In 2015, Meadow Park Golf Course celebrates Tacoma's first century of public golf.
|The first nine holes of what was then an 18-hole course opened for play Nov. 14, 1915, about six months after the first municipal course opened in Seattle. Back then, what is now one of Metro Parks’ South Tacoma treasures was a privately owned operation. In contrast to the country clubs where membership was required and exclusivity reigned, Meadow Park was the first course in Tacoma open to the public. From the get-go, Meadow Park was promoted as a course unrestricted by the men’s club tradition prevalent elsewhere.
This egalitarian policy endured and grew over the years, including after the course came under Metro Parks governance in 1961. In that year, when the Metro Parks board held a public hearing about future course management, one African-American golfer declared that Meadow Park was the only course in the area that allowed him to participate in tournaments.
Now, course superintendent Chris Goodman and the rest of the Meadow Park crew pride themselves on nurturing young players, providing access and support for players with special needs, and embracing innovations. One example is FootGolf. When Meadow Park opened its nine-hole course in 2014, it was the first in Washington.
Plans for the original Meadow Park course were first publicized in September 1915 in The Daily Ledger, a granddaddy of what is now The News Tribune. An advertisement published on opening day touted the inclusive nature of the place. It proclaimed: “Ladies May Play Any Day in the Week.” This broke from the routine at most private courses that dominated the golf world at that time, Goodman said. Typically, private golf clubs only permitted women golfers on specified days. Goodman keeps a trophy from a 1917 Meadow Park women’s tournament in a collection of artifacts.
In 1915, the driving forces behind the new course were partners W.F. Jowders and W.B. Beal, who had purchased 165 acres north of a street car line in what was then known as the Manitou neighborhood. To design the links, they hired architect John Ball, who also created courses in Aberdeen, Seattle and Everett. Among other amenities, Meadow Park featured grass putting greens, which were relatively rare among area links at that time, Jowders told the newspaper.
“The face that we are within the city limits is another thing that should find favor in the eyes of golfers who have not the time to make longer trips,” he said.
The plan was to build a club house within 300 feet of the street car station. From Tacoma, passengers rode the American Lake car to the city limits. The cost: 5 cents.
This Aug. 22, 1920 issue of the Tacoma Sunday Ledger includes some great shots of the club house, fourth hole and putting on the second green. ". . . a party from the Templar Motor Car Company and a Ledger representative motored to the golf links at Meadow Park in a Templar Sportette to prove the reliability of the model for sport use."
The club house pictured in this Feb. 12, 1922 issue of The Tacoma Sunday Ledger burned down in 1960. A new club house was built from old surplus army barracks cobbled together.
|It’s a reminder of how the value of money has changed. In another advertisement, announcing the opening of the entire, 18-hole course, golfers were invited to sign up for annual tickets, covering green fees, plus access to the clubhouse and locker rooms starting in January 1916. How much? Twelve dollars. A single, 18-hole game cost 25 cents. |
Male golfers donned newsboy-style caps, shirts and ties, knickers and knee socks. Women wore long skirts or dresses and hats. Steel-shafted clubs were not introduced until the 1920s, so the stems were shaped from a hardwood called hickory.
It’s a style of play that’s been enjoying a revival of sorts. Many hickory golf enthusiasts enjoy dressing the part and using vintage gear, including a softer, more pliable ball typical of the era, Goodman said. Meadow Park rents sets of antique, Scottish clubs to golfers who’d like to try them.
Meadow Park always has been a public course, but its ownership changed several times before Metro Parks bought it for $250,000 in 1961. The previous year, fire had destroyed the clubhouse. Eventually, a replacement was opened. The present 27-hole facility includes a nine-hole course named after J. Ralph Williams, the Metro Parks commissioner and golf enthusiast who negotiated the acquisition.
Gladys Flasket, 1916
Walt MacDonald, 1916
Now you can have the 1915 Hickory ExperienceMeadow Park Golf course now offers this opportunity to celebrate history and experience a small piece of golf's classic tradition by playing with century-old hickory clubs from Scotland.
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