Back to Online Newspapers

Teeing up history

Golf course an icon

Eagles Pride Golf Course plays a key role in JBLM’s history. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Joseph Caster thought whacking a little ball with a big club provided good physical training for his soldiers.

Brig. Gen. Caster assumed command of Fort Lewis in 1929, during a period in which a great deal of construction occurred. Soon after taking command, he made it clear that he would leave Fort Lewis in better shape than it was when he arrived.

With a tip of the hat to physical fitness, he directed his attention to constructing new sport and recreational facilities.  One of the projects he teed up involved driving a white ball with a series of clubs into little, flagged holes on a patch of green ground.

With the Great Depression looming, funding for the idea was tight, so improvisation became the key to success.

Three miles west of the fort, military engineers recommended land that was relatively flat and without trees. With the site determined, Caster deployed his combat engineers to construct a nine-hole golf course complete with a starting shelter and a clubhouse.

As the Depression wore on, the Works Projects Administration (WPA) began a campaign to build and improve public golf courses. In 1938, workers began work to construct a new Fort Lewis golf course and clubhouse.  By June 1940, the project was completed.

Water for the fairways and greens came from the nearby city of DuPont.

It is interesting to note that from 1936 thru 1940, the WPA completed 22 projects at Fort Lewis, to include the Broadmoor officer housing, Gray Army Airfield and McChord Army Airfield.

The new golf course featured a 4,500-square-foot clubhouse and two decorative vaulted stone entry points, one for enlisted, one for officers. The front nine holes comprised the officers' course; the back nine comprised the enlisted soldiers' course.  Today, the two courses are the Red and Blue courses, respectively.

Male and female locker rooms, a lunchroom with fireplace and a finished attic for the club professional filled out the card.

The Fort Lewis Golf Course worked hard to encourage play on the links.  Soldiers could rent clubs for a quarter and play all day for two bits, or for a dollar a month.  These prices remained in effect through the 1950s.

The course length was 6,363 yards and a par 72. Top golfers from around the country put on exhibitions to instill interest in the game.

In 1948, the Fort Lewis Golf Course made a civil rights statement by resigning from the Tacoma Golf Association because of its "whites only" policy.

One example of the course's commitment to civil rights came in the form of Lee Elder. Serving at Fort Lewis in 1959, Elder came to the attention of Col. John Gleaster, the post commander, who recognized his talent and put him on special "golf duty."

Elder perfected his play and joined the black United Golf Association. With integration a national priority, he joined the Professional Golfers Association (PGA).

In 1975, Elder qualified for the Masters, becoming the first black golfer to play in the tournament.

Fort Lewis had a role in that.

In 1978, funding allowed for the building of another nine-hole layout, giving the course 27 holes. A new 16,000-square-foot, $3.5-million clubhouse opened in August 1996.  It sits where the original clubhouse stood.

Soon, the course opened to the public, although its primary function was, and is, to enhance soldier morale.

It also changed its name to the Eagles Pride Fort Lewis Gold Course. The course is ranked as one of the best in the Pacific Northwest and is host to a number of tournaments and contests.

Credit:  Dr. Duane Denfeld, PhD, Fort Lewis Cultural Resources Program.

Read next close

Military Life

Put a little sparkle in your life

comments powered by Disqus