A historic event happened right in the center of Atascadero a couple months ago.
I’ve lived here since 1966. All those years there has been a large golf ball atop the sign for Rancho Tee Motel at 6895 El Camino Real.
It was built before my arrival by businesswoman Willie Lee and her husband. By the time I met Willie, her husband had passed away.
That large golf ball, about 4 feet in diameter, marked the motel that was very much a part of the Atascadero Golf Course.
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Atascadero’s downtown nine-hole golf course was created early in the Colony’s history, about mid-1920s. It was enhanced by the Atascadero Development Syndicate, which was under the direction of Oscar Willett after the town’s founder, E.G. Lewis, was forced into bankruptcy.
I played that course a number of times when I first moved here. My dad and I played when he visited. About the only evidence of the course is along what I think was a fairway that ran parallel to Country Club Drive, off Capistrano Avenue.
The clubhouse was up on the hill near what has always been known as Hotel Park. It is the parking lot for the new library. You teed off down the hill toward El Camino Real.
Poultry netting along El Camino kept the balls from rolling out onto the street, which was also Highway 101. I remember that the eighth green was behind the Rancho Tee. After putting out, you would walk over to the tee, which was near the street, and hit uphill to the final hole.
The absolute worst hole for me was the one where you had to hit over the canyon near the entrance to Stadium Park. A bridge on Highway 41 crosses this span today. A good golfer could knock a ball up and over the canyon while we duffers drove straight to the bottom and took two or three strokes to get back up on a more level fairway just behind the old hospital, which is still there, of course.
A couple months ago, I saw a sign company crane up against the sign and figured there was just some routine work being done. After all, the plastic golf ball had been up there for more than a half-century.
The next day, a new sign went up. It is now Vino Inn and Suites. Wine barrels are being arranged in the area near the sidewalk between the pool and the street.
It is certainly a sign of changing times.
Golf was played on the course until 1972, when a shopping center was built on the 26-acre site.
“It’s the coming of the end,” Earl Henderson told me at the time. He and his wife, Katie, lived across the street in what is the Colony House, which was located in the parking lot of Rabobank.
The home was moved to its present location between City Hall and Atascadero Creek in 1965. It is now home to the Atascadero Historical Society.