The History of Baywood

There are a number of reasons why Baywood is rated the third best golf course in the close to 500 mile stretch between San Francisco and Bandon Oregon.  One of them is that it’s located on a great piece of land, second is it plays through the redwoods and third, like the other two top rated courses, it was designed by great golf course architects. Meadow Club in Marin County was designed in 1927 by the greatest architect of all time, Alister Mackenzie.  Mayacama, outside of Santa Rosa was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2001.  Baywood has had three outstanding designers over the years.

The original nine-hole course was called Bayside and was the design of one of the country’s greatest players, Chandler Egan, in 1933.  How Egan got to Baywood in the first place is a story in itself.  He was a Chicago native born in 1884 and wound up going to Harvard where he was the National Collegiate Champion in 1902.  In 1904, he was the U.S. Amateur Champion, the Western Open Champion and Gold Medalist in the Olympic Games held in St. Louis (incidentally, the last Olympics to have golf until Rio in 2016).  In 1905, Egan won the U.S. Amateur again, an event on par with the U.S. Open at the time.  He was the best player in America.

For reasons not exactly clear, Egan and nine other Harvard graduates moved to Medford Oregon in 1911 where he became a rancher and then began his golf architecture career.  He could still play though as is evidenced by a team match in Portland Oregon at Waverly Country Club, an Egan Design, against the world’s best player, Harry Vardon and his partner, Ted Ray, from Great Britain.

This was in 1913, just weeks after Vardon and Ray were upset by unknown amateur Francis Quimet in a 3-way playoff for the U.S. Open Championship.  The match has been memorialized in the film “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and was the catalyst that sent the United States to preeminence in world golf. It was a great 36-hole match, with the British pair defeating Egan and his partner on the final hole by one shot.  Ironically, Egan was Quimet’s role model when he was growing up.

Egan continued to play, winning the Pacific Northwest Amateur Championship five times and the California Amateur twice, but architecture became his passion.  He built courses in Oregon, Washington and California. In 1929, he teamed with the great Mackenzie to remodel The Pebble Beach Golf Links for the U.S. Amateur that year.  The time spent with Mackenzie was a great learning experience for him and he put it to good use designing the first nine holes at Bayside four years later.  (Interestingly, Pebble was designed by 5-time California State Amateur Champion, Jack Neville and Douglas Grant in 1919.  Neville was both a friend and rival of Egan’s).

Egan was highly respected by everyone in golf.  When he passed away from pneumonia in 1936, Bobby Jones, the greatest player ever until then, traveled four days to get to the funeral service and even wrote the eulogy.  Jones had previously invited Egan to play in the first Master’s Tournament in 1934.

Bayside was open from 1933 until 1941 when it was essentially abandoned during WWII.  In 1945, local golf legend, Mel Babica received a 20-year lease on the property and set to putting the course back in order.  Before that, Babica was a touring pro from 1931 until 1942 when he entered the service.  He was on the staff of the MacGregor Golf Company, as was the great Ben Hogan.

In late 1948, Hogan was finishing up one of the greatest years in golf history and was playing an exhibition in Redding and agreed to come over to Bayside and play in an exhibition match with Mel.  Back then there was no Hwy. 299 or Hwy. 36, so Hogan had to drive down to 20, cut over to 101 and back up to Eureka where he stayed at the Eureka Inn.  The next day, they played the match with some other Humboldt golfers.  Now Hogan was famous for being the coldest golfer to ever play and he proved it that day by virtually not saying a word to anyone, or even acknowledging their existence.

When the match ended with Hogan winning by one shot, Mel was at a loss of what to do with Ben, so he came up with fishing.  So, they go up to the Mad, cast a few lines and then you couldn’t shut Hogan up.  He loved fishing and turned out to be one of the great guys telling countless stories of life on tour.

