William Watson by Dean Knuth, pg. ii

Back to Scotland and the cause for the Watsons to move to America

Previously in Scotland, John Cobb Watson’s father Alexander Watson had bought the Blebo Flax Spinning Works in 1857 from David Yool at Dura Den. John Cobb Watson became his partner. They operated 4,500 spindles powered mostly by a stream, employing 53 men and 160 women and youths (small hands were preferred to operate the mill). Alexander Watson and Son received a 2000-pound loan from the mill’s customer British Linen Company (An enormous Edinburgh company that became its own bank and even printed currency.) The Watsons also had flax farms by tenanting land at Dairsie Mains north of Cupar. In 1868, Alex tragically died in his son’s arms while standing at the train platform in Tayport. His obituary said that Alex had “…great business energy and intellectual capacity and was a God-fearing man.” John continued to run the company until 1898. He had bought a home in Blebo, Cupar on 17 acres. His wife Mary Martin Watson died in 1894 at age 58.

British Linen sued John in July of 1898 for the 2,000-pound loan amount (More than $300,000 in 2020 value). Newspaper reports said that there were recent failures in the linen business in Scotland because flax mills in other countries operated for much less money and the rise of cotton in America had severely reduced the importing of linen. John Watson, named as the flax spinner in a legal case, could not make payment. The mill was shut down by the sheriff, laying off all employees and it never re-opened. He lost his home and property, and creditors were hounding him. This was the year that William Watson emigrated to America in the fall.

Just a couple years later in Los Angeles where golf has taken off quickly

This interesting article appeared in the 25 February 1901 Los Angeles Herald: “Golf is now the principal outdoor exercise at nearly all the California winter resorts. At Catalina the links are occupied daily, and occasionally a mixed foursome or other form of general entertainment is held…At Pasadena, which boasts three courses, much attention is being given to the game. The Hotels Green and Pintoresca both support links, and they are crowded every day in the week. The club professional, Gilbert Nicholls, played a match of eighteen holes with William Watson of the Green links Saturday, and won by a safe margin.”

The Herald on 10 March 1901 then reported: “William Watson, the golf instructor at the Hotel Green links, will during the summer operate a factory in Los Angeles for the manufacture of golf clubs. It is the first of its kind in Southern California.”

Then this from the Herald on 14 April 1901: “William Watson, golf instructor at Hotel Green, will leave for the north in a few days. Later in the Season he will enter upon his duties as instructor at the links of one of the prominent Southern California clubs, which position he will hold during the summer months.”  As a continuation of the article, William’s father was interviewed which is a rare insight into his depth of love for golf.

            “J.C. Watson, an old golfer, father of William Watson of the Golf Store, writes of the royal and ancient game as follows: ‘So much has been written about golf during the past few years and so many men with more or less fitness have tried to expound its properties and explain its correct exercise that the subject has become surrounded with intense interest and invested with a measure of mystery to add to its great attractiveness. As an ardent follower of the game and believer in it, I cannot resist adding my modest contribution in praise of its goodness and doing what little I may to encourage the love of it and to induce others to test its excellence and prove its virtues. To those who already tread a measure on the green sward with driver and cleek, this is preaching to the converted as I have rarely met anyone who proved faithless to this love or to whom the game had not been abundantly gracious if once fairly tried. ‘Where bountiful nature supplies a pole of good grass pleasure of the highest kind may be had in pursuit of the game, but on ground such as is most abundant in glorious California the witching game can be played with pleasure and with profit as one of the best restorative agents for body and mind. The writer has wielded his clubs for over fifty years, meeting the same opponent at least once a week for more than the half of this period, and though this is not a biographical sketch, it may interest some to know that such causes produce such effects and that ‘age does not wither nor custom stale its infinite variety.’ Young men find here a suitable outlet for natural vigor under the most beneficent influences and older ones can sustain strength and in a measure renew youth by reasonable exercise. Invalids can find in its moderate activity and the fine, fresh air or breeze usually prevalent a regenerative process that is most valuable. ‘When any doubting brother in the maze of his pitiable inexperience has made caustic remarks about the keenness of players, I have enjoined him, not to talk flippantly about matters too deep for foolish assertion, or the learning of the uninitiated, but to follow the sound advice which I now repeat: ‘Go thou and do likewise.’

