Experts Rate Rancho Park Golf Course (1949)

Here is a group of Southern California golf legends posing on the 10th tee of the new Rancho golf course, on that magic day in 1949 when they first rated the course!

An article from the Los Angeles Times from March 24, 1949:

The new Rancho golf course received its baptism of fire yesterday when eight local links expert tested the course for the first time.

The purpose of their play was to give the course a handicap par rating and also to list the holes in order of difficulty for the score cards. The course will not be opened officially until it is the scene of the National Public Links championship July 11-16. The links will be available for public play following that time.

Wille Hunter, pro at Riviera, and Johnny Dawson, Lakeside amateur, scored 70s yesterday. Harold Dawson, executive secretary of the Southern California Golf Association, and a 7-handicap golfer, scored a 77. J.C. Cunningham, a public links official and a 12 handicapper, scored 82 and Bill Johnson, L.A. city golf course manager, a 16 handicapper, had 87.

Others in the group did not play full rounds. They were Maurie Luxford, president of the City Recreation and Park Commission; George Von Elm and Golf Architect Billy Bell.

Course Rated

Johnny Dawson gave the course a par rating of 70.9 and Harold Dawson rated it 70.7. The actual par will be 71. The second hole, 445-yard 4-par, was judged the most difficult and the 16th, a 179-yard 3-par, rated the easiest.

Rancho, at Pico Blvd. and Patricia Ave., is on the site of the old Rancho course, which has been closed for several years.

Transcribed by J.Jones, Rancho Park Golf Club historian.

1949 Rancho Golf Course Opening Score Card

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The Rancho Golf Course Opening (1949)

Cover photo of the second green on Rancho Golf course in 1949.

After three years of construction and “one and quarter million cubic yards of earth” moved, the new municipal Rancho Golf Course opened with the 24th Amateur Public Links Championship of the United States Golf Association in July 1949.

The Golf division of the Recreation and Parks Department of the City of Los Angeles purchased the old Rancho Golf Club for $225,643, mostly to cover overdue Los Angeles County tax bills in 1946.

“One of the truly amazing circumstances in this land purchase and its subsequent development, is the fact that this entire golf course project has been carried out not by the use of tax funds, but with surplus revenues from the operation of other city golf courses, principally those of Griffith Park. Despite a very modest schedule of fees, the City by careful operation and a program of savings accumulated a sufficient fund not only to buy the Rancho property but also to pay for the complete golf course development aggregating altogether in excess of three-quarters of a million dollars.” 1

1947 Plan for Rancho Golf Course

“Rancho Golf course has been designed with the expert advice and consultation of the well-known golf architect, William Bell, George Von Elm, the former National Amateur Champion and Johnny Dawson, famous amateur; general direction of the construction and development of the course was carried out by William Johnson, manager of Los Angeles City golf courses.” 1

“The most careful thought was given to every possible angle of golf play. For example, the direction of fairways was determined with full consideration of both morning and afternoon sun, prevailing winds and the contour of the ground. With the realization that there are more golfers who slice their shots than those who hook them, the course was designed so that sliced shots would remain in bounds but only badly hooked shots go out of bounds.” 1

Rancho’s fifteenth in 1949.

“Greens were placed so as to have adequate air circulation, and each green, tee and fairway was given an individual characteristic with special plantings of shrubs and other landscape features. More than 20,000 tress and shrubs have been used.” 1

“Fairways run parallel with valleys and canyons instead of across them, so as to make easier walking, and tees have been made in such a way that players will not have to walk across the green to get to the next tee.” 1

1949 Rancho Golf course, 10th fairway and tee behind, and club house.

Here is the article from the opening program about the Rancho Golf Course:

1949 07 09 - USGA Public Links at Rancho Golf Course - small 1
1 the 24th Amateur Public Links Championship of the United States Golf Association

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Armand Hammer, Holmby Park Golf Course – May 18, 1929


Armand Hammer, Holmby Park golf course

by J.I.B. Jones

1926_artist_drawing_proposed_Holmby_Hills_Park
1926 Proposal for Holmby Park

Before California statehood in 1850, Holmby Park was part of the 4438 acre Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres, where cattle were raised under Don Benito Wilson. In 1884 the land was purchased by John Wolfskill, a forty-niner and former state Senator, who also owned the 13,000 acre Escondido ranch in San Diego county. The land was known as the Wolfskill ranch, before and after the failed boom town of Sunset.

