The Golf Course
It is not known who originally designed the course. However, it is reasonable to guess what happened by briefly reviewing the history of golf in the United States. This history is also useful in analyzing the changes made to the course over the years.
It is well known that golf originated in Scotland, probably at St. Andrews, about 1450. The original Scottish courses were built on links land. Links land consists mainly of sand deposited on the Scottish seashores by the action of ocean storms. Links land is similar to the Pismo Beach – Oceano sand dunes and the sandy area along the ocean at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Much of the links land in Scotland was common land and publicly owned. The four courses at St. Andrews to this day are all city owned and constructed on public land. Many courses in Scotland are still owned by the public and public has access to the links land through designated paths through the courses.
The early Scottish links land courses were laid out and routed through natural valleys between the low sand mounds and hills. These valleys were sheltered from the wind where natural grasses grew. Turf grasses were later introduced. Very little land was excavated or moved. Therefore, to a large extent, nature designed the early Scottish courses and man only utilized the natural routes.
In the 1800's, it was discovered that the hearth land in the London area of southern England was also suitable for golf courses. A number of courses were built in southern England. These courses became known as “parkland courses” since they were not located on links land.
While there were golf courses in the United States during the colonial period, golf did not become popular until after the Civil War and, particularly in the 1880's and 1890's. A number of courses were built in the eastern United States.
As golf became more popular in England and in the United States, a demand for golf course designers arose. Initially in England and Scotland, golfers, usually professional golfers, designed most courses. Many of the early Scottish links courses were redesigned by the expert golfers of the day.
When golf began to develop in the United States, Scottish and English players were imported to design the courses. There was a surge in the popularity of golf in the years before World War I. In the years after World War I, through the 1920's, golf became extremely popular in the United States. There was a trend for designing and building courses for the “masses”. The early courses in the late 1800's were build primarily for the wealthy.
Many of the courses built for the masses before and after World War I were built in the same manner as the early Scottish link courses, utilizing natural contours with very little excavation or earth movement. Mechanized earthmovers, such as bulldozers and mechanized scrapers, were not developed until the 1930's. All shaping of the land prior to the 1930's had to be done with Fresno scrapers powered by teams of horses or mules and by hand labor. Therefore, unless substantial financial resources were available, courses were designed and built with the idea of utilizing natural terrain as much as possible.
The design of these early courses for the masses also were crude and rudimentary. Some courses were sometimes designed, laid out and staked in only a few hours. The designer would inspect the land and then stake the location for tees and greens. The members or developers would thereafter build the tees and greens in the designated locations. The designers would have no part in the actual construction of the golf course.
It seems clear that the Santa Maria golf course was designed like something similar to the “staking” method. This is shown by the original layout of the original 9 holes as shown in Plate 1. Every hole was designed in a straight line. There were no dog legs whatsoever. There was no excavation or movement of earth whatsoever in any of the fairways. The only substantial movement of earth for any of the greens was the flattening of natural sand hills for the greens for holes 2 and 5. There was only one fairway bunker consisting of a depression about thirty yards short of No. 4 green. The main green traps were the sides of the natural sand hills on holes 2 and 5. The sand was the natural sand in the area.
The original fairways were built in the same manner as the Scottish links courses. Turf was planted on the tees and the landing areas of the fairways. There were normally one hundred to one hundred and fifty yards of bare land between the tee and the fairway. All of the greens were generally flat following the natural contour of the land. The original layout of the Santa Maria golf course did not have any penal or strategic features that have become common in modern golf courses.
While many of the Scottish and English golf courses did have penal or even strategic features, these qualities are generally a development in modern times. A golf hole has penal qualities if it is routed in such a way that an errant shot will result in a sever penalty. Examples will be holes that border the ocean; creeks, lakes or other natural or man made hazards. A strategically designed hole is one that offers a safe route to a difficult par or a hazardous route to an easier par. The original layout at the Santa Maria golf course had no strategic features. However, there were penal features consisting of the rough.
The rough at the Santa Maria Country Club, in its natural state, consists mainly of blow sand. In essence, the rough was all one giant sand trap. It was very difficult to hit crisp, clean shot off of such sand. It was necessary to pick the ball off of the sand, which was a difficult shot. Quite often, shots hit from the rough would be fluffed only a few feet. Therefore, the strategy of the original course consisted almost entirely of keeping the ball out of the rough.
