Yosemite's Wawona Golf Course

Photos by: Ed Stone

When Walter G. Favarque designed the nine-hole Wawona Golf Course in Yosemite in 1918, this was the first regulation course in the Sierra Nevada and the first golf course inside a National Park. He did a splendid job of creating nine holes in somewhat of a mountainous terrain. Much of the 3,035 yard, par 35 course is fairly flat with rolling fairways. Holes number 1 and 3 are par fives and play to about 470 yards.

The historic Wawona Hotel at Yosemite

There are three par threes...the second hole is 229-yards with the sixth hold being a very picturesque 185-yards and number eight is 167-yards. Number 7 is considered the signature hole as it plays 402 yards with a blind tee shot over a hill and through trees to a very narrow fairway. It’s a beautiful hole with a sweeping downhill approach to the green. There are different tee positions to allow players to play an 18-hole format to a par-70.

The Merced River threads and meanders through the course before wandering into the Yosemite Park proper. Wawona Hotel, a national historical monument that was built in 1856, is across the two-lane Highway 41 in a most tranquil pastoral setting.

It's a bit surreal to drive up to Wawona and see a well-maintained golf course among the ponderosa pine and incense cedar trees that line the fairways in a national park at an elevation of 4,000 feet.

Rumors have flourished for many years that famed golf course architect Alister MacKenzie was the designer or involved with the design of the Wawona Golf Course. He is best known for his work with the great Bobby Jones at Augusta National Golf Club and his classic design at Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach. Yet, there is no definitive evidence that he ever set foot on the Wawona Course.

Lobby of the Wawona Hotel

From all evidence, there will never be another nine holes added to this seamless layout and beautiful course. Due to conservationists and the red tape of the U.S. Government, this is not going to happen. The course does boost of being a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. No pesticides are used on the course and only reclaimed gray water is used for irrigation purposes.

The Wawona Golf Course is open daily Spring to Fall, conditions permitting. They offer electric and caddie cart rentals, a snack and beverage service, pro shop and putting green.

Another unique feature of Wawona is a periscope on the 349-yard fifth tee because of another blind tee shot. Be sure to check the periscope to see that the group ahead is out of range before hitting your tee ball.

Wawona is located four miles from the South Entrance of Yosemite and six miles from the Mariposa Big Trees, redwoods that are the oldest and biggest living things on earth. The "Grizzly Giant" tree is 2,700 years old.

"President Teddy Roosevelt stayed here, and more recently Brad Pitt and Robert Redford," Sleight said.

The Wawona Hotel is a cluster of eight, white wooden New England-style buildings set on a huge lawn on what was the site of Clark Station. Galen Clark, Yosemite's original superintendent and guardian, chose a spot that the local Miwok Indians called "Pallachun," or "a good place to stop," to build a lodge.

Henry Washburn renamed the site Wawona, Miwok for "Big Trees." In 1876, Washburn built Clark Cottage, the oldest structure in the complex, followed by the main hotel building in 1879.

One of Wawona's signature verandas

Most of the 104 guestrooms open onto the Wawona's signature verandas and are reminiscent of European-style hotel rooms. The rooms are furnished in period pieces and antiques. There are no telephones or televisions.

Among the other summer activities for hotel guests are tennis, swimming, hiking and fishing. Winter sports include cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing and skiing at nearby Badger Pass Ski Resort.

Accommodations in Yosemite Valley, 30 miles to the north, include the historic Ahwahnee Hotel, which opened in 1927, and Yosemite Lodge, which is located at the foot of majestic Yosemite Falls.

Other golf courses in the area include Johnny Miller's Brighton Crest Golf and Country Club in Friant, the Ahwahnee Golf Club in Ahwahnee, River Creek Golf Course in Ahwahnee and Yosemite Lakes Park Golf Course in Coarsegold.

It is said that Muir's ghost wanders through the woods in Yosemite. Perhaps MacKenzie is here too, searching for nine more holes.


For More Information:
Wawona Hotel Golf Course
P.O. Box 2005
Wawona, Ca. 95389
Phone: 209-375-6572
Website: www.yosemitepark.com/Activities_WarmWeatherActivities_Golfing.aspx