Kerry retired from the Executive Committee. Kerry recommended Paul Farrens became the NW representative on this influential committee.  Chandler Egan, who resided in Medford Oregon  and San Francisco, became the Northern California representative. The Alderwood Directors passed a motion to hire a national golf architect to offer any changes for Alderwood. Because of his partnership with Alistair Mackenzie, the Board chose Chandler Egan to prepare a report for Alderwood. Egan and Mackenzie upgraded Del monte prior to the course hosting the 1929 USGA Men’s Amateur. Eagan believed the course needed very few changes. He created a new green for #6. And added a few bunkers. His upgrades never resulted in a course closure for any hole.

When the USGA introduced sectional qualifying in 1930, Alderwood offered their course every year.  USGA Publics tournament came to Eastmoreland in 1934. Ralph Tomlinson, the grandfather for the Oregon State Junior Championships oversaw the success for this event. Alderwood canvassed the Oregon golf clubs to join the USGA and send representatives to the USGA annual meetings.

In 1936 the USGA Course Selection committee met to choose the 1937 site for the USGA Men’s Championship. Alderwood during the past 6 years did everything possible to have their course chosen. Fortunately, Chandler Eagan just prior to his untimely death in August 1936 recommended four possible northwest sites: Lake Oswego and Alderwood in Portland, Fircrest in Tacoma, and Inglewood in Seattle. His #1 preference was Alderwood. Vernon Macan, the busiest golf architect in the northwest, designed three of the four courses.  The USGA received an additional application from Del Monte, the 1929 host. The selection committee chose Alderwood.

The Alderwood Board immediately posted a $10,000 bond to ensure the financing for the tournament was guaranteed. The tournament actually produced a $5000 profit. No other event during the Depression produced such a positive outcome. The August 20 – 27 USGA Men’s Amateur Championship at Alderwood CC Portland Oregon had a couple for firsts. The recent 14 club rule by the USGA came into effect for the first time. Every group on the course for medal play qualifying and match play rounds had a lady Alderwood member keeping score. Scoreboards were able to keep the spectators informed about matches on the course.

The 180 best amateur golfers in North America played in the event. Seven past champions plus state and regional winners, Walker Cup players, winners of past USGA events all came to Alderwood to bring her to her knees. The course had a reputation as being extremely difficult – perhaps one of the most difficult in the nation. Each had the objective to conquer what appeared to be this friendly easy layout considering the scorecard showed 5 par 5’s and 5 par 3’s.  In the 36-hole qualifying rounds only one player broke 70. His 70 – 71 led the qualifiers. The next qualifier posted 144. 153. Hole #2 proved to be the most difficult one on the course. During all the qualifying rounds and the match play competitions only one player birdied the hole. During the qualifying rounds and the match play rounds only one person birdied the hole. The hole had no bunkers. Only the natural features challenged the stars. HOLE DESCRIPTION. Macan believed Hole #2 was the best designed hole he ever created. When Joseph Dey, the Executive Director of the USGA, saw the hole, he stated; “This is one of the best designed holes in America.” The reigning USGA President Clarkson furthered Dey’s comments; {“I have played golf world wide #2 is one of the best designed holes in the world.” qualified for the 64 spots in the match play competition.

One general standard comment from the competitors about Alderwood was; “This is an extremely deceiving tricky but fairly designed course. It is very difficult to get close to the pins on the greens.”  This was a standard Macan design technique. Mac did not want a player purchasing a lofted club in the pro shop to make it easy to approach his greens. To ensure a player would not succeed he slopped the greens left to right; right to left; front to back; and NEVER BACK TO FRONT. The winner Johnny Goodman survived the gruelling layout by conquering the greens with his running pitch shot and his lofted pitch shots with his mashie niblick (7 iron).  No other player could successfully execute this shot on a consistent basis. Goodman also conquered the greens by successfully overcoming the stymies that were laid on him by his opponents. Chick Evans’ gave high praises for the design. He focused on the subtlety of the approached to the greens. comments regarding Alderwood.

Portland citizens supported the event like USGA had never experienced. The first practice day the organizers ran out of tickets. The crowds varied from 4000 – 5000 during the practice rounds and the qualifying. During the matches Don Moe and Frank Dolp naturally drew the biggest galleries 6000 – 7000 Various estimates for the final ranged from 8000 – 10,000.