After World War II, there was an effort made to modernize the course.
Alternate tees were constructed on each of the holes so that a round of golf would be played from 18 different tees to 9 greens. The route of the holes ere also changed. Therefore, a round of golf did not consist of playing the 9 identical holes twice. The route to each hole was different and the length was different.
The routing of the 9-hole course with alternate tees is shown on Plate 2. The yardage’s are from memory and probably are not completely accurate. The par for the course was changed from 72 to 71 by the NO. 1 hole being played as a long 4 par on the second round, rather than as a par 5.
Later, No. 6 hole, which was initially played as a three par from two locations, was modified to provide that one location was changed to make the hole into a three hundred and twenty-three yard par 4. This is shown on Plate 2a. Par for the course was thus restored to 72.
When the thirty-seven acres were leased from the city and county in the late 1940's, plans were made to build an additional 9 holes. The directors of the club originally made the layout of the course. However, an architect, reputed to be Bob Baldock of Fresno, was consulted.
The members and directors originally laid out the 8 holes west of the railroad track in an opposite direction from the final design. For example, the present No.16 was laid out to be No. 9 running from the present green north to the present tee. No. 14 was projected to be No. 10 running from east to west.
The architect pointed out that the alignment suggested by the members resulted in slice shots going out of bounds on the boundary holes. Mr. Baldock suggested that a better design was for the out of bounds to be on the left or the hook side for right-handed golfers. The alignment was thus reversed to its present configuration.
The design of the 8 holes west of the railroad tracks generally followed the natural contours. However, there was substantial earth movement as well. A major earth movement consisted of contouring a large sand hill in the middle of the property. The sand hill was contoured to provide for 15 tee, 9 green, 14 green, the 10 and 12 double tee and 11 green. In addition, the fairway of hole No. 12 was flattened out to provide a landing area. Hole No. 3 was also added on the front 9 and the former No. 3 green became part of hole No. 4. The fairway route of hole No. 4 was also redesigned to its present location.
This “back 9” was constructed during the spring and summer of 1951. The total cost of this construction was less that $25,000.00. There were substantial member contributions towards the construction, particularly by farmers who were members of the club. A number of farmers utilized their own bulldozers and other equipment to move the dirt required to rough grade the course to Mr. Baldock’s design. The members also spent many weekends planting trees.
It should be noted that the original one hundred and sixty acres purchased by the parent club had some characteristics of links land. The eighty acres to the south that was sold for Waller Park consisted primarily of rolling sand hills. There are also sand hills on the northern part of the property. The roughs left as natural sand also is similar to the Scottish links courses.
With the building of the back 9, the transformation of the Santa Maria golf course from a Scottish links type course to a parkland course began. The rough areas between the tees and landing areas of the fairways were planted in turf. The roughs were also planted in turf and an irrigation system was installed to irrigate the rough areas. Trees were also planted, which provided some relief from the ever-present wind. Therefore, the Santa Maria course was transformed from a links type course to a parkland type course in the 1950's and 1960's.
Additional changes were made after the back 9 holes were constructed.
Hole No. 5 originally was short one hundred and ten yard 3 par, the route of which was across the access road. The tee was to the east of the front part of No. 1 tee. The hole was to the south across the entry road. This hole became No. 6 after the back 9 was constructed. In the late 1950s or early 1960s, this hole was relocated south of the entry road. The tee was east of the present no. 6 tee and the green was located at the approximate location of the present ladies’ tee. No. 7 was then played as a par 4 over the route utilized during the alternate tee area of the 9-hole course.
Later, No. 6 was redesigned and constructed in its present location. Hole No. 7 was then restored to a long par 3, as is presently the case.
The course was redesigned in the late 1980's by architect Ken Killian. Holes 2, 9 and 14 were rebuilt in the late 1980's to Mr. Killians’s specifications. The remaining holes were rebuilt in the early 1990's by the course green superintendent, Dale Foster, generally following Mr. Killian’s designs. The contours of the greens were changed from Mr. Killian’s designs. However, the remaining design features of the greens were followed.
Mr. Killian’s suggested modifications to the fairway trapping have not yet been completed.
Forward tees were constructed in 1993 and 1994 so as to provide for forward tee locations on each hole.