Revisiting Old Brockway’s lost holes
Special to the Sun
Many golfers are familiar with Old Brockway Golf Course in Kings Beach and its classic layout by Scotsman John Duncan Dunn circa 1924. Those same golfers are also aware that little has changed beyond its playing surfaces. But some are unaware that Old Brockway was originally planned and designed as an 18-hole course.
Harry Comstock and R.O. Sherman ” son of the famous Civil War general ” built Brockway Springs Hotel and Resort and hired J.D. Dunn from Los Angeles Country Club to design and build an 18-hole golf course as an amenity for the resort.
This lifestyle community would include golf, tennis, yachting and swimming and would be the forerunner or many developments in the area today.
Old Brockway originally had 18 holes, but due to the Great Depression, it was paired down to 12 holes (1-9, 10, 17 and 18) and eventually only the existing nine-hole layout survived the bulldozers and steam shovels. Most are familiar with the existing nine and some may have seen period photos of No. 18 on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
This hole was a par 3 and its tee was across the street from what is now the Safeway parking lot, with the green situated near Sweetbriar Condominiums. The clubhouse was originally in this area with its cedar siding, expansive decks, incredible view and access to the beach. Pine trees planted during this period still exist; however, the sand dunes bordering and surrounding the hole do not.
With old site maps, topographical maps and modern aerial photos, it is easy to recognize where these “lost holes” were. Hole No. 10 survived and is now Old Brockway’s driving range. In 1924, No. 10 green was next to the Old Brockway Natural Resource Management Center and its tee was in the area that is now the deli department of Safeway. Period photos show a surprising lack of trees in this area and closely resembled the meadow area in Tahoe Vista.
– The No. 11 tee was in close proximity to the No. 10 green. This hole was a long par 3 with a green nestled in the meadow area across from today’s No. 8 ladies’ tee. The hole is easy to recognize today, even though much of it has grown into a riparian forest and is habitat for everything from mice to black bears.
– The 12th tee is where it starts to get interesting. A dogleg right, it meandered west back towards Aspen Street. Today’s aerial photos show a distinct hole bordered left and right by mature pine and cedar forests. J.D. Dunn would have loved the small brook (a “wee burn”) crossing back and forth across its fairway and strategically locating the landing areas along the way. Roughly paralleling the existing seventh hole, its tee would have been near the No. 7 approach and its green would have ended up in almost the same area as today’s seventh tee.
– Holes 13, 14 and 15 go off the old site map grid, but it is extremely easy to imagine them meandering clockwise around the Tahoe Vista meadow area using the existing pond as a prominent water hazard.
– No. 16 would have been the longest hole on the golf course. Its tee would have started on the west side of the Tahoe Vista meadow area near Agabrook and Agatam avenues and Highway 28. After entering the forest to the east it would have had Beach Court bordering to its right and Aspen Street bordering to its left. The green site is easy to pinpoint today because Beach Street curves around it and would be near 320 Beach St.
– No. 17, a par 4 hole, returned to the lake. Bordering No. 10’s left side, it would have been a beautiful hole much like No. 9 with its view of Lake Tahoe. The approach shot for No. 17 would have been roughly where the floral department of Safeway now stands.
In order to finish your round, you would have had to cross Highway 28 ” no small feat today, but no problem for the sporadic horseless carriage or buggy of yesteryear ” and access hole No. 18.
Many classic golf courses did not survive the Great Depression.
In fact, only five courses designed by John Duncan Dunn still exist on the West Coast today. They include Old Brockway, Santa Ana Country Club (circa 1924), Los Serranos of Chino Hills (1925), Rio Hondo Country Club of Downey (1924) and Catalina Golf Course of Avalon (1925).
Some of J.D. Dunn’s more well-known golf courses on the East Coast include Ekwanok Golf Course in Manchester, Vt., (with Walter Travis), Quakeridge Country Club and Scarsdale Country Club in Westchester County, N.Y., Cape Arundel Golf Course in Kennebunkport, Maine, (also with Walter Travis) and the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel Country Club in Florida. Each course still exists.