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Sven Nilsen

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Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« on: October 14, 2012, 06:48:32 PM »
While doing a search for information on E. W. Marland's Private Course in Ponca City, Oklahoma, I came across this story concerning a course built with a missing hole from an old 2003 thread:

"My story is "kind of" correct ... the course was not in Ardmore, rather in Ponca City. The course was not designed by Perry Maxwell, rather Don Sechrest (sp?). The course wasn't Ardmore Country Club, rather Ponca City Country Club.

My friend wasn't exact on every detail, but believes that the course was probably built during the Oklahoma Oil Boom by the Continental / Phillips Petroleum money bags. Sechrest was hired to design the course and it wasn't until after the dirt work was complete, that anyone realized the mistake. The club played as a 17 hole course for several years until an additional plot of land was purchased. If you play the course, the 5th green and 7th tee are next to one another with the later added 6th hole, a short par three added behind. It extends away from the main course property."


What a blunder.  But unfortunately, I can't seem to get the facts in the story to line up with the recorded history of the golf course.

Here's what I know:

1.  The 1920 Annual Guide has a notation for a Private 9-Hole Course built in 1916 for E. W. Marland (Marland was a former oil tycoon who made and lost fortunes in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma before running for Congress and serving as Governor of the state).

2.  The current location of Ponca City CC is in the proximity of where Marland built his first and second estates in Ponca City.

3.  In 1929 Perry Maxwell came to Ponca City to work for the Ponca City CC to either build an entirely new golf course or redo the existing course.  One story is that Maxwell built the course for a friend of his who could not get in to the Conoco CC (another course in town at the time).

4.  The 1931 Annual Guide notes a Rock Cliff CC that opened in 1929.  Built by Lew Wentz (another Oklahoma oil baron), the course was located near his Arcade Hotel on the Rock Cliff Ranch property.  The course is now called Wentz Memorial GC and appears to have been reworked in the 1950's.

5.  I can find no record of the 9 hole Marland Course being expanded to 18 holes at any point and I have no idea if the course Maxwell left behind had 9 or 18 holes.

So does the 17 hole course story relate to the Marland Course, Ponca City CC or Rock Cliff CC?

Who did the original Rock Cliff? 

What happened to the Marland Course?

What exactly did Maxwell do at Ponca City?




"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Chris Clouser

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2012, 07:31:53 AM »
Sven,

After our e-mail exchange last week I pulled out my Ponca City notes from my research.  My memory was way off for some reason on the course.  Below is the club's website with a little bit of the history around the original design.  This might help.  Just curious, why all the interest in Ponca City?

http://www.poncacitycountryclub.net/

Chris
« Last Edit: October 15, 2012, 11:22:57 AM by Chris Clouser »

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2012, 01:04:57 PM »
Chris:

I have no particular interest in Ponca City, other than I thought the story of the course (what I could make of it) was fairly interesting.  When I stumbled on the narrative above in the back pages of the site, it turned into a bit of a mystery, especially when I found out that Don Sechrest hadn't even been born by the time Maxwell worked at PCCC.  

The quick research I did lead me to the story of E. W. Marland, a man a I had not heard of until yesterday.  Marland's oil company at one point controlled 10% of the world's oil reserves, a staggering amount for a man that would lose his company and sell his property a short time later.  If I have any personal connection to the story, it is related to Marland and his desire to bring art and culture to the town of Ponca City.  My father at one point worked for the Philbrook Institute in Tulsa.  The story of the Philips family and their civic goals closely mirrors that of Marland.

I greatly appreciate the followup and the link to the website.  Funny enough I had tried to get to the club's website from a google search at some point yesterday and received a server error.

Even after reading the club's history, I'm not sure if I have the complete picture.  All of the following is based on a couple hours of web searches, and in no way paints the complete picture, I am sure there are others out there who can fill in the gaps:

1.  The 1916 Annual Guide has a notation for a Country Club in Ponca City in the section for courses that it is seeking more information on.  It is unclear if this refers to the Marland Course or another course altogether.

