Warm weather has officially arrived and the golf courses at Cleveland Metroparks are blooming with golfers. So, I decided this would be the perfect time to putter around in our historic golf photos and articles and share some of my finds.
When the parks were established in 1917, golf was already on its way to becoming a national phenomena. During the booming years of the 1920s, the sport took off in a big way. And, many people who wanted to play could not afford to join a private club. So, they began to clamor for affordable, public courses.
In 1925, the Cleveland Metropolitan Park System answered the call! In Rocky River Reservation, the old “Two-Minute Farm” on the west side of the river was chosen as the site of the first park golf course.
Except it was not the first. Demand was so high, that a “temporary” nine-hole golf course was laid out on the east side of the river. This simple course was created in five weeks and opened in 1926. When the official 18-hole golf course opened, it was given the clever name, “Course No. 1.” Then, the "first" course, which was only supposed to be temporary was given a slight update and kept open as “Course No. 2.” Confused yet? It may help you to call them by their modern names, Big Met and Little Met. (Also see the timeline at the bottom of this post.)
The new courses proved to be very popular. I love the “photoshopped” image that appeared in the Plain Dealer picturing the crowds of golfers engulfing (or would that be engolfing?) Course Number 1. A selling point of the new courses was the fact that many golfers could reach them by streetcar. I like to imagine the sight of several people on a streetcar toting golf bags and dressed in loud knee pants.
As a side note, new housing developments were springing up like crazy during the same decade and several west side realtors/developers used the proximity to the Metropolitan golf courses as a selling point for their new homes.
On the east side of town a unique situation developed at Sleepy Hollow Golf Course in Brecksville. Sleepy Hollow was a private golf club that sold land to the parks in 1922 and then leased the land from the park board. The lease stipulated that after 25 years the land would revert to public use, either as a golf course, or for other park use. This clause created a city wide furor as the debates over the future of Sleepy Hollow raged at board meetings and in editorials and articles in local newspapers in the late 50s and early 60s.
This debate was echoed over to another once private course on park land. Manakiki Golf Course opened in 1930 as a private club. The land and clubhouse were given to the parks from James and Fannie Brown in 1944. Like Sleepy Hollow, the course was leased back to the private club, with the proviso that it would eventually become a public course.
Today area golfers can choose to play on any of Cleveland Metroparks eight golf courses. They all have unique characteristics and stories. I will share some more stories in future posts. Meanwhile here is a timeline for those who want to keep track!
Cleveland Metroparks Golf Timeline
1922- Sleepy Hollow Golf Club sells land to Cleveland Metropolitan Park Board with a provision to lease the land for a private club for 25 years (the course becomes public in 1963).
1925- Little Met (Course No. 2) opens; originally built as a temporary 9-hole facility until the permanent 18-hole course was built.
1926- Big Met (originally known only as course No. 1 opens , temporary course is kept and called No. 2 (now Little Met).
1944- James and Fannie Brown donate 192 acres of land on Eddy road that includes Manakiki Golf Course and clubhouse. Manakiki had been in operation as a private club since 1930. It would remain as a private club leasing park land until 1961.
1959- Shawnee Hills Golf Course opens in Bedford Reservation, complete with clubhouse (This new course also created the need for a separate golf division within the park management for the first time).
1961- Manakiki Golf Course opens for public play.
1963- Sleepy Hollow Golf Course opens for public play.
1965- Mastick Woods Golf Course opens in Rocky River Reservation.
2006- Washington Golf Course opens in Washington Reservation and “First Tee” program begins.
2011-Seneca Golf Course, originally built by the city of Cleveland in 1940, becomes a Cleveland Metroparks course.