Wilshire Country Club, Hancock Park fixture, celebrates 100

| October 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

CURRENT CLUBHOUSE at Wilshire Country Club was completed in 2001 and remodeled in 2008.

In our August issue, in the first installment of our three-part series on the history of the Wilshire Country Club, we noted the prominent role played by women in the history of the club. In September, in our second chapter, we described the founding years and early growth of the club. This concluding installment reports on more recent history plus the centennial celebration events that took place at the end of last month.

In the year 1919, on September 25, a group of local businessmen incorporated the Wilshire Country Club, and they and their guests soon began enjoying a golf course built around an ancient creek that meanders down from the Hollywood hills. They also began using a brand new clubhouse built at the northwest corner of what is today Beverly Blvd. and Rossmore Ave.

That first clubhouse served until 1971, when an entirely new one was designed by member architect and Fremont Place resident, Ragnar Qvale. But then, 30 years later, in 2001, the third and current clubhouse was completed. This clubhouse was designed by former Larchmont Village resident and architect Scott Johnson and the Johnson Fain firm, which further remodeled the building in 2008. That is the building we see today.

The clubhouse and the course also have been the setting in recent years for the popular LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) tournament that brought most of the world’s best women golfers to Hancock Park in the spring of 2018 and 2019 — and promises to do so again April 25 to 28, 2020.

New practice facilities

Those golf pros will benefit — and the club’s members and guests already have started to benefit — from a major improvement that opened on Sept. 17, the new driving range. Club manager Todd Keefer expects that players will be hitting on new natural turf areas beginning Oct 3. “The entire practice complex will have improved turf grass and bunkers, along with expanded and adequate tee space to allow for excellent turf conditions and a proper first impression of [original designer] Norman Macbeth’s masterpiece,” he says.

Weeklong celebration

The clubhouse and the golf course were the sites for celebratory happenings the last week of September. Not surprisingly, the game of golf was a central attraction of the events enjoyed by members and guests to recognize the founding of the club in 1919. As the club’s event promoters put it, “100 hours celebrating 100 years,” with the kickoff being a Tuesday evening, Sep. 24 exhibition of how golf was played at Wilshire in 1919.

Kicked off by the sounds of a bagpiper, the late afternoon event at the highest elevation on the course, with extraordinary views of Downtown Los Angeles, provided attendees with cocktails and hors d’oeuvre while the guests tested circa 1919 hickory golf clubs and 1919 replica golf balls.

The next day saw celebrants at a less athletic gathering, a “Dinner and Conversation” with the club’s historian and centennial book author, Douglas N. Dickey. But that was only a one-day break from the course, because the third event of the week was the “Centennial Challenge” afternoon golf tournament on Thursday.

The “Presidents’ Reception with History Exhibit” was the Friday evening kickoff of the big weekend, followed by the main event of the centennial celebration, Saturday’s “100th Birthday Gala” that found hundreds of members outside on the grounds enjoying multiple bars and food stations, all while waiting for the major fireworks display that was followed by a lavish buffet dinner inside and — later — visits from food trucks and dancing. “Whew!”

The fireworks were beautiful but loud, of course. They generated a flurry of Next-Door online comments about dogs and fireworks.

AUTHOR Doug Dickey holds his centennial history book. Photo by Gary Leonard

The future for Wilshire

The author of the club’s centennial history book, Doug Dickey, concludes the thick volume with this observation:

“[T]he future looks especially bright for Wilshire Country Club as it enters its one-hundredth year in the heart of Los Angeles. Situated in prestigious Hancock Park, its location is reminiscent of the Central Park setting in the center of New York City. For an original piece of property that contained oil wells as far as the eye could see, Wilshire’s founders hired Norman Macbeth to design and build its original links-style course. …

“Wilshire’s founders would be very proud of the club’s first hundred years of progress, especially since the original clubhouse was designed to be converted into a church in case the club failed to be successful.”

A church? Better today as a temple to the game of golf — and 105 acres of green open space that benefits both the neighborhood and the city.

By John Welborne and Sidney Gubernick, who is a sophomore at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Md. The Chronicle thanks WCC for the use of photographs from “The History of Wilshire Country Club: A Centennial Celebration,” written by club member Douglas N. Dickey.


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