STOCKTON — The Stockton Golf and Country Club joins a rare group as it celebrates its 100th year in operation. Only 13 other clubs in Northern California have reached that milestone.
“We’re keeping it kind of low key,” said the club’s General Manager Robert Young. “We’re the 13th club that has reached 100 years. To the members that have been here, it’s pretty cool.”
The city the club serves today hardly resembles the one that it sprang from. When the club first organized in 1914, it sat five miles from the city center and required a trip down a dirt road through farmland to reach the clubhouse.
The first clubhouse was a three-story white building that overlooked a nine-hole golf course that sat among tidal marshes. The original swimming pool was embedded into the levy and the city’s population was only 41,000.
“Not a lot clubs with our history are around,” said Young. “In 1914 there weren’t a lot of clubs around. Most of the area clubs were built in the ’60s.”
By that time Stockton’s club had already been around for more than 40 years and was on its second clubhouse (built in 1954). It had expanded the golf course to 18 holes in 1928. That required the help of the War Department (a precursor to the Department of the Defense) as they filled in the Calaveras River channel, de-watered the slough around Brown Island, and the Corps of Engineers built a levee to contain river flows.
The club began to take on its current look in the 1950s. As the city’s population ballooned, housing replaced the farmland surrounding the facility. Membership also grew, giving the club resources to host events as well as serve as the city’s premier golf course.
Generations of membership in the club have included some of Stockton’s most influential civic leaders from all walks of life. Stockton Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Wilhoit’s family ties to the club stretch to its inception.
“My great grandfather owned the land that the club is on,” said Wilhoit. “My grandfather donated a clock that still sits in the clubhouse. That shows what the club has meant to our family.”
The club’s members have also been instrumental in helping Stockton grow and prosper.
“A lot of people bankers, doctors, business people have belonged to the club for generations,” Wilhoit said. “The club really adds to the charm of the city.”
During the ‘60s and ‘70s the club’s membership surpassed 700. In 2006, a third generation clubhouse replaced the one built in 1954.
With that growth came new challenges for the club. New courses, both public and private, sprang up. Brookside Country Club and Elkhorn Country Club (which became a public course in 2012) also became options for golf fans.
“We have about 530 members now” said Young. “That’s down 11 to 12 percent over the last five or six years.”
The club has also faced a decline in the popularity of golf as well as one of the worst recessions in history that started in 2008.
“The game of golf has been on the decline for years,” said Young. “That and people have a lot more options today.”
This has forced the club to diversify its offerings. With the newer clubhouse, Stockton Golf and Country Club now offers more options for both members and nonmembers to host events ranging from weddings to business meetings. The club also features top notch dining and large banquet halls.
Its history also gives it a unique place in the city.
“We have had couples get married at the club or have their receptions at the club, and now their grandkids are having their receptions with us,” said Young.
Activities during the year celebrating that 100th anniversary give the club another chance to highlight its value to the city. The New Year’s Eve dance kicked off festivities that will include a men’s invitational golf tournament, a family day, a country fair and a community open house. A winter gala will be held in December to wrap up the celebration.
“Some clubs compress their celebrations into two or three weeks,” said Young. “We decided to have events all year long.”