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Quail Lodge, 1st golf course in Carmel Valley, celebrates 50-year anniversary

Lying just a few miles inland from the coastside golf courses of the Monterey Peninsula, the Carmel Valley location of Quail Lodge Golf Club is a sunnier alternative to foggy Peninsula golf.
Lying just a few miles inland from the coastside golf courses of the Monterey Peninsula, the Carmel Valley location of Quail Lodge Golf Club is a sunnier alternative to foggy Peninsula golf.
photo courtesy Quail Lodge

Quail Lodge Golf Club, known as one of the finest resort/residential golf clubs in the Monterey Peninsula region, celebrated its 50th Anniversary on June 25, 2014, marking a half-century of golf history in Carmel Valley.

Founded by local businessman Edgar Haber and opening for play in 1964, the club—originally known as Carmel Valley Golf & Country Club—was laid out on 240 acres along the Carmel River that had previously been home to a dairy farm. At the time, the construction of another golf course in the golf-rich Monterey Peninsula region might have seemed risky, but Haber’s vision was to take advantage of the sunnier micro-climate (a term that hadn’t been coined yet…) of the Carmel Valley to entice golfers away from the summertime coastal fog.

Situated less than four miles from the chilly waters of Carmel Bay, the new course would play in sunshine much more often than the existing ocean-side courses just up the road, and the river-bottom location ensured good drainage, a critical factor for golf course maintenance. The Robert Muir Graves design is a classic two-loop layout which winds along the narrow valley floor alongside the Carmel River, overlooked by the heights of the Santa Lucia mountains rising on either side.

The river-bottom landscape inhabited by the course looks as though the course was laid out on untouched land, but all the trees on the property were planted during the construction of the course, trees not being a feature usually found on a dairy farm. A noteworthy feature, unique to this course, is the use of a specific type of tree as yardage marker. Rather than interrupt the sweep of the fairways with the traditional black-and-white pole marker, each hole has a white birch discreetly located to one side of the fairway, 150 yards from the center of the green. Long before the advent of laser rangefinders and GPS measuring devices, Quail Lodge was using this natural, but effective means of providing yardage information for golfers.

Besides the prime location of the new course, there were two other factors working in Haber’s favor – television, and Arnold Palmer. The mid-1960s saw a boom in the golf business, as a hard-swinging, long-hitting young man from Latrobe, Pennsylvania broadened the game’s appeal beyond the exclusive-country-club set to blue-collar America at the same time that increased television coverage of professional tournaments was being beamed into living rooms and dens across the country.

In fact, Arnold Palmer was one of the first professional players to adopt the new club as a practice course and base of operations when in town for the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at nearby Pebble Beach. After Quail Lodge was constructed, providing a place to eat and sleep right on the course, Palmer stayed at the Lodge, and practiced on the course at the Carmel Valley Country Golf and Club (as it was still known) in 1968 and 1969. Other pros followed his lead, and during the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, such notable golfers as Doug Sanders, David Graham, and Gary Player stayed at Quail Lodge, shuttling to the Pebble Beach on a private helicopter hired by Haber to avoid traffic on Hwy 1 and the 17-Mile Drive.

It was the club’s television exposure due to professional golf that drove the name change. In the 1980s Carmel Valley Golf and Country Club hosted the annual Spalding Invitational, a non-Tour event that nevertheless drew strong, high-caliber fields. During the television coverage, broadcasters referred to the course as “the Golf Club at Quail Lodge”, and in 1988 Haber decided to take advantage of the new name recognition, and renamed the property “Quail Lodge Golf Club”.

Some highlights from the first 50 years of the club’s history:

  • Less than a year after it opened for play, the Course was selected to host a USGA Sectional Qualifying tournament for the 1965 U.S. Open. Bob Moore of Salinas shot 70-74 for an even-par 144 to lead nine qualifiers.
  • Quail Lodge has hosted the California State Women’s Amateur Championship since 1987. Monterey’s Mina Harigae made national headlines here, winning four straight State Am titles between 2001 to 2004.
  • PGA Tour and Chamions Tour player Bobby Clampett grew up at the course. In his career he was a two-time Collegiate Player of the Year, a PGA Tour champion, and a popular golf broadcaster. He took his first lessons from club pro Lee Martin.
  • Special events at the club over the years have included concerts by Tony Bennett, fundraisers with Clint Eastwood, as well as an estimated $50 million worth of luxury motorcars at “The Quail,” part of the Monterey Car Week/Concours d’Elegance.

Looking ahead to the next 50 years, and beyond, there are evolutionary changes in store for Quail Lodge. Like many courses around the country, and particularly here in California, the management and course supervision personnel at Quail Lodge are concerned about water usage. Plans are being formulated to reduce the irrigated area of the course by 20 acres, mostly by removing turfed rough and replacing it with natural waste areas and bark-chip ground cover. The course’s water hazards are slated to be reworked to prevent water loss, and some will be eliminated entirely. Tees and bunkers are scheduled to reconstructed, and a new, more efficient irrigation system will be installed.

With a half-century of distinguished local golf history behind it, and with changes in store to increase the course’s sustainability and environmental efficiency, Quail Lodge is looking forward to its second half-century, and beyond.

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