palm springs golf course

301 N Belardo Rd,  Palm Springs, CA 92262 | Phone: (760) 325-2259
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o donnel golf course
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At Right: Courtesy PALM SPRINGS HISTORICAL SOCIETY- Bob Hope and son Tony playing at O’Donnell Golf Club

o' donnell golf club
O'Donnel Golf Course 5th Hole 1960

A History of O'Donnell Golf Club

O' Donnell Golf Club was built by Thomas A. O'Donnell, an oilman who came to Palm Springs in the mid-1920s. He purchased the land upon which the O'Donnell Course is now built in two parcels, in May and December of 1925. Mr. O'Donnell also purchased 750 shares of Whitewater Mutual Water Company and helped it bring fresh water 14 miles from Whitewater Canyon to the desert before anyone knew there was water under the drifting sands of Palm Springs Village.

He bought property at the corner of Stevens Road and North Palm Canyon Drive and built a reservoir through which Whitewater Mutual routed its pipeline to the area that was to become the golf course. The reservoir also acted as a desilting basin. Mr. O'Donnell was one of the five incorporators of Whitewater Mutual Water Company, which was incorporated on May 5, 1927. The other four were Preseott T. Stevens, J.J. Kocher, A.F. Hicks and Warren B. Pinney.

In 1927 Mr. O'Donnell then carefully planned and, in the next few years, built at his own expense our beautiful golf course with its magnificent palm trees, oleanders and tamarisks, and its green carpet of Bermuda and rye grasses. The course never has been allowed to die during all the years since it was constructed and now forms the cushioned turf so greatly appreciated by our golfing members and guests. The greens were bent grass, which during the summer, are a challenge to maintain. In the summer of 2015 the bent grass greens were converted to Bermuda based greens due to maintenance issues.

The course includes nine holes with two tee positions for each hole and is SCGA rated. O'Donnell Golf Club is also very unique in that there are no "tee" times. One can just come out and play.

After operating the golf course for more than fifteen years at his own expense, Tom O'Donnell in 1944 organized O'Donnell Golf Club as a private, non-profit club to which he gave a 99-year lease for the golf course, the reservoir property and the 750 shares of Whitewater Mutual stock.

O'Donnell Golf Club's initial members were 25 of Tom O'Donnell's friends and these men he named to hold the Club's lease as Trustees, to elect a first Board of Directors, and to perpetuate themselves by choosing a replacement from among the to-be-expanded Club members upon the death or resignation of one of their number. The current "25" are indicated by an asterisk in front of each person's name in the annual O'Donnell Golf Club Gold Book. They meet formally once per year.

There is a seven member Board of Directors that oversees the operations of the Club. And the Board appoints new Trustees when a vacancy occurs. The Board also elects its own officers and appoints replace­ments from the Trustees when a vacancy occurs. Since its inception to date the Club has had fifteen Presidents. They are as follows: Thomas O'Donnell 1944-45, J.E. "Dad" French 1945-65, B.F. Shearer 1965-72, R.H. Fleet 1972-73, Murray Marsh 1974-80, James H. Hicks 1980-92, Clarence Miller 1982-86, Roger Carver 1986-89, James Wilson 1989-92, Hugh Curtis 1992-93, James Bayless 1993-94, Ken Feenstra 1994-96, , Brent Hough 2004 – 2007, Ralph Hitchcock 2008 to 2012 and Jon Shoenberger 2013 to present

Tom O'Donnell, in that same year of 1944, made a gift to the City of Palm Springs of all the golf course property subject to the lease he had given the O'Donnell Golf Club. By his lease to O'Donnell Golf Club and his gift deed to the City his friends and their friends would be able to enjoy their beautiful golf course beyond his time and eventually the City would own a most valuable piece of property to do with as it would. The lease required O'Donnell Golf Club to pay the City a rental of $3,000 per year plus any taxes exceeding rental income. The City agreed to pay all governmental taxes, levies or assessments up to a sum of $3,000 per year.

The gift deed requires that the City maintain the property after its reversion to the City, for public pur­poses, in perpetuity. The lease from the City expires on October 31, 2043 at which time the property is to be named the Thomas A. O'Donnell Municipal Park.