2.  The 1920 Annual Guide notes the existence of a 9 hole private course built for E. W. Marland and notes a date of 1916.  An interesting bit of information contained in the write-up is that Art Jackson (who Maxwell would work with at Lincoln Park in Oklahoma City) was the professional at the time.

3.  The 1923 Annual Guide also has a notation for a 9-hole Private Golf Course in Ponca City with a date of establishment of 1916.

4.  There is a book on E.W. Marland called "Life and Death of an Oilman" that describes the creation of the golf course and the gardens.  The book does not go into great detail as to the timing of the golf course, but seems to suggest a time period between 1914 and 1918.  The book also notes that he used 80 acres of the entire 400 or so acres of property for his gardens and golf course, suggesting a 9 hole course as opposed to 18.

5.  In 1928 Marland's company was merged into Conoco,  in a hostile takeover bid coordinated by J.P. Morgan Jr.  At that time, Marland lost the bulk of his fortune.  This creates the link between Marland's course and what is referred to as Conoco Country Club, as it appears that the name of the course was changed when Marland was forced out.  [Note:  There is a big question here as to whether the estate and golf course were part of Marland's corporate holdings, or if they were sold outside of the takeover.]

6.  Maxwell came into the picture at some point in the late 20's and either laid out a new 9 holes or redid the existing course.    It is conceivable that Maxwell was brought to Ponca City via his connection with Art Jackson.  What is not clear is if Maxwell was brought in by Marland or by Conoco.

7.  Tillinghast came through in 1936 and made several recommendations regarding the course, at that time known as Conoco CC.  There are two very interesting tidbits from his letter:  (A) the course had 18 holes (or at least 15, as he notes a proposed change to the 15th); and (B) the course still had sand greens.  From the Tillinghast letter, we know that the course went from 9 holes in the early 20's to 18 holes some time before 1936.

8.  The history for Ponca City CC notes that the club was formed in 1928 and originally known as the Marland Institute.  I surmise that this was the name of the estate, not necessarily the golf course itself.  The 1928 date is very much in question.  The history notes the transformation to Conoco CC in 1928, the visit by Tillinghast in 1936, the abandonment of 9 holes in 1940 and the conversion to grass greens at that time.  It also notes that in 1944 Conoco decided to give up the course leading to the formation of Ponca City CC.  Further, it includes this rather muddled description of the two nines, Maxwell's involvement and suggest that there may indeed have been an existing 9 holes prior to Maxwell's visit:

"There are not any official documents, but based on the memories of several long-time members, only the holes on the original front nine of the course, south and east of the clubhouse, were designed by the legendary Perry Maxwell in the late 1920's. It's unclear who designed the original back nine holes north and east of the current golf shop that were abandoned in 1940. Those nine holes were redesigned by former Conoco Golf Club and then PCCC Head Golf Professional Bill Oliver in 1945 and opened for play again in the summer of 1946."

What do I make of this?  

First, the 17 hole story noted in the first post makes no sense.  

Second, and more importantly, the story of the club is a fascinating look into one way in which courses came to life during the Golden Age.  The names of the main players in the story are well known (Marland, Jackson, Morgan and Maxwell), but the course itself is not.  You have a benevolent oil baron in Marland, who built a course and opened it (and the grounds of his estate and even his swimming pool) to the public for their use.  His story harkens back to a time when those that could would seek to create parklands (including golf courses) for use by the public, a notion very contrary to the gated courses that became the norm for the private club in the years to come.  There's a bit of a parallel between what Marland sought and the great gardens of Europe created by royalty for the enjoyment of the people.

Third, the club history for PCCC is not entirely accurate.  There are still some questions that have yet to be answered.

« Last Edit: October 15, 2012, 01:16:49 PM by Sven Nilsen »
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Chris Clouser

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2012, 01:36:20 PM »
I've heard the 17 hole story before and from everything I have ever seen that is just a folk-tale or urban myth.  So I would not put any credence in it. 

