In the 1920s, The Golden Age of Golf was in its heyday, bringing great advancements in course style and originality.
It was a time when the Master of Architecture practiced their craft in Northern California: Alister Mackenzie at Cypress Point, Pasatiempo, and Marin’s Meadow Club; Seth Raynor at Monterey Peninsula CC; Donald Ross and Sam Whiting at The Olympic Club. It was Sam Whiting who took the former J. K. Bigelow ranch and fashioned an 18-hole jewel that was first named the Sonoma Mission Inn Golf and Country Club to capitalize on the historical lore and romance of the Sonoma Valley and to serve as a prestigious amenity for the popular resort.
More than a thousand trees were planted before the course opened. Most of them are still here, creating a park-like setting of mature oaks, redwoods, firs, and scores of others.
“The Sonoma Mission Inn Golf and Country Club is one of the prettiest spots in California,” the local newspaper declared when it opened in 1928. “It’s a sporty course, one which will interest both amateur and professional.”
In those days, visitors from San Francisco traveled to Sonoma by train and ferryboat. Horse-drawn wagons would meet them and carry them to the Sonoma Mission Inn and the golf course.
Celebrities, from professional baseball players to entertainers, turned Sonoma into their playground. Pacific Coast League teams like the San Francisco Seals, managed by Lefty O’Doul, and the Oakland Acorns, managed by Casey Stengel, held spring training in the Valley. Over the years that followed, many famous golfers tested their skills against Whiting’s venerable design. Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ken Venturi, and Tom Watson were among them.
“In Golfweek’s recently unveiled ranking of the Top 100 American Courses ‘opened before 1960,’
a staggering total of 84 were constructed between 1910 and 1937. There was never a more creative, daring, or fruitful period in the history of golf course architecture.”
- Geoff Shackelford, The Golden Age of Golf Design