In 1919 Arthur Letts, Sr., the merchant prince of Los Angeles, and the founder of Broadway Department Stores, bought the 3296 acre Wolfskill Ranch for a real estate development. The boundaries were roughly Bel Air on the north, with Pico south, and from the Los Angeles Country Club west to Sepulveda boulevard. The area was marketed by the Janss Investment Corporation and named Westwood. The south eastern section, which included the future Century City, was called Westwood Hills.

1905_letts_holmby_house
Holmby House, Laughlin Park, Rancho Los Felis

L.A.C.C. member Arthur Letts named the Holmby Hills area, as he had his nearby home in Laughlin Park; Holmby House. In 1927, his golfing mad son; Arthur Letts Jr., built his own rambling English type house overlooking the country club. It became the infamous Playboy Mansion West in 1971.

It was the company of Letts’ son in law Harold Janss who donated the land in 1926 to the city of Los Angeles, and it was Park Commissioner Van Griffith, son of Griffith Park donor Griffith J. Griffith, who was the father of the new idea of a bowling green and a pony golf course for the park.

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1936 Janss Investment Corporation advert

The 18-hole Pony golf course opened on May 18, 1929, with a week long public golf tournament, with two trophy cups donated by Harold Janss, “to the man and woman with the lowest gross scores.”

William P. Bell designed the original layout, which was revamped in 1940 under Parks superintendent William Johnson. Alterations, mainly due to providing common park areas at the north end of the park, have reduced the size of the course over the years.

In 1981 Holmby Park Golf Course was threatened with closure, due to a city of Los Angeles budget crisis, but was saved at the last minute by neighbors Hugh Hefner of Playboy Mansion West (the Arthur Letts Jr. house), and Occidental Petroleum billionaire Armand Hammer, whose name now adorns the course.

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Holmby Park green and clubhouse in January 2012

The City of Los Angeles has been operating the 18-hole pony course and bowling green since 1929.

Happy Birthday Holmby Park!


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Copyright ©2010-2017

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A New Arnold Palmer Plaque Dedicated at Rancho Park Golf Course

The 18th tee of Rancho Park golf course, at the re-dedication of the Arnold Palmer plaque, May 17.

On Wednesday last, a new Arnold Palmer plaque was dedicated, commemorating his score of 12, on Rancho Park’s par-five 18th hole, during the first round of the 1961 L.A. Open.  The original plaque was dedicated in 1963, and later stolen. A replacement “stone” was installed by the Recreation and Parks Department.

This beautiful new plaque, designed by graphic artist and Rancho Park golf club champion, Ed Passarelli, is the permanent replacement, being a combination of a re-creation of the original plaque, plus a map of the hole, with a description of the strokes taken by Mr Palmer, plus an embossed photograph.

The idea for replacing the replacement of the original plaque, and the execution of the plan to use it to raise money for junior golf, was all Phil Baugh, of the First Tee of Los Angeles.

Arnold would be proud.

After her speech, golf legend Amy Alcott, tee’d up a ball, and played the 18th, with a gallery of supporters and guests, making some beautiful strokes, and easily scoring a par 5, with never an inclination of the “heart warming” 3-woods that Arnold experienced in January 1961!

From left to right in the photo:

  • Amy Alcott – LPGA & World Golf Hall of Fame member
  • John Jones – Rancho Park GC Historian & Grammy Award winner
  • Phil Bough – ED LAJCC Charity Foundation/The First Tee of Los Angeles
  • Ed Passarelli – Plaque Designer
  • Laura Bauernfiend – Golf Manager, LA City Re & Parks
  • Paul  Koretz – Councilmember, 5th District