As for the timeline I would say that Maxwell did nine holes (it could have easily been a redesign) there in 1928-1929 and they were sand greens when it switched to the Marland Institute.  There is a copy of his routing on the website, albeit difficult to really look at.  Beyond that I never really looked into the club history and the rest of the details behind it.  A couple of the holes look rather impressive, especially the second hole from the Maxwell nine.

Chris

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2012, 01:54:50 PM »
Chris:

If the routing you are referring to is the course map on page 7 of the club history document, that map has Don Sechrest's name on it and was probably done some time in the 70's.  If its a different routing, I'd be interested in seeing it.

I am leaning towards Maxwell having added 9 holes to an existing 9 hole course.  The timing matches up with all records and seems to coincide with the paragraph from the club history quoted above.

I was able to find an early photo of the estate showing a 9 hole course and the gardens.  I am guessing the photo is from the mid-20's:

« Last Edit: October 15, 2012, 01:56:40 PM by Sven Nilsen »
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Craig Van Egmond

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2012, 03:55:22 PM »
Sven,

     The picture you have there is Marland's first mansion which was located at 10th and Grand in Ponca City.  If you tour there they have the same picture and that course no longer exists. I never could find out who built that course.

     Ponca City Country Club is located NE of that site a couple of miles.

     Marland Second mansion was something to behold.  EW Marland was an interesting figure, he married his adopted daughter, lost his empire to JP Morgan and became 10th governor of Oklahoma.

     http://www.marlandmansion.com/


« Last Edit: October 15, 2012, 04:26:44 PM by Craig Van Egmond »

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2012, 04:17:21 PM »
Craig:

You beat me to the punch on the location of the first course.  The square boundaries of the property didn't seem to coincide with the layout of the current course.  The gardens (which ran east west between Grand and Central) are another clue that this was indeed not the same location.

It struck me as odd that Marland would have turned over his golf course to Conoco, unless the grounds were owned by his corporation.  I know he held on to his second estate (Palace on the Prairie) as long as he could before eventually having to sell it.  The whole story is a bit sad.  There are anecdotes of Marland being told he needed to move out of Ponca City after the takeover, for fear that he would lure his old workers to a new enterprise.  These were workers for whom he built houses, developed retirement plans and covered dental and medical expenses, corporate benefits that were unheard of at the time.  Its no surprise that when Marland ran for office, he did so as a Democrat, and appears to have had a good deal of support from the people.

As for the current course, I am beginning to think that Maxwell was brought in to build a new course for Conoco, and that course may have been his own original 18 hole design.  We know there were 18 holes in 1936, that the course was called Conoco CC and was on an entirely different piece of land from Marland's course.  Of course, it is entirely possible that some sort of course existed on that land prior to Maxwell's arrival or Maxwell only did 9 holes and 9 were added between 1929 and 1935.  It is also possible that Marland ended up building two golf courses, the second being the predecessor to Conoco.

The added wrinkle in all of this is that a former business partner of Marland, Lew Wentz, was building a course in Ponca City around the same time as Maxwell's work at Conoco CC.  I've seen the course referred to as Rock Cliff CC and the Lakeside Course (the 1931 Annual Guide has a listing for a Rock Cliff CC established in 1929 with 18 holes).  There is currently a course called Lew Wentz Memorial GC located on the Rock Cliff Ranch property east of town.  I have no idea who designed the course, but it is highly interesting that this course was being built at the same time Maxwell was doing what he did on the other side of the lake.  Perhaps there is more to the story.