A complication arose at once. As permitted by law, Tom O'Donnell deducted from his federal annual tax this magnificent gift to the City. He then discovered the appraised value of the property exceeded his year's tax deductibility. The solution was to omit from the total gift a 50-ft. strip of land parallel to and fronting on Alejo Road which he could give without question to the City after the turn of the calendar year when he would have another year of tax deductibility. Tom O'Donnell died, however, before he had an opportunity to do this. Neighbors Pat Dougherty and Nate Milnor bought the 50-ft. strip from his heirs.

Members will appreciate how the absence of that 50-ft. strip to the right of the second fairway could hurt the golf course for golf. Since the Golf Club did not have the money to buy this 50-ft. strip, it requested the City of Palm Springs to purchase it for the price of $50,000. In turn, O'Donnell Golf Club agreed to add $2,000 a year plus 6% interest to its annual lease payment to the City, paying this sum annually for 25 years, thus reimbursing the City of Palm Springs its $50,000 with interest.

Four additional parcels of land and an easement to connect the land to a public right-of-way were added to the course, including the present clubhouse, which was the original O'Donnell house. The additional land included the garages at the entrance of O'Donnell, which has an apartment above. This land was acquired through either gift deeds or private donations from its members.

After operating the golf course for more than fifteen years at his own expense, Tom O'Donnell in 1944 organized O'Donnell Golf Club as a private, non-profit club to which he gave a 99-year lease for the golf course, the reservoir property and the 750 shares of Whitewater Mutual stock.

In 1995 the City demanded that O'Donnell Golf Club connect all its plumbing facilities to the City's sanitary sewer. The cost of front footage fees for the sewer mains, sewer connection fees and related permit and inspection fees was estimated to be $84,749. The Stevens Reservoir Site had been abandoned many years before when the Club installed its own reservoir on site to store the water. The property was encumbered by the gift deed, which restricted its use for public purposes only. The Board of Directors determined the site to be surplus and agreed to quitclaim its leasehold interest in the property to the City in return for the City's absorbing the sewer connection fees. This transaction was approved on July 6, 1995 by the City of Palm Springs and the O'Donnell Golf (Tub as part of a Fourth Amendment to Lease Agreement No. 208, which also included a revision to the Committee of Twenty-Five sublease.
Situated on this 50-ft. strip was the residence of John Kline, the superintendent who had built the golf course for Mr. O'Donnell. When the Golf Club took over the 50-ft. strip it endeavored to generate some rent from the Kline house to help defray annual expenses. In 1948 the Committee of Twenty-Five was formed. They were a group of businessmen. Some were members of O'Donnell Golf Club. The group rented the Kline house for $3,000 per annum. They called themselves, "The Committee of Twenty-Five" (COT) because that was their number. The Committee was established to promote Palm Springs civic activities and provide a gathering place for men of national prominence.

The Kline house at that time was hardly commodious enough to accommodate even 25 people for any desired social purpose. Many Committee of Twenty Five members, therefore, contributed money to enlarge the dwelling, ventilate it, replumb it for new use and put in kitchen and dining room equipment so it could be utilized as a luncheon club for its members and a place to entertain their wives and guests. As of 1967 the Committee of Twenty-Five had grown to a membership of sixty-four, twenty-one of whom were not O'Donnell Golf Club members. It now has approximately 85 members and is accommodated by a building and land encompassing approximately 4,580 square feet.

Some have complained that Committee of Twenty Five is a "club within a club." Obviously this is not a valid complaint. If it were situated on the opposite side of Alejo Road with the same membership, no one would argue that it is a "club within a club." The Committee of Twenty Five has nothing to do with the administration of O'Donnell Golf Club and should not be confused with the 25 asterisked O'Donnell Golf Club members who comprise the Board of Trustees. The Committee of Twenty-Five is a private, highly valued and respected tenant of O'Donnell Golf Club that currently pays the Club $10,200 per year for the use of its building and land on which it sits. The rent paid by the Committee of Twenty Five increases by 4% each year over the next 15 years of the lease. The Committee of Twenty-Five has invested all its own money in the expansion and maintenance of the building. The O'Donnell Golf Club provides the maintenance of the landscaping. The rent received from the Committee of Twenty Five defrays most of O'Donnell Golf Club's annual lease obligations to the City.

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