Del Monte brought championship golf to the Monterey Peninsula in 1897
What was the golf scene like in America when Del Monte Golf Course opened 125 years ago on May 1, 1897?
The first public golf course in the U.S. had opened just two years earlier in the Bronx, New York. The quirky nine-hole design called Van Cortlandt Golf Course consisted of eight holes shorter than 200 yards, and a ninth that traversed more than 700 yards, jumping a pair of stone walls and brooks.
Talk about cross-country golf.
Back on the other side of the country, Charlie Maud soon created the original Del Monte Golf Course, which was conceived as an amenity for the posh and luxurious Hotel Del Monte.
Golf was just one of the many things to do for the rich and famous who rode the Del Monte Express to Monterey from San Francisco. Activities ranged from billiards and bowling to stables, a race track and a polo field. In fact, it was the polo field that first introduced Maud to Monterey and Hotel Del Monte.
Del Monte Golf Course opened as another activity in 1897. The nine-hole layout originally stretched to just 2,219 yards, but by 1903, the popular attraction expanded to become one of the first 18-hole courses in California.
Del Monte quickly became one of the best 18-hole courses in California. The winner of the annual Del Monte Championship was unofficially considered the best golfer in the state. By 1912, it became official, when the tournament spun off into the first California State Amateur. In 1920, the “second course” at Del Monte shared the stage as a co-host. Del Monte’s Second Course was later renamed Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Del Monte soon attracted the attention of some of the biggest names and competitions in the country. The prestigious 1916 Western Amateur was hosted at Del Monte, marking the first time the event was played west of the Continental Divide. The tournament rivaled the U.S. Amateur in stature, and introduced the golfing world to the Monterey Peninsula.
And following his 1922 British Open win, 11-time Major champion Walter Hagen played a 36-hole promotional match on his victory tour that included 18 holes at Del Monte, and 18 holes at Pebble Beach.
Most of the course you play today at Del Monte was routed by Herbert Fowler – the man who recommended turning Pebble Beach’s famous finishing hole into a par-5 – in 1920. But Del Monte has resided on the same piece of property ever since it opened, making it the oldest golf course West of the Mississippi continuously played on its original site.
Hotel Del Monte – Spanish for Hotel of the Grove – was the primary resort property until it closed in 1942 during World War II, when it was leased and eventually sold to the Navy. Now, the building is Herrmann Hall at the Naval Postgraduate School.
But the legacy of Hotel Del Monte still lives on today – in grocery stores. Since Del Monte was associated with luxury, the name was initially licensed for a premium blend of coffee. Today, the Del Monte Foods brand generates more than $1.8 billion in annual sales.
Meanwhile, Del Monte Golf Course continues to provide a championship experience. It hosted the PGA TOUR Champions from 2005-2014, and annually challenges top pros and amateurs with tiny, sloping, old-school greens at the Monterey Open and Monterey City Amateur.