Sven
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Craig Van Egmond

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2012, 04:37:29 PM »
Sven,

    Did you read this document on the Ponca City Country Club page?   It seems to clear up some stuff...

    http://www.poncacitycountryclub.net/PCCC%20Total%20History.pdf




Sven Nilsen

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2012, 05:39:46 PM »
Craig:

That is the same history Chris Clouser linked to earlier in the thread.  Here's the relevant section dealing with the origins of the course:

"Not surprisingly, the clubís roots go back to the days of E.W. Marland and the oil boom era. The original name of the land and facilities was the Marland Institute with buildings located where the Academy Hills housing addition is now. Built in the mid-1920ís, it included spanish style, stucco buildings with dormitory type living quarters for some of the men who worked in management for Marland Oil Company at the time. For recreation the men, along with other Marland employees, played the 18 hole, sand greens golf course located next to the Marland buildings. The golf course, built in 1928, would later become an integral part of the Ponca City Country Club.  When Marland Oil Company merged with Continental Oil Company in 1928 and the golf course was completed, the name was changed from the Marland Institute to the Conoco Golf Club."

Here's another account from the local newspaper:

"The first set of buildings was known as the Marland Institute, built in 1927. In 1929 it was announced that three of the structures would be the club house for Ponca City's golf course. The installation was known as the Quah-Ta-See-Da Club. The Marland
Institute was short-lived and the buildings became the property of Continental Oil Company."


So did Maxwell build the course for Marland, or did he come in after the Conoco takeover and redo an existing course.  The date for his work is generally given as 1929, yet the club history seems to note that the course was completed in 1928.  Also, elsewhere in the club history they discuss 9 holes by Maxwell and 9 holes by someone else, yet here they suggest that there were 18 holes in place prior to 1929.  Perhaps the Maxwell date is wrong, or perhaps he did indeed rework the existing course, or perhaps the club history has it wrong.  And what happened to Quah-Ta-See-Da?

Just some questions, and I'm sure the answers to them really don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. 

Sven
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Craig Van Egmond

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2012, 06:15:08 PM »
Sven,

        One thing I do know is that if you are ever in Ponca City, you got to eat at the Rusty Barrel steak house.  Best steaks around. :)

         And you got to see the Marland Mansion, its still pretty spectacular.


Craig Van Egmond

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2013, 08:25:02 PM »
Sven,

      In the book The Story of Golf in Oklahoma, it is mentioned that in 1915 Art Jackson was hired to build a  9 hole course on the Ponca City Estate of E.W. Marland.  It then mentions that it NLE.

Craig

Craig Van Egmond

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2013, 07:37:41 PM »

"The first set of buildings was known as the Marland Institute, built in 1927. In 1929 it was announced that three of the structures would be the club house for Ponca City's golf course. The installation was known as the Quah-Ta-See-Da Club. The Marland
Institute was short-lived and the buildings became the property of Continental Oil Company."

And what happened to Quah-Ta-See-Da?


"The complex became a school again in 1940, when Col. and Mrs. William V. Cox bought
the facilities and opened Ponca Military Academy, operating until 1974, when it closed.

For a short time a Christian school, operated by the Rev. Rollin Hill of the Church  for New Life
operated closing its doors in 1977.

The property went on the auction block in April 1978. The historical buildings were later
bulldozed to make way for the upscale Academy Hills subdivision."

Craig Van Egmond

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2013, 07:49:21 PM »
4.  The 1931 Annual Guide notes a Rock Cliff CC that opened in 1929.  Built by Lew Wentz (another Oklahoma oil baron), the course was located near his Arcade Hotel on the Rock Cliff Ranch property.  The course is now called Wentz Memorial GC and appears to have been reworked in the 1950's.

This is false.  

The Lew Wentz course was built in 1953 by Floyd Farley and was named after Lew Wentz who died in 1949.  Lew Wentz is another interesting character.

In an article written in 1948..

"A few years ago, when the Ponca City Country Club moved to new quarters, Wentz bought the old club-•louse with visions of remodeling it into a home in a truly spacious setting. He has never lived in the clubhouse, and he keeps it closed except when some old crony, recovering from an operation, needs a lot of fresh air and a veranda atmosphere; then he opens it for the period of the guest's convalescence. Now and then Wentz visits the clubhouse and walks about its hangarlike living room, moodily inspecting the decaying furniture, but he is always glad to get away from it."

As for golf Lew said "They tell you to take it easy. Play golf. Why, I don't have time for such crazy things."

