By Clifford Cowley
Laurel Hill Golf Course
Occupation–Providing golfers with enjoyment
Location–Gold Hill, Oregon
Pro Status–Executive Par 3 Course
In the past seven years, I have highlighted many professionals in the golf industry; from long-time marshals to CEO’s. Recently, it occurred to me that I have left out some professionals that, above all others, deserve to be recognized. They make the golf industry what it is and provide the opportunity for those who work in the industry the vehicle for employment. Yes, I’m talking about the courses, themselves. They don’t complain about what they do. They bravely accept the wear and tear on their turf through the season with divots and ball marks and the footprints of families and golf carts. They rejoice in the tender loving care of the superintendents who are entrusted to their care. One such course is Laurel Hill Golf Course.
Laurel Hill Golf Course grew up as a parcel of land on 350 acres in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. It was a thick stand of Laurel trees, dotted with pines, oaks, Manzanita, and Buck brush in the shadow of Laurel Hill, an equally heavily wooded dome-shaped hill near the Dardanelle Post office back in the late 1800’s. Its outer boundaries were flanked by Foley Road and the main Stage Road running between Jacksonville and Grants Pass. The mining town of Gold Hill lay across the Rogue River about a mile away. Life was peaceful. Kane Creek flowed through the property with the only human activity coming from an occasional miner trying their luck in the nearly seasonal creek.
In 1975, the parcel of land met Harvey Granger, a farmer who moved to the Rogue Valley in the early 1960’s from Fremont, California. Harvey felt the site would be a welcomed asset to golf in Southern Oregon. The parcel was ready for a change, and there was something about Harvey that made it feel wanted, respected, and cherished. The conversations it overheard while Harvey was walking the property, about clearing spaces for people to walk in a park-like setting, was appealing. A far better plan than having giant wooden boxes built on it–like it had seen on neighboring parcels of land.
With the new partnership between the land and Harvey Granger, and the assistance of an architect and several stout-hearted friends, Harvey began carving out a 28 acre, narrow 9 hole course, while keeping the natural contours of the land and preserving the old growth trees. Granger used rough-hewn timbers from the property for trusses in the club house, complete with natural wood tables that any country inn would die for, and a huge fireplace and hearth, producing a comfy, cozy lodge atmosphere where winter golfers can warm themselves by the fire after completing a round of golf. Harvey also added a studio apartment on one end of the club house.
Laurel Hill Golf Course opened on August 6, 1977. Jan Fish, Granger’s daughter, and her husband, Peter, lived in the apartment and ran the golf course.
Jan recalls, “We used to get up in the morning and fix breakfast in the club house, then cook our dinner after we closed up at night.”
It has been a family affair since the beginning. Now, Jan’s nephew Russ Granger, and his wife, Angela, operate the course. The golf course would probably say that if it weren’t for Harvey’s family, it wouldn’t be what it is today. Likewise, with Harvey’s family. If it weren’t for the course, they wouldn’t have been able to have such a large group of friends in the families that come out to play. “It’s always been a family-friendly course,” says Jan. “We have seen kids virtually grow up out here, and now they’re adults and they bring their kids out to play.”
As an Executive Par 3 course, LHGC stretches a little over 1,900 yards. The Par 31 layout offers its tree-lined fairways to challenge the best, but is short enough not to intimidate the beginner. The trees are really what make the course– especially in the summer when it’s 100 degrees. The trees are also what make the course unique, fun, and challenging. “You not only have to plan your shot for distance, but you also have to line it up for width, or the canopy of branches come into play,” says Russ.
The 9th green has a unique quality of its own. According to legend, the green lies right over the Vortex. The Vortex is a mysterious “magnetic line” that runs underground through Southern Oregon. When Granger built the green it was flat. Over time, the green developed a small depression on the right hand side and the ground was slightly pushed up at the back of the green. Granger filled in the depression, only to have it reappear, and the ground at the back of the green pushed up even more, again and again. It is said that no one, except for former maintenance superintendant, Daniel Alexander, has been able to sink a putt from that depression no matter where the flag is. I tried. The putts went above, below, beyond, and short. Not one hit its mark.
Facilities include a driving range and putting green. Food is also available in the club house. Golfers can purchase a variety of prepackaged snacks, and the hamburgers are the best around.
Laurel Hill Golf Course has provided fun and challenging golf to golfers of all ages and handicaps for the past 40 years. Carved from a stand of Laurel, Laurel Hill Golf Course is able to rest on its laurels for the service it has provided to the golfing community.
Carry on, LHGC.
What’s On LHGC’s 9?
Three dog legs
Kane Creek runs alongside #2.
A fence runs along #6.
A pond on #9 requires a precise lay-up.