Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Las Cruces Country Club: Lest we forget, Part II

As last week’s part one concluded, LCCC was the “hot spot” of Las Cruces every Thursday night as the “Covered Dish Supper” was held during the late ’40s and most of the ’50s. But that’s not the only time that the Club was a community gathering place. LCCC has served as a polling place and their ball­room has hosted numerous wedding receptions, retirement parties and the such since it opened in the mid-’50s.
Perhaps the most significant community function has been for charity events. The Burger Time Golf Tournament alone has raised millions of dollars for the Las Cruces public high school athletics (primarily foot­ball) programs. In their heyday, I wouldn’t be surprised if LC­CC was hosting at least one charity tournament per week.  In all, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that LCCC’s facility was the catalyst for generating over $100 million to different chari­ties of interest to Las Crucens.
While the Burger Time tour­naments bring out many of New Mexico and West Texas’ best (and worst) players, the Las Cruces LPGA tournament in the mid ’60s may have been the Club’s crowning achieve­ment. My source for most of these two articles — which were documents compiled by the Country Club — leaves a gap from 1959 to 1970. That is­n’t for lack of action at the course. The Las Cruces Ladies Open (LCLO) inaugural event was in late October 1964. The brain child of Tournament Di­rector, Ernie Williams and sup­ported by a broad spectrum of community businesses, the LP­GA event proved Cruces could bring out the crowds for wor­thy occasions. Although the tournament was dropped after three years, the LCLO had proven to be a favorite of the pros. Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie, Mickey Wright, Louise Suggs, Althea Gibson, Marlene Hagge, Betsy Rawls Clifford Ann Creed, Carol Mann, Mari­lyn Smith and Sandra Palmer were among “pro-ettes”, as the Sun-News referred to the fe­male contestants, that consis­tently played in the event.
Try as they might, the Club always seemed to be unable to make ends meet. When things got too uncomfortable for the Club (or the lenders) a piece of property was sold to reduce the debt or pay for an im­provement. In 1953, $8,000 dol­lars was borrowed at 6 percent interest to increase water dis­tribution for the course. A few months later, 30 acres were sold to the City for $8,250. The 30 acres became Apodaca Park. In 1956, about 50 acres were sold to Seaborn Collins for $65,000. That money was used to build the present lounge, rest rooms and ball­room. Later that year, dues were raised to nine dollars a month. Thereafter, the land holdings remained stable until 1980, when four parcels (de­scribed as the Madrid, High­way 70 East, Camino Del Rex, and the triangle) were sold for $237,500. The money was used to pay down debt. The final disposition of excess property took place in 1985 when a 50­foot-by-50-foot parcel was sold to Mountain Bell Telephone for a switching station at a price of $13,500.
Not long after that last piece of land was gone, President Jim Delamater, reminded the membership, “that this Club, while residing on extremely valuable property, does have and almost always has had more expenses than member­ship income.” Throughout the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s the Club explored alternatives to remaining at the valuable Main Street site. The documents I have reviewed mention numerous proposals for all kinds of deals including selling, buying, merging and swapping. In all proposals however it was always the Club’s interest seemed to lean toward maintaining its organi­zation with a turnkey ex­change.
The Sun-News articles in ad­vance of the ’64 LCLO, de­scribed the Las Cruces Country Club golf course as being 6,340 yards at a par of 72. It was a long hard road for the Club to reach the goal of an 18-hole regulation length course. LC­CC’s meager beginnings fea­tured a cleared patch of desert.
Not long after the 6-hole layout was roughed out, it morphed into a compact nine-holer. In 1953, the Club began to consid­er expanding to a full 18-hole course. Although, as mentioned earlier, my source documents don’t cover the ’60s, the Club apparently achieved the full build out of the course since in ’64, the lady pros came to town. In many ways, this was to be the Club’s pinnacle: its crown­ing achievement.
Late in the ’60s, Joe Serabia, still maintaining the course and providing general custodian duties, complained that the Club doubled his work by adding nine holes without in­creasing his pay. Joe was to put in another five years, before re­tiring in 1973.
It was my intent to show the evolution of the layout. I don’t have documentation of the var­ious layouts, and although I could speculate, I won’t in the interest of maintaining accura­cy. I have been told that the original nine holes all lay to the west of the Clubhouse, and therefore the new nine is to the east, but that is all that I know for certain.
Perhaps the most iconic ob­ject, aside from the open serene landscape itself, is the wrought iron stanchion that stands at the entrance to the Club. Frank Holler, a member since 1955, had the structure fabricated and erected in 1987.
The 29-foot-high structure has a colored stone base and 18­inch-high letters. A list of donors is inscribed on the left side. It’s hard to imagine the place without that structure and equally hard to accept that much less enticing structures may one day fill that area. LC­CC: I salute you as a bastion of the game and a monument to ‘Crucen’s perseverance.
A golf architect in New Hamp­shire for over 20 years, Arm­strong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides plan­ning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Su­perintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.word­press.com/.

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