The L.A. Herald reported on 10 November 1902 that John Martin Watson arrived in Los Angeles to join his father and brother: “John Martin Watson of Watson Brothers, golf instructors, has just returned to the city after a successful season at Des Moines, IA, where he returns next year under favorable conditions. He is now instructing at their own grounds the Los Angeles and Pasadena golf course, where he will continue for the next six months. William Watson, the senior member, has charge of the new grounds at Hotel Raymond, which will soon be ready, and golf in this district seems, to have very hopeful prospects.”

The L.A. Herald reported the next fall on 12 November 1903: “William Watson, son of the veteran Scotch golfer, has returned to his former position as professional and instructor on the Raymond Hotel golf links at Pasadena. The nine-hole course has been well patronized throughout the dry months and will be put in the best shape for the tourist season.”

Henry Huntington had bought 300 acres of land in now Pasadena and he leased half of it to a group of men in 1905 who in the first year called themselves the Millionaires Club. It became the Annandale Golf Club in 1906 and Watson was paid to lay-out the course. Instead of sand tees, Watson had 10 by 20-foot coconut fiber mats made for the teeing grounds with oiled sand greens. The club hired his father and brother as assistant professionals. The father was called John and to prevent confusion John Martin simply went by “Martin.” Martin worked at Annandale in the winters until his retirement in 1938–including summer trips to other states. J. Martin remained a club professional, traveling to Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Oregon, Washington, and ultimately retiring in Idaho. In a 1915 interview, Martin estimated that he had given over 20,000 golf lessons since coming to America. His best pupil was his son Forest, who went on to become the Pacific Northwest Amateur Champion in 1926. John Martin died in 1973 at the age of 99.

Annandale Country Club in 1909, a panoramic photo from the Library of Congress

J. Martin Watson and William built the original Arroyo Seco links, and then eventually had a part in building Griffith Park’s first course, which was remodeled by William in 1921. George C. Thomas built or rebuilt two Griffith Park municipal courses in 1923 and 1925. Watson’s course was lost when one of the early Los Angeles Zoo sites took the land.

Watson designed the first Hollywood Country Club near Studio City, California, shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles, but it was quickly built over by developers who, despite the absence of a golf course, continued to promote the non-existing facility as Hollywood Country Club or Hollywood Hills Country Club in a sales ploy by the developers to sell houses.

Their father John Cobb Watson died in Pasadena in 1919 and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, less than five miles from Annandale Golf Club. (It happens to be the same cemetery that Billy Bell, Sr. is buried in.)

Watson advertised frequently in the Los Angeles Times and maintained a second office in Chicago. Watson made at least one trip back to Scotland early in his career, possibly in 1901. His ad below said, in part: “An extensive and critical study of the best golf holes in Scotland and England during the past summer enables me to apply the fresh knowledge gained of bunkering, trapping and other matters connected with scientific course construction to American golf courses.”

When the Watson family worked at Annandale, the head bag boy and caddie master was Billy Bell. Bell learned quickly from Watson and was supervisor of construction for some of his designs. Bell became George C. Thomas’s preferred construction supervisor. Bell went into business on his own and ironically, became famous for re-modeling William Watson courses, often within a decade of their original design and build. In many cases, Watson’s name disappeared as the architect and Bell’s name replaced it.

In 1919 Annandale hired Watson as architect and Bell as supervisor again. In six months with the goal of being open by winter season they plowed-under the entire course and had the assignment to build an all grass course with irrigation. Bell was in charge of installing more than 50 bunkers and he used more than 5,000 tons of sand. The course re-opened on November 1st with a total cost of $55,000. However, they still had difficulty in growing grass in the fairway and the new bunkering was judged too difficult for the membership.

In 1922 the club hired Jock Croke of Chicago to add contour to the greens and re-grass them. He followed his plaster models for the new greens. Billy Bell stripped the previous greens first and used the grass to create grass tees. This was finished in November of that year. It took years later for the club to get enough irrigation to keep turf on its fairways, but it was known for at least a decade for having 15-inch rough which obviously grew quite well.

