The Early Years
This is a memorandum of recollections on the history of the Santa Maria Country Club. It is prepared from memory and from hearsay statements with little research and verification of facts. Whenever possible, the hearsay statements and recollections should be verified.
The history and development of the club itself, the golf course, the clubhouse and the members will be discussed separately.
The Santa Maria Golf and Country Club was incorporated in the early 1920s as a for-profit corporation. The purpose was to acquire land and build a golf course. One hundred and sixty acres of land were acquired approximately three miles south of the city of Santa Maria. This land was an “L” shaped parcel consisting of the eighty acres, upon which holes 1 through 8 and 7 and 18 are now located, and eighty acres to the south now utilized as the northerly portion of Waller Park.
The southerly eighty acres, now part of Waller Park, consisted of a number of wind blown sand hills while the northerly eighty acres contained sand hills on the southern and northern parts of the property. The middle portion of the property consisting of holes 18, 1 and 5 was a depression that held water during heavy winters, but normally was dry.
Nine holes were built on the northerly eighty acres in the early 1920s. It is not known whether loans were obtained to build the course or to purchase the land or to build the clubhouse. At any rate, by the time the depression of the 1930s arrived, the club was in debt. The club was in danger of losing all of its land and facilities due to default in payment of debt. The club then negotiated for the sale of the southerly eighty acres. This land was sold to the County of Santa Barbara in the early 1930s for the purpose of development of a park. The reported sales price was about $4,500.00, which was sufficient to cure the debt default.
However, the club’s financial problems were not over. During the 1930s, a number of assessments were levied upon the members. Not all members paid the assessments and their stock was forfeited for nonpayment of assessments. Generally speaking, the club did not prosper during the 1930s, but survived.
In the early 1940s, oil was discovered in the area. An oil lease was negotiated and the club received a substantial bonus for signing the lease. Two wells were drilled on the course, both of which became producing wells. These oil wells were located approximately one hundred yards south of the northerly boundary line of the club property. One well was located between No. 2 and No.17 fairways. The other well was located to the right of No. 3 fairway, approximately fifty yards west of No. 3 green. These wells produced oil from the 1940s through at least the early 1970s when they were abandoned and the equipment removed.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the membership in the club varied between seventy-five and one hundred and fifty.
During World War II, unlike many clubs in the country, the Santa Maria Golf and Country Club continued to operate. This was probably due in part to the nearby military bases at Camp Cook and the Army Air Corps base at what is now the Santa Maria Public Airport. The Santa Maria Golf and Country Club was then the only golf course between Santa Barbara and Morro Bay. Military personnel were permitted to play at the club during World War II.
After World War II, the members of the Santa Maria Golf and Country Club felt that the newer members who were joining the club after World War II should not be entitled to benefit from the oil income. It was felt that the members who had suffered through the financial hardships of the depression and paid a number of assessments should be entitled to the oil income and the playing members of the club should be required to pay the operating expenses. It was therefore decided to form a new “playing” club to lease the facilities while the original club would become a land owning club. Therefore, the Santa Maria Country Club was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation on January 6, 1947.
The nonprofit Santa Maria Country Club became thereafter known as the “playing club” and the original Santa Maria Golf and Country Club became known as the “parent club”.
After World War II, efforts were made to acquire additional land to build an additional nine holes. Negotiations to lease or purchase the Morrison property to the north were unsuccessful. In the late 1940s, the club was successful in leasing thirty-seven acres to the west from the County of Santa Barbara and City of Santa Maria, who then jointly owned the Santa Maria Public Airport. The County and City acquired the airport at the end of World War II from the federal government. The terms of the grant from the federal government provided that the airport land would have to be used for aviation purposes or associated uses.
The lease of the thirty-seven acres was about twenty-five years.
In the 1970s, efforts were made to purchase the thirty-seven acres leased from the airport district. The airport district was formed in the early 1960s and acquired the land from the City and County. When it became apparent that the land could be purchased from the airport district for use as a golf course (with restrictions on any other development), it was decided that the playing club should attempt to purchase both the original eighty acres owned by the parent club and the thirty-seven acres leased from the airport district.
Since the playing club was a nonprofit corporation, it could not or did not issue any stock. The playing club was authorized and did issue memberships. These memberships were non-proprietary and non-transferable. The playing club did charge an initiation fee. The initial initiation fee was less than $25.00. ($25.00 was the initiation fee in 1957). While the playing club was operated conservatively from the 1940s through the 1970s and no significant debt was incurred, substantial reserves were not accumulated. It became necessary to raise additional funds to purchase the land from the airport district and the parent club.
My recollection is that the land was purchased for $2,500.00 per acre from the airport district and about $3,000.00 from the playing club. At any rate, the total that had to be raised was approximately $400,000.00 to $450,000.00.
It was decided to issue and sell transferable memberships in order to raise the necessary funds to purchase the property. All existing members were allowed to purchase a transferable membership for $1,000.00 each. Existing members continued indefinitely as an associate member paying slightly more dues. However, upon the death or resignation of an associate member, the membership would terminate.
More than four hundred new memberships were sold and the land was purchased. After the land was purchased from the parent club, the parent club dissolved and each parent club stockholder received approximately $2,000.00 for each share owned. The playing club continues as a nonprofit corporation, but with transferable memberships.