Golf in 1899 Cost Only 15 Cents a Day in Ojai by Ed Wenig
A gala occasion was celebrated in Nordhoff on Saturday, January 14, 1899, when the first golf course in the valley was opened to the public. Mrs. Mary Gally had supervised the laying out of the course north of the Gally Cottages with the help of some easterners who knew something about golf links.
The greens were patches of sand. Buckets of wet sand hung on posts at the beginning of the fairways for the use of the players in making their tees. Bunkers were made of strips of three-foot wire – netting placed on the top of one-foot ridges of earth. Burned-out hollow stumps and many squirrel holes dotted the fairways.
“Hold my caddy”
The game was a great novelty to the residents of the valley. The players on the opening day, mostly visitors from the east, were followed from hole to hole by the wondering “natives” who chattered continuously, asking the names of the various clubs, how to score, etc.
Mr. Hubby, a local authority on golf terms obligingly explained the game to the onlookers. One of Mr. Hubby’s favorite stories was that of a young lady in the east who had learned to rattle off golf terms with such authority that one golfer remarked that she must be very well posted on golf. “Oh, yes,” she replied, “I know nearly all about it except that I haven’t yet learned how to hold by caddy!”
At the close of the formal opening, refreshments of ice cream, cake and preserved ginger were served at the Gally Cottages.
Although the opening day was pronounced a great success by all who attended, the editor of THE OJAI called the attention of the valley residents to an unfortunate aftermath in the next issue of this paper. He wrote: “After the day was done the putting of greens were an offence to the landscape. The ladies wore those high-heeled shoes that left their imprints deep in the sands as a reminder that society had been at large very recently. It has taken four men all week to repair this damage. Dear people, when you play golf here will you please wear tennis shoes or shoes without heels, that the putting greens may not be put out of repair and other players out of temper and into profanity?”
Players on the course paid 15c for one-half day; 25c for one day, $1 for one week, $2 for one month, and $10 for the season. Caddies were paid 10c for nine holes, and 20c for an eighteen hole round.
Because of the particular hazards of the course the Green Committee of the newly-formed Ojai Valley Golf Club found it necessary to make additional rules to the ones laid down by the U.S. Golf Association. Some of these were:
- A ball fastened in the netting of any bunker must be dropped behind the same and within a club’s length without penalty.
- A ball driven onto the ploughed ground or grain field may be dropped at the point where it left the course under penalty of one stoke.
- If ball goes into a squirrel hole, it may be dropped behind the hole, or if unrecoverable another ball may be dropped in its place without penalty.
- All stones and pebbles, loose branches and twigs may be removed, provided the ball is not disturbed. If the ball lies on a stone it may be dropped behind the same without penalty.
- A ball is in unplayable position near the stumps may be dropped behind the stumps without penalty.
One of Howard Gally’s childhood memories of the early days of the golf course was his mother’s indignation upon learning that her smallest son had been held by his heels and lowered into a burned-out hollow tree by a player to retrieve his ball. Today Howard says he still finds parts of long-lost golf balls in the area where the course was located.