Bell became a significant competitor to Watson, but there was plenty of work for all skilled architects in the Golden Age of golf. Although Watson had great success in the San Francisco area (Olympic Club, Harding Park, and others), his competition there was another Scotsman, William ‘Willie’ Lock, who had a part in laying out San Francisco Golf Club, the California Club and others. The course that Watson very much wanted to build was at Lake Merced due to its wonderful terrain. The club says that the design contract went to Willie Lock. However, newspaper accounts stated that Watson was superintendent of construction. The 16 February 1922 San Francisco Call by Frank P. Noon stated that “WITHIN five years California will be known as the “golfing state,” according to William Watson, nationally known golf authority and links architect, who is here to superintend the construction of the Lake Merced Country Club’s course and to rearrange several others.”

Watson was known to provide Lock with routing advice, for which Watson was unequaled. In 1916 Lock was listed as the club professional at Sequoyah Country Club, which could be played for 50 cents.

Watson was called back to Minneapolis in 1910 to design Interlachen, which sported his trademark design of a large double green, at the 9th and 18th holes. The green was 175 feet deep and 100 feet wide. The club opened with great fanfare, according to the verbatim club president’s report printed in the Minneapolis Journal. The course hosted the Western Open in 1914 and the 1916 Trans-Mississippi tournaments. (In 1919 Donald Ross was hired to re-route the course and Bobby Jones won the 1930 U.S. Open on the way to his Grand Slam. Ross’ new 9th over a pond became the scene of Jones’ famous Lily Pad shot. Jones was attempting to reach the par-5 9th in two shots when two spectators ran onto the fairway during his swing. He mishit the ball toward the lake where it fell about twenty yards short of dry ground. Incredibly, the ball skipped off a lily pad and onto the far bank, just thirty yards short of the green. Jones would get up-and-down for an unlikely birdie).

In 1906 William Watson married Ada Grace Sanborn from Hebron, New Hampshire. He was 46 and she was 34. Ada quickly became a major factor in their business. They would never have children, but she was important in the growth and success of their businesses.  In 1913 Ada took over the golf equipment company and moved their one-room office to the Knickerbocker building on South Olive St. in downtown L.A., taking over half the eighth floor (seven rooms) in 1922. Now, Watson could devote all his time to designing and constructing golf courses. Ada visited some work sites with him to learn the supply-side of the construction business and began ordering the construction supplies. For example, in Watson’s 1911-1912 building of Westmoreland Country Club in Evanston, IL, Ada obtained the raw material to make a 25-foot-deep gravel bed under the golf course.

This 1912 piece in American Golfer Magazine added more about Westmoreland Country Club:

“Active work on the grounds of the Westmoreland Country Club golf course one mile west of Evanston will be started in about a month according to announcement made by the officials recently. All preliminary work possible has been completed and all that is holding back the other is the arrival of William Watson, the professional who is to lay out the course and who has been arranging a course at Altadena, Cal. The Westmoreland club is, for the greater part, made up of members of the Evanston Golf Club, who are making the change because they feel their hold upon the present location is insecure, and they wish to get a permanent home. The land, which consists of 121 acres and lies between the Glen View car line and the Glen View road, was purchased outright in preference to leasing. The course will not be ready for play until next year and those members of the Evanston club who belong to the new organization will continue at Evanston this season. The land is considered among the best in this part of the county for a course and the members are expecting to have unusually good conditions for play. The course will be about the longest in the vicinity. At first the members will use the Glen View electric line for transportation but hope to obtain other means of getting to the club later. It will be a country club in every respect, and will be equipped for other sports beside golf, and the club house will be kept open the year round. As soon as the frost is out of the ground, work will be started get-ting things into shape for Watson. English grasses will be used exclusively on the course, seed having already been imported for that purpose. The club house will not be built until fall, as it is not considered necessary to erect so long be-fore the course is ready for play. Already there are about 250 members in the new club and as the limit is 350 there is room for only about 100 more. It is thought there will be little difficulty in filling the list. A tentative plan is calling for a distance of 6,442 yards. Watson, with the aid of maps of various local courses and a plan of the grounds, has outlined a course of this length.”

A 1921 view of the 16th green at Westmoreland after Tillinghast and Langford added bunkers.

Another innovation that Ada helped in was the revolutionary design of green foundations described in this 1911 issue of American Golfer magazine:

“In the new golf course at the Altadena Country Club, recently laid out by William Watson and said to be the finest on the Pacific Coast, there is a putting green innovation that is calculated to conquer climatic conditions. The putting greens are built upon a foundation of crushed rock and are eighty feet in diameter. The drainage of the putting areas and the fair greens will make the course safe in any kind of weather. The course is 6,566 yards long. A club house to cost $25,000 soon will be built.”

