Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Las Cruces Country Club — lest we forget

This is Part I of a two-part se­ries on the Las Cruces Country Club.

Golf courses are certainly not associated with the old west, but it was a scant 40-odd years after Pat Garrett killed “Billy the Kid” that a group gathered to form what was to become the Las Cruces Country Club.

On March 10 1923, the organ­izers met. During the summer of 1924, the growing assem­blage scraped the mesquite and brush away for a place to play golf on the Northeast Mesa at the edge of the town of about 4,000. The location was some­where within the area which was to become Las Cruces Country Club.

The Club continued to grow and by 1927 they were formally organized and called them­selves L.C.C.C. The following year stock was offered and dues set at three dollars per month.

On March 5, 1928 the first deed was acquired: totaling 177.77 acres of land. During that same year, Al Valestino, a golf pro from El Paso, journeyed to the site and established a six-hole layout. The greens were sand and oil as was the practice when sufficient water or a suit­able turf was not available. LC­CC has had many long-time employees, but none longer than Joe Serabia who coinci­dentally was also the Club’s first employee. Serabia served the Club well for over 45 years and his wife became a valued employee as well.

Not long after, in November of that same year, the Club ac­quired another deed from City Mortgage Co. for another 69.82 acres, making the total 247.59 acres. I’m speculating, but I be­lieve this property was across Highway 70 from the current Club property. This would be the largest amount of property that LCCC would own and that additional 69.82 acres may well have proven to be quite fortu­itous as the Club was virtually always asset rich and cash poor. During the same meeting that announced the land pur­chase, the first Articles of In­corporation were filed by the officers. The officers were: • Fred S. Hess, President of the Board of Directors • Gus Manessee, Vice Presi­dent • Frank T. Bingham, Secre­tary-Treasurer • J.B. Newell, member, served also as Club’s attorney • R.E. Boney, member, served also as the Club’s insur­ance broker The year 1929 marked the year of the Clubhouse as bids were considered and awarded for its construction. In August, a letter to Toro Mfg., indicated that the building was nearing completion and that a new well had been developed that pro­duced an “abundant supply of good water.” The letter went on to describe their success: “The well threw a strong 4” stream, the pump being operat­ed by an electric motor, and the cost of operation so eco­nomical that our Board of Di­rectors decided to grass the course as well as the greens.” The Club was growing and with it members aspirations for a first class facility. Whether before or after the decision to grass the course isn’t clear, but an expert from El Paso (most likely Valestino again) came and rearranged the course so that nine holes could be played using only the original six fair­ways. Shortly thereafter, in fact exactly 82 years ago today, the dues were raised substantially to thirty dollars per month.

The dues amount was deter­mined by much study and the assumption that it was the “lowest possible figure neces­sary for the maintenance and operation of the Club” and that 100 percent of the dues would be collected each month.

The recent economic down­turn wasn’t the only financial disaster to affect the Club. In 1931, during the Great Depres­sion the annual report to stock­holders indicated the Club’s net worth was $19,895.42. More im­portantly, seventy one percent of receivables were in the bad debt reserve.

Not long after, presumably due to the extreme financial circumstances of many mem­bers, the dues were dropped back to five dollars per month.

The period from 1933 to 1939 is described as being “difficult fi­nancially”, but with just 31 members totaling only $1,860 in dues for the year, 1932 was surely no picnic either.

The Depression years were indeed very difficult for the Club. Presidents George M.

Clark and George W. Frenger were able to maintain the membership at around the thir­ty that existed going into the 30’s. However, there were a few members that did more than their part to keep the Club, not only intact, but grow­ing. H.B. Holt is named as par­ticularly valuable during that time and a Gus Menassee (one of the first Club Officers) was said to help financially. At one time Mr. Menassee was on the books for $2,300 in credit. In the late 30’s he raised more than $950 to repair the club­house and followed up with a fundraising for the new swim­ming pool. Unfortunately, by 1938, the Club’s net worth had fallen to $9,634 with notes due of $11,526.

It was also during this time, more precisely in 1937, that the Club sold its first piece of property. Fay Sperry purchased 14.25 acres “across Highway 70 from the 3rd hole” for $750.

Presumably this is the hole that still borders the highway. The remainder of the property across the highway was later sold for the shopping center.

Sperry hired Chris Hansen to build a rock house on the prop­erty, which ostensibly was razed for the shopping center.

As difficult as those times were, the Club moved forward as they hired their first Golf Professional in 1937. Mr. Art Ashton arrived in the spring and immediately took charge of the clubhouse and golf course.

Alas, the Club had to raise bar whiskey to 40 cents and mixed drinks to 50 cents.

As the 30’s became the 40’s and the country began prepar­ing for war, the LCCC shuttled a few other pros through the doors. On the other hand, Joe Serabia was just hitting his stride as greenskeeper, head bar tender and general custodian ­as he served well into the 70’s.

During the 40’s and 50’s his wife Jane, ran the kitchen and organ­ized the “Covered Dish Supper” which was the biggest social event in town at the time.

Next week, the 40’s and be­yond – LCCC becomes a com­munity fixture and the evolu­tion of their layout.

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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