The Hearsts and Hacienda del Pozo de Verona
Families have been spending time on the grounds of Castlewood Country Club for more than a century. Be part of the history. The first recorded expedition in our area took place on April 1, 1772 when Lieutenant Fages and Father Crespi walked along the Indian trail which we know as Foothill Boulevard next to the Arroyo and third hole of the Valley golf course.
George Hearst bought 453 acres of land once part of the Mexican land grant Bernal Rancho SW of Pleasanton in 1886. In 1891, Phoebe inherited the land and hunting lodge that George had built and which Phoebe transformed into her Hacienda. Phoebe starts work on building her Hacienda and hires architect Julia Morgan. You can still see Julia Morgan’s work, as the Alibi building and the pool snack bar are original buildings. Phoebe moves into the finished "La Hacienda del Pozo de Verona "which translates to "The house of the wellhead of Verona". in 1899. Her mansion featured a wellhead fountain in the courtyard that she and her son William Randolph Hearst purchased from the city of Verona, Italy. The fountain can be seen in the center of the photo above. Her home was cited as one of the 12 most "stately" homes in California and was the Castlewood clubhouse until it burned down in 1969. Shortly after her death in 1919, the family sold the property to help finance the project at San Simeon known today as Hearst Castle.
The year was 1925 and William Park Bell (Billy Bell) was hired by the new business owners to create the beautiful hillside course we enjoy today. Billy Bell later went on to build the Stanford Golf Course (1930). When completed, the new course played 6500 yards and was built for a cost of $100,000. The Hill course layout plays differently than when first built. Hole #9 was originally where #10 is today playing in the opposite direction to a green located to the right of #18 green. “Heart Attack Hill” referred to when hole #3 was located where #7 sits today. The problem however was that you played uphill not down. On October 29, 1929 “Black Tuesday”, the Roaring Twenties crashed to a halt like a train wreck. The stock market collapsed and the Great Depression tolled heavy in Pleasanton. The new Castlewood Country Club with it’s wonderful new golf course, played by the likes of Walter Hagen, Gene Sarozen, and Bobby Cruickshank, along with its polo fields and gun club in the Valley soon had new owners; the Bank due to foreclosure.
In the 40’s John Marshall buys the property from the bank seeing an unpolished jewel with income potential. At the same time Marshall was launching his dude ranch, called “The Old Hearst Ranch”, the 510 acre site was being considered as the future site for the United Nations Headquarters. Ultimately, we know where the UN ended up. Marshall enjoyed success as celebrities of the day flocked to the Ranch. The Ranch was also the site for football teams to stay overnight and practice on the Valley Fields. In addition to several colleges the Miami Seahawks, Buffalo Bisons, Brooklyn Dodgers and Cleveland Browns all practiced here before games in San Francisco.
In the early 1950’s the time was ripe for a private golf & country club and business partners Ron & Larry Curtola and business partner Mr. Alioto made it a reality. The Hill Course is restored and holes realigned to essentially what we see today. You could join the Club for $12.50 in those days. Soon the growth of golf activities required more space so Larry Curtola, acting GM, laid out a new course in the Valley, which opened in 1954. Famous Pro, Byron Nelson, inaugurated the new course on land that previously saw Indian camps, cattle grazing, Phoebe’s gardens, a train station, airport, and gun and polo club.
In 1961, the Members of the Club were given the opportunity to buy out Alioto and the Curtola’s for the price of $1,250,000 or $1,200 per Member. And thanks to that purchase, we enjoy the beautiful amenities of Castlewood Country Club to this very day.