The Watson’s innovation in improving the foundation of greens proved to be a lasting technology that years later became a recommended procedure of the USGA Green Section. Watson continued to use this procedure in building his greens (as opposed to simple “push-up” greens which contributed to the entire industry of golf architecture.

American Golfer magazine reported middle western news in December 1913 that showed Watson’s newest contracts: “Preliminary steps have been taken in the formation of the Moorland Golf and Country Club. The promoters have obtained an option on 230 acres located just south of the Homewood Country Club. It is planned to purchase the ground outright and this will necessitate an outlay of $100,000, the cost of the ground being $70,000. Originally it was planned to sell memberships at $250, but at this season of the year the demand is not as keen as in the spring and a holding company will be formed which will advance the first payments on the option. William Watson and Tom Bendelow, the golf course architects, have been over the property and pronounce it admirably fitted for golfing purposes.”

“Bernard Darwin, the English critic, after playing over the Onwentsia club course, pronounced it entirely too easy. His opinion may have had some weight with the directors, as William Watson, the California expert, has been engaged to make improvements which will consist largely of additional traps and mounds. William Marshall, the club professional, has just completed a tour of some of the leading eastern and middle western courses, among these being the Detroit Country Club and the Mayfield course of Cleveland, both of which drew high praise from Edward Ray, the English player. Marshall will confer with Watson and their suggestions will be acted on by the green committee.”

The Los Angeles Herald reported in November 1912 that Watson would be wintering in Pasadena area: “The Raymond hotel will open for the winter season December 19. Already a large list of guests have been booked. The golf links are being placed in first class condition and William Watson has been secured as golf instructor”.

This piece appeared in the March 1913 American Golfer: “Thirty businessmen of Tucson, Arizona, at a meeting held last month at the Santa Rita hotel, took the preliminary steps in the formation of a Country Club. A committee was appointed to outline a plan of organization and to draft a constitution and by-laws. Preceding the meeting William Watson, the Los Angeles golf course expert, visited a number of available sites and recommended the Stewart property, located about three miles from the city. Mr. Donau announced he had secured an option on 145 acres of this land and on 80 acres additionally adjoining. Watson stated that the Stewart property would furnish a course similar to those at Pinehurst.”

Tucson Golf and Country Club was built by Watson and opened the next year. The course was mostly sand and the greens were oiled sand with rakes covered with carpet used to smooth the putting line to the hole. Winds sometimes created sandstorms and the greens had to be regularly oiled to keep them in place. The club shut down during World War II.

Tucson Golf and Country Club taken from the air in 1929

In the summer of 1914, The Chicago Club arranged for Watson to be ‘professional in charge’ of their Charlevoix (Mich.) Golf Club whose links, on the north side of Charlevoix, were gaining a national reputation for routing and course condition. Watson returned seasonally to the Charlevoix Golf Club from 1914 until 1935.

Also, in 1914 Watson built a nine-hole sand green course at the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena the same year the hotel was opened by Henry Huntington. The hotel was the finest winter retreat for the wealthy in the west. Customers came from major cities in the east and mid-west. Called the Huntington Country Club and Huntington Links, it was exclusively for hotel guests and Watson was listed as the club professional in the 1916 American Annual Golf Guide.

The Huntington Hotel in Pasadena

Within the 75 acres that Henry Huntington owned was a grinding mill built in 1816. Called the Old Mill (seen below) and standing a half-mile from the hotel, became the clubhouse for Watson’s golf course (today it is a historic site called El Molino Viejo which is open for tours).

The Huntington Links had wonderful hills and was so popular with the guests that the plan was to expand to 18-holes.

However, Huntington also formed the ‘Oak Knoll Improvement company’ across the street from the hotel. It was a luxury area of upscale houses and mansions which he built. In 1918, Huntington saw an opportunity in real estate and abruptly sub-divided all his golf course land and sold off parcels for additional high-end homes. He also sold his hotel, which remains a 5-star part of the Langham collection — The Langham Huntington, Pasadena.

