Catalina Island Golf Course is California’s oldest golf course and exudes the charm of the relaxing getaway.
Catalina Island Golf Course is a golf course as relaxed and unassuming as the regular golfers that play it, though welcoming to outsiders who are willing to make the unorthodox trek.
Catalina Island Golf Course is the oldest golf course in California, but it doesn’t look its age. Renovations and an attentive staff make certain that this facility is one
that every one should play.
A lot of golfers scoff at a golf course that is not 6,800 yards or longer, thinking the experience is beneath them. That is a huge mistake, especially with this creative layout. The course is nine holes, but there are two sets of tees that allow it to be played as an 18-hole tract.
When it was built in 1892 by two ofthe island’s original owners, the Banning Brothers, it was only three holes, built on oiled sand in the Avalon Canyon. The following year, the brothers added four more holes and in 1925 hired John Duncan Dunn to add two more holes and make it a nine-hole layout.
A dam was constructed, thus making water available to irrigate the land and nine more holes were built in 1929. It was a vision the brothers had to attract the country club set, which were already beginning to flock to the island because of its reputation as a playground for the rich and famous. Hollywood was already coming, attracting actors like Clark Gable and Douglas Fairbanks.
The brothers enticed golf royalty in 1931 when famed amateur Robert Tyre Jones lent his name and efforts to the Bobby Jones Invitational. The tournament ran from 1931 to 1942, taking a brief hiatus for World War II and resuming after the war again until 1955.
While Jones’ tournament survived the war, the course did not. In 1945 it reverted back to nine holes. That’s not the only famous golfer who has been on the course, however. In 1967 the Avalon Men’s Golf Club began the Catalina Island Junior Golf Tournament. Some of the famous pros that played here as youngsters included Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, Amy Alcott and Tiger Woods.
It is easy to see why they played here. It is a challenging layout with narrow fairways and deep, punishing bunkers.The opening hole is the first of five par 4s and the second longest at 325 yards. It is also the only hole that doesn’t have a second tee option if playing 18 holes. Teeing off from across the street provides a forced carry across Avalon Canyon Road and past two fairway bunkers. The second shot is another carry off Golf Links Road to a green that is deep in the canyon and encased by trees.
There are only two holes that have back-to-back par 3s No. 6 and 7 and with the demand on accuracy, you never get the feeling you are playing a course that is just over 2,000 yards. That hardest hole on the course is No. 4, a 328-yard par 4 that runs along Avalon Canyon Road and though it doesn’t have any fairway bunkers, the tight fairway is hazardous enough. The second shot has a bunker that is about 20 yards from the green, creating an optical illusion. Get past that trap and two more await at the green.
Even the par 3s can be treacherous. The No. 6 hole is the easiest on the course at 100 yards, but the small
green and three bunkers give it some teeth. The eighth hole is 273 yards and some will be tempted to go for the green off the tee, but thick strands of trees on the left and out of bounds right makes golfers think twice.
The finishing hole is a par 3 that has two large traps and a kidney-shapedgreen. Even though the par is 32, most
golfers will be happy to break 40 the first time. The subtle nuances of the course require a second goround, and with a pace of play at about 90 minutes, 18 holes won’t take up all day. Besides a course this nice and with so much history should be enjoyed twice.
WHAT TO DO AFTER GOLF
You finished your round but you aren’t ready to go back to the mainland just yet, No problem, there are several places to stay, eat and visit after golf. Below is a sample of some of them.
One of the favorite places for tourists and locals is The Lobster Trap. They have an extensive seafood menu, including local and Maine lobster. Try the ahi stuffed mushroom tempura appetizer. (128 Catalina Street, 310- 510-8585) Another restaurant that gets consistently high marks is Steve’s Steakhouse. The steaks are good with the ribeye particularly popular. If you want to try something different go with the Buffalo cheeseburger. (417 Crescent Avenue, 310-510-0333) A little pricey, but the views and food make up for the expense. The Avalon Grille has primarily steak
and seafood. One of the specialties is the bacon-wrapped quail with oyster stuffing and goat cheese. (423 Crescent Avenue, 310- 510-7494) There is one Chinese restaurant on the island, but it’s a pretty good one. Mr. Ning’s Chinese Garden has traditional Mandarin food and is affordably priced. (127 Sumner Ave. 310-510-1161).
The Pavilion Hotel has a great spot overlooking the harbor and is 14 steps from the beach. This luxury hotel offers flat screen, HD televisions, iHome music centers, complimentary deluxe continental breakfast, complimentary use of iPads and complimentary afternoon wine & cheese tasting. (513 Crescent Ave., 310-510- 1788) There are several categories of rooms at the Avalon Hotel, including ocean view, garden view and balcony view. Some of the amenities of the hotel include, continental breakfast, custom bath amenities, taxi from boat terminal, garden patio with koi pond and firepit, afternoon refreshments and Internet service. (124 Whittley Ave., 310-510-7070) A smaller and more affordable option is the Mac Rae Hotel. This facility has been family owned since 1920 and has 24 rooms. The amenities are less than some of the other pricier hotels, but it won’t feel like you are slumming it. Take advantage of internet and package deals. (409 Crescent Ave., 310-510-0246) The six-room Snug Harbor Inn has a bed-and-breakfast feel, but is definitely a luxury hotel. Two of the rooms have full ocean views, with the other four having partial. The Cape Cod theme is evident throughout the facility and the staff prides itself on its attentiveness. (108 Sumner Ave., 310-510-8400.
One of the oldest attractions is the Catalina Island Museum. The museum was started by Philip K. Wrigley and opened Nov. 29, 1953. It is on the ground floor of the historic Casino building, which should also be visited. The museum contains many artifacts of the area, including ceramics produced by Catalina Clay Products between 1927 and 1937. (1 Casino Way, Casino Building, 310-
510-2414) The Nature Center is a great place to go to see the story of the natural history of the island. There is no cost and has exhibits focusing on natural history and conservation efforts on the Island. There is also a section that shows the wildlife and how it got there, as well as the natural plants, trees and flowers. (1202 Avalon Canyon Road, 310-510-0954 An interesting way to see the island is a Jeep Eco-Tour. The tour hits remote parts of the island that can’t be accessed through bicycle, golf cart or hiking and the two- or three-hour tour will show ancient archaeological sites, wildlife such as bison, foxes and bald eagles and plant communities indigenous to only the island. (310-510-2595, ext. 108) A daytime undersea tour in the Sea Wolf or Emerald semi-submersible vessel is a great way to see the local marine life. The vessels cruise 5 feetunderwater and the tour includes feeding of the fish, which includes bright orange garibaldi, spotted calico bass, urchins, rockfish and bat rays. (800-626-7489)
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
What: Catalina Island Golf Course
Where: 1 Country Club Drive, Avalon, CA
Website: www.visitcatalinaisland.com or Catalina Island Golf Course
How to get there: Either a one-hour boat ride or a 15-minute helicopter ride, both leave from Long Beach. Boats also leave out of San Pedro, Newport Beach and Dana PointInsider info:
Walking from the pier is definitely possible. It is a half-mile and will save cab fare … Club rental is $27 and comes with balls and tees … Reservations are recommended.
Green Fees: $35 nine holes Mon.-Thurs,
$40 Fri.-Sun., $49 for 18 holes Mon.-
Thurs., $56 Fri.-Sun. Pull carts as well as
electric carts are available.
The golf course is walking distance from the ships that dock in the port.