Hogan left Humboldt the next day and was playing his way back to his home in Texas.  He stopped in Oakland and Los Angeles and was headed east when on a foggy night in February of 1949 a Greyhound Bus crossed over the line and hit Hogan and his wife Valerie head on.  Hogan instinctively dove over to protect his wife and it saved his live too as he would have been impaled by the steering wheel.  He was in the hospital for 59 days

Hogan had won 13 times in 1948, including 2 major championships and it didn’t look good for him, but with his famed determination, he started playing again and won 6 more major championships in his famed career.  Who knows what would have happened if he didn’t come over to play the Bayside exhibition, but he probably wouldn’t have been in the same place at the same time when that bus came by.

In 1956 a group of Humboldt businessmen led by Arcata Redwood President Howard Libby, Herb Petersen, Cliff Mitchell, Jack Daly Jr., O.F. Olsen, Dick Nash, Lawton Bussman and Chet Morell among others, decided to start a country club.  By all accounts it was Libby who was the driving force behind the project.  The Bayside Land and Investment Company incorporated on September 24, 1956. They sold 5,000 shares of stock for $100 each raising $500,000 to design and build the golf course and clubhouse.  The directors decided to hire Bob Baldock, one of the best architects in Northern California to design a nine-hole course.  Baldock has designed over 80 courses, including the Shore Course at Monterrey Peninsula and was given one of the best pieces of land for a course ever.  He didn’t disappoint.  The back at Baywood is one of the absolute best nines anywhere and was certainly Baldock’s best work.  The course opened for play in 1958 so you had two courses side by side.  The original Bayside and the new Baywood.

In 1964, Babica’s lease ran out and the Baywood Golf and Country Club was able to buy the land and brought back Baldock to do the renovation.  In 1966, it was opened as an eighteen-hole course, but it still had the feel of having been designed by different architects.  In the late 1970’s, under the direction of Bill Carson, the club hired Robert Muir Graves to redesign the course and it was a major undertaking.  Bob Graves was one of the first college trained landscape architects to work exclusively on golf courses.  In his career, he worked on over 300 of them.  And he was the President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the highest honor in the field.

Eleven greens were torn apart and rebuilt.  All the bunkers were reshaped for both their aesthetic and strategic values.  The work continued into 1980 and when Muir Graves left, Baywood remained as one of the best courses you can play anywhere.

The Golf Course

Par 5,493 yard – 15 Handicap, Because of the openness. The first hole is straight and drops downhill to reveal a green with very little room behind the green. The greenside bunker on the right side will keep you opting for a shot to the left.

Par 5, 512 yards –13 Handicap, This is the longest part 5 on the course. Any shot to the right or left will miss the green and fall into bunkers, but you can still chip up onto the green. Hit the ball long and straight. There are trees to block the wind, which at times can dramatically affect your shot. Bunker to the left and right.

Par 4, 307 yards – 9 Handicap, This is a dogleg left, short par 4. Your drive over the ridge to a semi-blind landing area sets up a short iron second shot to a green, guarded on the front right by a deep bunker. Err on the short side on your approach as long approaches will get you in trouble.

Par 4, 319 yards – 11 Handicap, This medium length hole is very tight. It’s framed by large Redwoods on the right and left side of the fairways. The second shot is tricky – you must guard against bunkers located on the front right of the green. Miss short and don’t go too far right or the street will leave you with a very difficult shot.

Par 3, 137 yards – 17 Handicap, By far Baywoods most iconic par 3. An Elevated tee shot that has to carry over the pond. With towering redwoods to the left and right, navigating to a wide flat green can be a treat. Beware the false front. Many short tee shots fall victim to rolling back down into the water.

Par 4, 370 yards – 5 Handicap, With water on the left, stretching almost the entire length of the fairway, Hole 6 is medium length par 4 with a wide fairway. Reachable in 2 shots, the sharpshooter players are rewarded because of the bunkers located on both the left and right of the green entrance. A large and steep green, overshots, result in long downhill putts that can be tricky to connect with.

Par 4, 383 yards – 1 Handicap, Hole 7 is one of Baywoods trickiest holes. With your second shot leading to a long, uphill trek to the green. Then green is a long and narrow with a subtle downhill play to hit. 7 is a hole that if taken advantage of carry you through to a good round.

Par 3, 202 yards – 17 Handicap Long, tough Par 3 with a false front and bunkers fronting both sides, two putting is no easy task.