White Bear Yacht Club 

It was in 1915 when Watson designed one of his best courses, the golf course at White Bear Yacht Club north east of St. Paul, Minnesota. It is a course that sometimes has been credited to Donald Ross, but this is from Dr. Mark Mammel, historian at the club:

“We have two contemporaneous documents about the course’s origin: first, a brochure from 1918 about the course, on display in the golf house, and second an article in “Golfers’ Magazine” from May 1925. The brochure shows photos of many of the holes and includes the statement “William Watson laid it out. Donald Ross gave freely of his advice in its development and Tom Vardon, the professional at the club, was of great assistance.” In the 1925 article, past Commodore W. G. Graves describes that the early 9-hole course “came into being” but adds no other details, then stating that after acquiring more land “…an 18 hole course was planned. William Watson laid it out. Donald Ross gave freely of his advice in its development and Tom Vardon, the professional at the club, was of great assistance [note that this is a quote from the brochure!]….The original plan tested by play has required very little change or modification. Such changes and improvements as have been made as opportunity afforded have been strictly in line with the plan after experience showed that nothing more was needed. There has been no vacillation and there is no regret for money ill spent and for unnecessary discomfort and interruption to play.”

As additional proof, William Watson spoke to the San Diego media on April 9, 1920 about the design that he had just submitted to San Diego CC (completed in September 1921). In the interview he was asked what three recent designs he was most proud of? He answered: “White Bear Yacht Club near St. Paul, Sunset Hill Country Club near St. Louis, and Westmoreland Country Club outside of Chicago. He also said that he had superintended the work at all three courses. (Note that Sunset Hill CC is credited from the club’s records with being designed by the Foulis brothers).

Olympia Fields

South of Chicago, Olympia Fields founder Charles Beach had a dream of building the largest country club in the world. With nearly 700 acres, Beach decided to make Olympia Fields the first private club in America to offer its members four 18-hole courses all built by well-known Scottish Americans. His clubhouse was built to 110,000 square feet – the largest private golf clubhouse in the world complete with an 80-foot clock tower. (another reference put the square footage closer to 200,000).

The first course was designed by Tom Bendelow (pictured below) and opened in 1916. Bendelow had emigrated from Aberdeen Scotland and gained fame while selling golf equipment for A.G. Spalding. In order to drive sales for golf equipment, he laid-out hundreds of courses, many in one day each with stakes for tees, fairways and greens. He quickly graduated to becoming Spalding’s Director of Golf Course Development at its Chicago headquarters. He is especially remembered for carefully designing the first versions of Medinah’s #1, 2 and 3 courses and for the Eastlake Golf Course in Atlanta that was the first Atlanta Athletic Club. His total golf course count exceeded 700 in his 35-year American career.

James Foulis, Jr arrived at Olympia Fields in 1917 as head professional and construction supervisor. Watson designed the second course at Olympia Fields in 1918. Bendelow and Watson collaborated on the third course that opened in 1920. Then came the big finish – a course along the northern edge of the property designed by famed Scottish golf architect Willie Park Jr. opened in 1922. It is Park’s North Course that has continued to host big championships.

American Golfer, April 1921 issue reported — “Two courses from plans by William Watson and Tom Bendelow were started and the work was carried forward rapidly. In 1917 James Foulis, Jr., came to the club as professional, and under his construction supervision the No. 1 and No. 2 courses were completed and put in first-class shape, and the No. 3 course was constructed and opened for play in June of 1920.”

“Park was first hired in 1919 by the club to review and modify the first three courses, concentrating on No. 3,” wrote Tim Cronin, author of Golf Under the Clock Tower. “Park spent four days and came up with improvements for all three. The minutes aren’t specific, but the presumption is that the board liked his work so much, they hired him for No. 4.”

Park, a two-time Open champion, eventually spent 40 days on property to oversee Olympia Fields’ signature course. It was one of his last designs – and one of his best. “I am satisfied now that your Number IV Course is the equal of any golf course I have ever seen,” Park once wrote, “and I know of none that is superior, either in beauty or natural terrain.”

After World War II, Olympia Fields faced economic hardships and sold off half of its land, keeping the No. 4 course intact while creating a composite South course from holes used on the other three courses. Most of Watson’s work was lost in the downsizing and only a couple of his holes remain on the South Course.

