The story of the Boulder Country Club traces a winding geographical journey across Boulder and an equally meandering path of stewardship—first as a project envisioned by a passionate few, then as a major private-public partnership and today under the care of a devoted community of members.
Teeing Off with Big Ideas
It all started in 1910, at a banquet beneath the shimmering stained-glass ceiling of the then one-year-old Hotel Boulderado. A small group of golf enthusiasts, which included Dr. W.P. Harlow, J.F. Moorhead, James Cowie and a handful of others, unveiled a proposal for a new golf club in Boulder.
Their presentation must have been well received because by April of the same year, the men, along with a few additional investors, had purchased 259 acres near the Valmont Reservoir (by what was once called Owens Lake). But despite this initially swift start, it wasn’t until 1914 — at a new location on the south side of Baseline Road between Grant Street and Gregory Canyon — that the Boulder Golf Club’s first, seven-hole course opened.
The initial charter members of the club paid a $10 initiation fee and $10 annual dues (a far cry from the $50 annual dues that the club’s founders had originally envisioned). But a Board of Directors, comprised of nine men, including five officers and four additional members, lent steady leadership to the club. Each served a three-year term, with three new members elected to replace three outgoing members annually. This structure continues to this day, with women now part of the makeup of the board, as well.
In 1922, the Boulder Golf Club moved to Sale Farm (in the area presently known as Palo Park) and developed a new, nine-hole course and a stone clubhouse (which still stands today and is called Emerson Place). In order to get in a full 18 holes, members would play the course twice, using different tee boxes for the second nine. Fees were $1.00 per round for members on weekdays, and double that on weekends. Members of the community were drawn to the greens, including the University of Colorado, which used the course for men and women’s golf instruction.
A Community Comes Together
By January of 1928, interest in golf was increasing, and the club sought to expand to 18 holes. They searched for new land that could accommodate a full-size course and hired W.H. Tucker, a golf architect who was an advisor to Cherry Hills and Lakewood courses in Colorado. Tucker’s recommendation was to consider a plot of land known as the Odlum Tract, east of town on Arapahoe Road. The location contained interesting topography and rich soil that would easily produce the proper grasses.
But just as expansion plans gained traction, the stock market crashed in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression forced the club to put the redevelopment on hold.
In 1933, however, the City of Boulder expressed interest in developing a municipal golf course. Golf was becoming more popular throughout northern Colorado and a golf association had formed. A site similar to the Odlum Tract and opposite to it on Arapahoe Road, had been donated by Fred Chase to the Congregational Church — and the church was willing to sell it for $12,000.
The city was persuaded to purchase the land, and Boulder Country Club agreed to raise $15,000 to help build the golf course. The club would run the golf course and could retain its private members so long as the course was open to the public. In order to raise the money, the club was again reorganized and incorporated as the Boulder Municipal Sports Center. Matching funds were provided by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
At last, William Tucker was able to design his course, and the WPA completed the work on the east set of nine holes, which opened for play in 1937.
After suffering from years of low membership levels and financial challenges, the club finally emerged from the WWII years and was able to complete the second set of nine holes in 1947. An effort was then made in 1948 to construct a members-only clubhouse. To do so, a new corporation was formed: the Boulder Country Club.
The new clubhouse was constructed and opened in November with a celebratory buffet dinner for nearly 200 members. On July 6, 1949, the first annual meeting of the Boulder Country Club convened.
Between 1949 and 1965, the club expanded its member amenities to include an outdoor swimming pool and tennis courts, and it swirled with social activity — from Monte Carlo card nights and ballroom dances to bridge, bingo, movies and travelogues.
A Broader Vision
By the 1960s, the public-private golf course on Arapahoe Road was suffering from overplay. In 1962, Boulder City Manager Bob Turner approached local developers George and Everette Williams — two brothers who had already built more than a thousand homes and several iconic Boulder developments — with an idea.
The city envisioned that growth would radiate out from central Boulder, as if along the spokes of a wheel, onto surrounding corridors. One such spoke followed the Longmont Diagonal (today the Diagonal Highway), where the Williams brothers owned large tracts of land — and had themselves retired.
The brothers became convinced that the costs of building a golf course could be recovered if the lands around it were to be used for residential building sites. This way, only the ongoing costs of operation would remain. The Williams brothers donated the land, water rights and money to build a clubhouse; the city offered to provide water and sewer service; and the Boulder Country Club members were persuaded to move to Gunbarrel Hill.
The city would retain the golf course at Arapahoe Road, complete and operational, for its own use. They continue to operate the municipal Flatirons Golf Course there today.
Coming Home at Gunbarrel Green
In 1963, the current Boulder Country Club golf course design, created by Press Maxwell, was completed in the new Gunbarrel location. Twenty-seven holes incorporate an 18-hole championship course and a separate, nine-hole, par-three course. A clubhouse, designed by Hoby Wagner, opened in 1965, followed by outdoor tennis courts and an Olympic-size pool. The developments marked the beginning of what would be, far and away, the club’s longest residency and where it continues to thrive today.
Two years later, IBM announced its would build a 640-acre business campus near Gunbarrel Green. Additional corporations were drawn to area, too, helping to populate the surrounding residences under development by the Williams brothers.
Interest in the Boulder Country Club grew, and eventually, three tierss of membership were needed, each with a set capacity and distinct dues levels. With a healthy membership and devoted leadership, several renovations were completed: a new clubhouse in 1985, an indoor pool and tennis courts in 1987, expanded exercise facilities in 2008, and a full menu of complimentary exercise classes and wellness instruction over the last few years.
Boulder Country Club continues to align itself with the vibrant, healthy lifestyle that is cherished by Boulder residents. With exciting renovations on the horizon, BCC is proud to remain a cornerstone of the vibrant Gunbarrel area and a longstanding Boulder institution that honors its ever-forward-thinking spirit.