Par 4, 382 yards – 7 Handicap, Here is a blind tee shot over a hill, so you can’t see the ball land. The fairway is guarded on the left and right by tees. With a wide Fairway, the second shot leaves a downhill about 195 yards to a green surrounded. I feel this hole captures what golf in the Northwest should be.

Par 4, 327 yards – 8 Handicap, This is my favorite hole. This fairway doglegs to the left. Hit your driver from Right to left, which is reachable, but guarded by a giant redwood. Or, take the safer route, from the elevated tee, on the right side with a 3 wood or long iron, then it’s a middle iron shot down to the green. The green has bunkers guarding the left and back side of one of the touchiest greens at Baywood.

Par 4, 445 yards – 4 Handicap, From the get-go, hole 11 appears impossibly far away. A tee shot from an elevated spot, leading downhill for all 445 to the green is a task. The fairways appear extremely narrow simply because of the rows of redwoods that line the left and right of the fairway. Once your ball is on the fairway, hit a 3 wood second shot to the nastiest green at Baywood. If You can get it there, this green is surrounded by bunkers and false edges. Hit the ball too far left it will roll off. The same goes for too far to the back right. And if you miss the green you will end up one of the 3 bunkers. The fun doesn’t stop there. With the hardest green to read on the course, hole 11 will make or break rounds.

Par 3, 159 yards – 14 Handicap, This is a spectacular “risk/reward” hole with wetlands on the left side of the fairway. In the summer, hit with a 3 wood or long iron. In the winter, go with a driver. Stay to the right side to get the best approach shot. The green has a lot of movement with a bunker on the right side.

Par 4, 334 yards – 12 Handicap, This par 4 can be tricky to navigate. Players will want to take their drives to the left over the hill instead of playing it right. Which leads to a nice easy approach shot. If you do choose to go the shorter route on the right. A bungle of redwoods will block your path to the green and at the same time tempt you with small glimpses of the green. A large green with a bunker on the left, has a slight slope to it that is very puttable and plays true.

Par 5, 483 yards – 6 Handicap, Hole 14 is a beautiful narrow par 5. Which what feels like a tunnel of redwoods, Hole 14 is a long hole. Play your tee shot straight and true. A small bunker on the right side is a ball vacuum. From your second shot, play a long 3 wood to approach the green. That green being engulfed in alternating bunkers and redwoods. With this “cubby” feel to the green, it truly overwhelms the players with the essence of being in the redwoods.

Par 3, 200 yards – 10 Handicap, Hole 15 is a wide open par 3 which can lead to some very exciting shots. Flat and open, a long iron or hybrid will give players some exciting runs to a wide green and plenty of birdies. With views of redwoods in the back and a friendly wide green, hole 15 is a treat.

Par 5, 447 yards – 18 Handicap, My favorite tee shot on the whole course. Hole 16 allows you to have your ball get shot out of a redwood alley. Giant redwood line 16’s tee box leading to a long rolling par 5. Beware the large cluster of bunkers off the tee. If played right, your second shot is a manageable long iron or 3 wood. Landing on this green is trick due to the bunkers on the left and right and its long and narrow set-up.

Par 4, 267 yards – 16 Handicap, 17 is a truly fun hole. This dogleg right can play tricks with you off the tee. With the back end of the fairway having a wall of redwoods, player should take a 3 wood or long iron to not smash their ball into the tries. Once around the bend players will approach the funkiest green at Baywood. This skinny, bumpy, crazy green has a right side bunker that extends the whole length of the green. With a little skill and a lotta luck, Players will have to take on a truly unique green.

Par 4, 398 yards – 2 Handicap, This is the toughest hole to birdie at all of baywood. This finishing hole plays into a panoramic view of the clubhouse. The Long dogleg right has a wide fairway to start of with. The second shot is intimidating. A ravine runs across the fairway about 40 yards before the green, leading to a steep uphill climb to a two tiered sloped green. It forces players to decide if they can get it all the way to the top or just layup short of the ravine. Regardless of what they decide, playing this steep two tiered green has sent many balls back down the hill and into the ravine. A true test of your skills, hole 18 is the perfect way to end your Baywood experience.