Second Hollywood Country Club

Reported in the January 1920 Golf Illustrated:
“ALONG THE PACIFIC COAST THE purchase of the country estate of W. F. Holt by the recently organized Hollywood Country Club means the eventual addition of two golf courses to the Los Angeles section of Southern California. And these additions will be the more interesting because one of them will be a nine-hole course laid out especially for women—a plan much talked of in other parts of the country, but rarely carried out. The other course will be eighteen holes. As the estate is a three-hundred-acre tract. there will be ample room for not only these developments, but for the polo field, the twelve tennis courts. the shooting traps and the open air plunge which the club proposes to include in its special attractions. The property, six miles from Hollywood, and reached by a fifteen-minute drive through Laurel Canyon or Cahuenga Pass, stretches along Ventura Boulevard for half a mile and the conformation of the land is such as to provide sporting possibilities for golf. The house, a modern building of twenty rooms, sets well up on the hillside and commands a sweeping view. Some fifty thousand dollars will be spent upon it—for a dining terrace, a ball room and other clubhouse needs. The club will be limited to six hundred members, with only life memberships sold at the outset. The former owner is the president. Mr. Holt is known to nearly everyone in California, particularly in financial circles. He is the original Jefferson Worth in Harold Bell Wright’s novel, “The Winning of Barbar Worth.” and the story was written around his activities in Imperial Valley.”

As seen below from 1919, the site along the ocean for the second Hollywood Country Club certainly had appeal.

Diablo Country Club

Diablo Country Club in Northern California (the Mt. Diablo name was shortened) recently renovated its Watson-designed course back to its original layout, work performed by golf course architect Todd Eckenrode.

The club shared the design drawing by Watson from 1920 below.

Diablo Country Club design by Watson
(Compliments of the Diablo Country Club)

Member David Mackesey notes: “William Watson’s 1920 design work to expand Diablo from 9 to 18 holes emphasized the best of Jack Neville’s 1915 nine hole routing while incorporating the natural elevations on three tee boxes for added length.  For the second nine holes, he started with back to back par 5’s and added two long and challenging par three’s.  Tee boxes are mere steps away from the prior greens, making the course a joy to walk.  He named the holes in 1925, names we use to this day.  The natural terrain became his canvas, using the grassy hollows for improved drainage and a unique playing hazard.  The adjacent hills became tee locations, barriers as blind shots, and a ridgeline green.  The towering eucalyptus trees of the 1890 vintage equestrian race track became a border for three of the holes. The second nine hole routing was routed towards nearby gravity fed irrigation ponds, while keeping the campus of the course tightly wound around the center of the property.”

Hacienda Golf Club

Also, in 1920, the Hacienda Golf Club in an area near Whittier, Fullerton and Anaheim was created and as written by founding member Dr. Herbert Tebbetts, the club reversed supervision roles. It hired Billy Bell to supervise Watson in constructing the first nine holes. According to the Whittier Daily News in 1924, only Watson was brought back to design the back-9 through barrancas and canyons. Having personally just played the course, the back-9 clearly is different than the front. The 380-yard 15th and 200-yard 16th are spectacular designs.

La Habra Star, 16 June 1920 NEW GOLF COURSE ‘DIFFERENT’ IS PROMISE “The Hacienda Country Club is no longer a possibility, but a reality, announces the president, Alonzo Bell, ex-tennis champion. About 150 acres have been secured north of La Habra, in a valley surrounded by hills opening toward the setting sun, giving the long twilight much appreciated by business golfers. William Watson, who is laying out the course, declares it will be a sporty one and that it will utilize many natural canyons and undulations. The length between holes will be as follows: One, 458 yards; two, 82b yards: three, 351 yards; four, 160 yards: live, 335 yards; six. 508 yams seven, 137 yards; eight, 430 yards; nine, 371 yards; ten 342 yards; eleven, 400 yards; twelve, 314 yards, thirteen, 125 yards; fourteen, 393 yards: fifteen. 194 yards, sixteen, 480 yards: seventeen, 381 yards; eighteen, 447 yards; total. 6152 yards. Two nines that balance are quite a hobby with Mr. Watson, he having achieved the same result in the San Gabriel Country Club’s newly arranged course. Each hole will have its own particular feature, and the entire course will have grass greens and fairways, and in many ways will be different from any other Southern California course.”

Below is the tee shot on 15:


Berkeley Country Club

In 1920 Robert Hunter found hilly land that would become Berkeley Country Club. Hunter gave credit to William Watson as the architect and Hunter was construction supervisor, yet Watson himself once stated that when he was engaged as architect, he found little to alter in Hunter’s plans. Hunter had even made models of each green. (Hunter is well-known for his co-design credit with Alister Mackenzie on Valley Club of Montecito as well as other courses).

