History of Mare Island Golf Club in Vallejo, California
Established in 1892, Mare Island Golf Club in Vallejo, California is the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi River. Originally built as a 9-hole course, its first 30 years included sand greens and dry fairways. The course began near the former Marine Barracks and proceeded south to Lake Rodgers (built in 1876 and named after Rear Admiral Rodgers), then returned to the start.
The old course was noted for unusual hazards such as Lake Rodgers, rattlesnakes, ground squirrels and a horse. For the unlucky golfer who was bit by a snake an anti-venom kit was readily available on a fence post at Lake Rodgers.
As for the horse, he belonged to Mare Island Marine Lieutenant Jack Meyers and was forever ambling up to the golf course, where golfers invariably found him standing between their ball and the pin. It was said, every rock and clod on the mesa had been thrown at the horse. Eventually, local rules were changed to allow a player to relocate a ball blocked by the horse, without penalty.
As the war years approached, Mare Island Golf Club took on many faces. Extensive relocation of the link's holes occurred during World War I, due to the demands for the Mesa and for other purposes.
In 1933, the year the Ladies' Club began, the golf links were re-designed once again to accommodate encroachment of six ammunition bunkers along the third and fifth fairways. In 1943, World War II brought drastic changes when 94 Homoja huts were constructed on the fairways. Relocation of greens and fairways ensued, and the resultant layout using both east and west sides of Mare Island reflected this change.
As a reminder of its military days, there are ten ammunition bunkers scattered throughout the golf course property. One bunker houses the maintenance facility, and a second bunker serves as the turn shack. See if you can find the remaining eight during your round.
The clubhouse, Building 658, was originally constructed by W.P.A. Labor in 1936. The building served as a time signal station and radio frequency monitoring station for oversees transmissions. It was one of two buildings on Mare Island Naval Shipyard to receive the first call of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The building was remolded using non-appropriated funds for use as the M.I.N.S. golf club house. The remodeled building was dedicated on March 5, 1961.
In the year 2000, nine new holes were re-introduced by renowned Pacific Rim architect Robin Nelson. Today, Mare Island Golf Course is an 18-hole golf course designed to challenge golfers of all abilities.
Many thanks to Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum, Mare Island Shipyard Historian, the Mare Island Historical Museum, and Tom Pollett for their contributions.
Reference: Sidewheelers to Nuclear Power, a pictorial essay covering 123 years at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard; Sue Lemmon and E.D. Wichels.