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Tahoe City Golf Course at 100: A rich history in the Sierra Nevada

The golf course industry has taken some serious hits the past several years – more than 700 courses reportedly have closed in the past 10 years. Amidst all of that bad news, however, here’s a feel-good story: The Tahoe City Golf Course has opened for its 100th season.

“The fact that we have little nine-hole golf course that is still chugging along after 100 years is quite a feat,’’ said Kurt Althof, management analyst for The Tahoe City Public Utility District, which has owned the 46-acre course since 2012.

That it’s the oldest course at Lake Tahoe and among the oldest courses in Nevada each are facts worthy of claims to fame. But here is another: Tahoe City Golf Course was designed and built by a woman – Isabella May “Queenie” Dunn-Webb.

“Queenie” Dunn-Webb

Born in Wimbledon, England in 1880, “Queenie” was the granddaughter of famed English golfer Willie Dunn, Sr., and daughter of Tom Dunn, a well-known golf club maker and course architect.  Anyone who has played North Berwick on the south shore of Scotland’s Firth of Forth knows of Tom Dunn and his family legacy.

“Queenie’’ Dunn followed in the family business as an outstanding player and teacher of the game of golf. In 1915, she and her husband, William Webb, moved to the U.S., first to the Boston area, then to Aiken, S.C., and in 1916, to Reno.

In 1917, “Queenie’’ and her sister, Norah, designed the Reno Golf Club – now the Washoe County Golf Course. The following year “Queenie’’ designed what was then known as “Tahoe Tavern Links,’’ which eventually became Tahoe City Golf Course.

First built as a six-hole course with sand greens, the Tavern Links became nine holes and 2,765 yards in 1921.

Through a series of sales, Tahoe Tavern Links, its outlying and separately deeded parcels were divided among the partners. The golf course became the property of Gordon and Pat Hyde in 1946. Two years later, the Hyde’s sold to Carl Bechdolt, Jr. and wife Elsie. The course remained with the Bechdolt family until February 2012 when a consortium of public agencies, led by the Tahoe City Public Utility District, purchased it for $4.8 million and converted it into a public municipal course.

The District originally hired a local golf course management company to a five-year contract. When the contract expired in 2017, the District took over management itself, with a greater emphasis on improving course conditions and attracting more play. For example, the course opened this weekend with 1917-era rates – 50 cents for nine walking holes and $1 for 18 walking holes.

There’s more to come.

On June 8, the course will host putting and driving contests for all ages using hickory stick putters and throwback equipment.  Following the contests, award-winning and nationally published author and Tahoe historian, Mark McLaughlin, will deliver a historical presentation on the Tahoe City Golf Course.

On Aug. 19, in a nod to female-influenced beginnings, Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, will conduct a junior golf clinic and demonstration. Following the demonstration, the course will host its inaugural family golf tournament, encouraging generations to come together and form teams for this community event.  The junior clinic with Sorenstam has been funded by the Tahoe City Recreation Association whose mission is in part to aid and encourage the development of youth in the community.

“We’re trying to maintain the course’s history and at the same time make it available for those who don’t want to be spend $150 per round,’’ Althof said. “We’re trying to continue to grow the game and expand the base and get the folks who wouldn’t otherwise jump into sport because of the expense.

“We’re really trying to preserve that little corner of the sport of golf. The fact that we have such a historic gem to work with makes it even better.’’

And a great feel-good story.

Photos: Tahoe City Golf Links

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