The San Francisco Call, April 1921 reported on Watson’s work:

GROUND BROKEN FOR GOLF CLUB; Work On Links Under Way at Berkeley Country Club – Ground has been broken for the construction of the Berkeley Country Club and President C. C. Newkirk of the club declared that the building operations will be speeded up as much as possible in order to house the members on the golf course at the very earliest date that good work will allow. “The golf course of the Berkeley Country Club, which is still under construction, nine holes being nearly completed, has been visited by a great number of golf experts and all agree that we have one of the choicest courses that ever lay outdoors,” President Newkirk said.” For this splendid result we have to thank William Watson. who laid out the course, and his assistant, James S. Watson, who has been superintendent of construction from the beginning, Robert Hunter, secretary of the club, has contributed vastly to the success of the undertaking by his advice, his knowledge being founded on experience by playing over nearly every golf course of prominence in America and abroad. Joseph F. Brooks, vice president of the club, has rendered invaluable service in every department of the work. Among the members of the board, as well as of the club, there has been manifested a fine spirit of co-operation, the enthusiasm being remarkable. The other members of the board of directors, in addition to those mentioned, are Fred G. Athearn, William Cavalier, E. M. Downer, A. F. Hockenbeame. James B. Keister, E. F. Eouideck, W. J. Mortimer, Frank L. Naylor and Vernon Peck, all of whom have devoted much time and energy to the development of the beautiful property of the club, which comprises 165 acres.”

San Diego Country Club

Watson also designed the San Diego Country Club as described in the San Francisco Call in August 1921:

GOLF CLUB TO BE OPENED IN SOUTH; San Diego Course Ready for Play on September 3 —Another golf course -will be added to the long list of southern California links when the San Diego Country Club opens its new course with a tournament September 3, 4 and 5. The course is within convenient distance of San Diego and affords a view of ocean and mountains. Experts declare it to be strictly Scottish. Approximately $250,000 has been invested by the club in the course, there being 160 acres of land. and a $50,000 clubhouse on the property. Three tennis courts are being built at the clubhouse. The course was designed by William Watson of Los Angeles and will be in charge of “Jimmy” Simpson, one of the best-known professionals on the Pacific coast. The yardage for the course is as follows: First hole, 360; second, 410: third. 164: fourth. 505; fifth, 388; sixth, 186; seventh. 318; eighth, 465; ninth. 385; tenth. 480; eleventh. 320: twelfth, 198; thirteenth. 449; fourteenth, 382; fifteenth, 525; sixteenth. 139; seventeenth. 321; eighteenth. 425. The eighteenth hole is declared to be one of the most remarkable on the coast, being well trapped and with the natural undulating fairway affording a keen test to the experienced golfer. The sixth hole also plays a prominent part in contributing to, what experts’ term, a “sporty” course. The three and one-half miles of fairway, sufficiently wide at all points, is all in grass, kept green by seven miles of water piping, while the greens themselves are a vast expanse of velvety turf. The course is composed of two big nine-hole loops, which will have “right of way” at all points, crossing neither each other nor being crossed by any roadways. Par for the new course is 36 on each nine and this will give contestants something to shoot at, as par is figured on yardage alone, no consideration being given the hazards. The total yardage is 6420 for the eighteen holes.

San Diego Country Club

I have been a member of SDCC since 2000, back when it was erroneously deemed a Billy Bell course. Preceding that I was a Senior Director on the USGA Staff for 17 years and got to see hundreds of great courses. SDCC has amazing greens which in recent years were named Best Greens by the Southern California Golf Association. Its fairways and roughs have beautiful contours which teach you to play all types of lies—and yet, it is an easy walk. It was home to Billy Casper and Mickey Wright and hosted golfing greats including a big purse match won by Ben Hogan. It also hosted the first two San Diego Opens in 1952 and 1953 (future Farmers Insurance Open), the 1964 U.S. Women’s Open won by local Mickey Wright. Additionally, two U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships have been held there, the most  recent in 2017. It currently is ranked the 22nd best course in California by Golf Magazine. Golf Digest has ranked it higher and I agree. It never gets boring.