Flood 1948

In June 1948 the pacific northwest experienced their worst flooding on record. The Fraser River in BC flooded the Skagit Valley in Washington and the area from Hope to Vancouver in BC. When the dyke broke near Alderwood the Columbia flooded Riverside, Columbia-Edgewater, Colwood and Broadmoor. The flood waters covered the Alderwood course to 15 feet in some areas. News reports from the manger indicated the water level “reached one foot below the 18-foot eve on his clubhouse.” When the waters receded in July the Alderwood members formed groups of twenty members to clear the course of debris and silt. Others cleaned the silt from the clubhouse and work sheds. By July 31st the members could return to their beloved course using temporary greens. Unfortunately, in late August Alderwood informed Robert Hudson the course would not be ready to host his 1948 Portland Open in September. Robert Hudson passed away prior to the 1949 event. Alderwood was seeking to host this event because the top PGA stars regularly attended this event. Would Alderwood continue its reputation as being a very difficult and well-designed layout after the pros played it. In 1928 Walter Hagen played the course in December. He believed Alderwood was one of the most challenging courses in the US. He looked forward to returning during the summer months to see Alderwood in its prime condition. He never repeated. Horton smith believed some of the holes rivelled August, particularly the 7th hole.

The Airport

Alderwood’s ultimate demise began in 1936. The US Ministry of the Interior encouraged states and cities to apply for funding for civic projects to create employment for local relief workers. The Grand Cooullee Dam was such a project. The Portland Port Authority lobbied the Minister of Interior to fund an airport. After the application was approved the Authority chose a 780-acre parcel of land south of the Alderwood GC for the site. The initial site did not affect the golf course. It did cause a noise nuisance to the golfers on the course. The airport opened in 1940. During the War the military constructed a base on another parcel of land southeast of the existing airport. This expansion also did not affect Alderwood.

After the War the Port Authority decided to expand their airport into an international terminal with an 8000-foot runway. This would rival the runway in Vancouver BC. Portland wanted to have the longest runway on the Pacific Coast in the US. This would be a financial boom for Portland. Travellers to the Orient and Hawaii would come from many US cities to depart from Portland International. This marked the next step in Alderwood’s eventual closure. First the Airport wanted only 30 acres of the southern holes of Alderwood. (holes #2, #3,#4,#5, #14 and portions of

The Alderwood Board hoped the military would move their facility to another location. This would allow a new configuration for the new runway. Hopefully, Alderwood could be relocated to that site and remain in business. The military refused. Alderwood sold the 30 acres to the Airport authority for $96,000

Macan re-designed his best designed golf course. The new layout opened in June 1951. Frank Dolp who always loved Alderwood believed the new creation surpassed the old one.            In 1953 the airport authority announced new plans for additional runways and taxi areas and a new larger terminal. Alderwood would need to go. The authority offered $325,000 for the entire Alderwood course clubhouse and all facilities. Alderwood balked; wanting $700,000

Research indicates Alderwood never thought of relocation again.  The membership conceded the course and club would cease operation. The members only wanted fair compensation. The golf community did not rally to save Alderwood. After a one-week trial by jury in June 1953, the jury ruled Alderwood would receive $600,000 plus all fees for their property and buildings. The Alderwood Yacht Club that leased the banks of the Columbia for their club from Alderwood became a tenant of the Airport Authority. On July 31, 1953 Alderwood ceased operation. All the club chattels were offered to the membership at a nominal cost. The disbanded Alderwood membership moved to various Portland golf clubs – 150 to Columbia Edgewater GC and 100 to the Portland GC. The only remnant of Alderwood today is the Alderwood Invitational Team Competition hosted each year by Columbia-Edgewater. Originally the event commenced in 1927 when four-man teams from the private clubs in Portland competed on a gross score basis each year in the middle of May. While at Alderwood, the Invitational had the best players in the area compete. Rarely did any of these top players ever break 70 on Alderwood.

Macan from 1924 through the 1950’s referred to Alderwood as his best designed golf course. When he undertook the construction of the Shaughnessy GC in 1958, he wanted this creation to be his crowning jewel. The course he wanted to be remembered by. Unfortunately, all signs indicate Macan’s second amazing creation could suffer Alderwood’s fate.


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