THE WORD “GOLF” originates with a Dutch word for “club.” But if it were an acronym, it might stand for “good old longtime friends.”
That’s what you might hear from leaders of century-old Inglewood Golf Club, where the Sammamish River empties into northeastern Lake Washington. While acknowledging that golf feeds a universal desire to compete, they also assert that the sport — especially at their well-aged course — fosters vital interaction.
“Look at all the people who are out here,” says Dave Riendeau, centennial chair, gesturing to players deep in conversation while teeing up at the driving range. “Most of them know each other.” With a course swathed in hilly holes that requires 14,000 footsteps to cover a full round, the club aims to be as much about talk as walk.
This emerges in our “Then” photo, taken at the Aug. 6, 1921, opening of Inglewood’s original clubhouse, attended by 350 enthusiasts, 225 of whom played the course. “The lawn,” reported The Seattle Times, “was an animated scene.” The setting is so filled with chatty coteries that it’s hard to spot clues, other than a dozen dark bags leaned in a row against a distant wall at right, that the gathering had anything to do with golf.
It took determined collaboration for the club to survive and thrive over the decades. Challenges began four years after it opened, when faulty wiring triggered an Oct. 23, 1925, blaze that leveled its $25,000 building. Within two days, members had erected large tents to serve as a temporary hub. Just 10 months later, a stately, 50,000-square-foot replacement had risen in its place. Renovated and expanded, it stands today.
While the secluded Inglewood was designed to be a prestige course second to none, through the years it faced bankruptcies and teetered on collapse, during the Depression and again when the Coast Guard leased it as a receiving station during World War II. But members repeatedly rescued it with funds and commitment.
The hosting of top tournaments and big names didn’t hurt. Inglewood has drawn celebrities from Bob Hope to Jack Lemmon, sports heroes from Michael Jordan to Roger Clemens, and an endless array of golf stars from Chi Chi Rodriguez and Ruth “Jitterbug” Jessen to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who famously shot his age there on Sept. 10, 1995, his 66th birthday.
Membership at Inglewood is capped at 403, and the privilege isn’t cheap. The initiation fee alone is $39,500. But the real riches derive from historical connections. “We have a unique old course,” says Paul Haack, former Inglewood president. “It’s like stepping back in time.”