Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2019

San Rafael Golf Pioneers

By Laurie Thompson · October 09, 2015

Judge Morrow in "proper" golfing attire at the San Rafael Golf Club 1898 <span>&copy; Marin County Tocsin </span>

Judge Morrow in "proper" golfing attire at the San Rafael Golf Club 1898

Dr. Crooks in "tennis attire" at the San Rafael Golf Club, 1898 <span>&copy; Marin County Tocsin </span> Senator De Young at the San Rafael Golf Club, 1898 <span>&copy; Marin County Tocsin </span> Drawing of the San Rafael Golf Club clubhouse as published in the Oct. 31, 1898 San Francisco Call <span>&copy; San Francisco Call </span>

In 1898 the San Rafael Golf Club –one of the earliest in California- opened near the site of today’s Marin County Civic Center.

According to the November 3, 1898 Marin Journal:

"The San Rafael Golf Club has secured, in addition to the 280 acres previously purchased, a twenty acre tract belonging to Lawyer Stetson. This tract adjoins the land purchased from the Campbell estate and its acquisition will give a drive of 1200 feet under the shade of a row of eucalyptus trees. Grass links one hundred feet in diameter are now being prepared..... The tract of 300 acres is rolling land in Puerto Suello valley where there are two streams of water and a wealth of laurel, oak, buckeye and madrone trees..... Nine holes can now be played on.... The putting greens will be one hundred feet in diameter and they will be kept green the year round."

The San Rafael Golf Club -which opened with nine holes- was expanded to 18 holes by mid-1899.

Because the game of golf was new to Marin in 1898, a columnist for the Marin County Tocsin wrote a semi-humorous piece about the history of the sport and made mention of some of Marin’s earliest players:

“The leading players on the links are improving rapidly. Among those who are looked on as coming champions may be mentioned Harry Francis, Carter Pomeroy, Dr. Crooks, Dr. D. H. Arnold, Barton Parker, Baron J. H. Von Schroeder, E. J. McCutcheon, Marcus Gerstle and Montagu Hankin….”

Carter P. Pomeroy, mentioned, above, filed articles of incorporation for the San Rafael Golf Club on October 1, 1898, and early directors of the club included some of the other gentleman mentioned in the Tocsin article; among them, Marcus Gerstle and John J. Crooks.

Apparently the appropriate attire for playing golf was also being sorted out among the Marin golfing elite in 1898:

“Judge Morrow, we believe, was the first to secure a faultless costume which was favorably remarked by all onlookers. It was a noteworthy coincidence that when he first wore it, his opponent, Dr. J. J. Crooks, appeared in a tennis suit. That gentleman’s friends were surprised at this strange error, for the Doctor is justly regarded as easily the premier of fashion in these parts, and doubtless Judge Morrow was somewhat embarrassed, for he did not play with his customary skill.”

In early 1899 the clubhouse of the San Rafael Golf Club was completed.  It was made principally of stained redwood and featured a shaded veranda which encircled the structure and where special evening dinners were occassionally held. It contained dressing rooms with 140 lockers for men and 60 for women. It also boasted "fresh water shower baths" as well as "salt water plunge baths" on the northern end of the grounds.

Learn more about the history of the San Rafael Golf Club and other early golf courses in Marin on Thursday, October 15 when golf historian Sean Tully gives a talk on the subject under the dome of the Civic Center Library at 12 noon.

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