Rock Cliff Ranch did exist though.

« Last Edit: February 01, 2013, 07:51:10 PM by Craig Van Egmond »

Craig Van Egmond

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2013, 08:50:49 AM »

If indeed the Marland Industrial Institute was located where the Academy Hills subdivision is now, that is East of the lake and the current Lew Wentz Memorial golf course is. The current PCCC is located west of the lake and moved in the 40's.  If this is so, then Maxwell had nothing to do with the current PCCC and his work may or may not have been incorporated into the Lew Wentz course by Floyd Farley.


Sven Nilsen

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2013, 03:17:37 PM »

If indeed the Marland Industrial Institute was located where the Academy Hills subdivision is now, that is East of the lake and the current Lew Wentz Memorial golf course is. The current PCCC is located west of the lake and moved in the 40's.  If this is so, then Maxwell had nothing to do with the current PCCC and his work may or may not have been incorporated into the Lew Wentz course by Floyd Farley.



Craig:

Not sure if we're talking about the same location for the Marland Institute (and the location of the Academy Hill Subdivision).  I have it as east of Pecan Rd. and South of Hartford Ave. on the map.  This would have been just east of the location of Marland's second mansion in town and just west of West Lake Ponca.  There's a small development on Academy Rd. and Reveille Dr. that borders the east side of Ponca City CC, and houses currently listed for sale in this area are noted as being in the Academy Hill Subdivision.

This website has a pretty good timeline of the history of Ponca City, including notes on a few golf courses:

http://www.legacyhistorycollections.com/docs/projects/Ponca_City_Yesterday_Timeline.pdf

1915 - Marland built his first mansion at 1000 East Grand with a 8 acres of gardens,
maintained by a Japanese gardener. To the north of the house and gardens were a
polo field and a beautifully landscaped golf course which was opened to the
public.  [Note - this is the 9 hole course designed by Jackson.]

1929 - June. Facilities of the Marland Industrial Institute became the Quah-Ta-See-Da
Club, Ponca City’s newest golf course.

As for Rock Cliff, I did a bit of research on this back in the fall and found enough evidence to support the thought that Rock Cliff CC turned into Lew Wentz Memorial.  I don't have that information on hand, but will try to track down what I found.

Sven
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Ed Oden

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2013, 09:49:02 PM »
For what it's worth, here is an April 18, 1927 article I ran across which includes a description of what Arthur Jackson did in Ponca City:

« Last Edit: August 10, 2013, 09:55:34 PM by Ed Oden »

Jason Hines

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #16 on: August 08, 2013, 09:03:59 PM »
Gentlemen,

I notice in Chris’ book that Maxwell is also credited with Blackwell Municipal down the road, have you play there or any other Maxwell course in the northern part of Oklahoma or southern Kansas?  A few of us GCA Kansas boys have talked about a couple of semi-local, one day road trips to hit a few Maxwell courses (besides PD).  We don’t mind scruffy, but if Blackwell is beyond recognition, we can cross it off the list.

http://goo.gl/maps/rvRpY

Mark Saltzman

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2013, 08:17:56 AM »
Jason, Blackwell is very rough, but it does have a few of the Maxwell trademarks.

See if you can arrange Oakwood CC in Enid.

Jason Hines

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2013, 11:30:55 PM »
Thanks Mark,

I think we are going to start off with Topeka CC, which apparently has become "tree" in but still should be fun.  Definitely want to head south eventually.

Jason
« Last Edit: August 09, 2013, 11:41:10 PM by Jason Hines »

Ed Oden

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Re: Ponca City GC - What's the story?
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2013, 10:32:02 PM »
Here is another article I found, this one from January 6, 1928.



I can't tell whether this course is (i) the 18 hole course Jackson supposedly laid out for Marland mentioned in the previous article I posted, (ii) the new 9 holes Jackson was adding to the Rockhill CC course mentioned in the earlier article, (iii) the course Maxwell designed as described in the PCCC history or (iv) something else.  Very confusing.

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