In 1931, the Associated Press certified a hole-in-one at the Clark County Golf Club by Ralph Percival, the son of former Mayor Grover Percival, who disappeared in 1920. Like the mayor, the golf course disappeared.
The golf course’s first foursome arrived early and teed off at 6 a.m. on Aug. 29, 1925. About 20 other golfers watched, waiting their turn to play the nine-hole course along Salmon Creek. The planners prophesied that the course and country roadhouse would put Vancouver in the “proper ranks of progressive Northwest cities.” Instead, it closed a decade later. Noted golf-course architect, William Locke, declared the course better than any in the Portland vicinity. On Labor Day, several of Portland’s leading golfers came to teach Vancouverites how to improve their game.
Few know that as they drive the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Klineline Pond, they pass directly over the site of the former Clark County Country Club. The promising country club failed thanks to risky expansion investment, flawed financial planning and the Great Depression.
Judge George Simpson paid about $107 an acre for nearly 170 acres around Salmon Creek in 1924. He headed a group committed to Vancouver possessing a golf course, like Longview to the north and Portland to the south. The group posted flyers for the country club, promoting a $200 membership fee for the first 100 members. Later subscribers paid $300. The buy-in price included families and low monthly dues of $3.
Three years later, the club took out a second mortgage of $60,000 to add a second nine holes and an elaborate clubhouse. The $12,000 clubhouse opened in March 1929. At the time, the club enjoyed 327 members. That May, the trustees boosted the monthly dues by $1.50 monthly, saying that the second nine holes and the clubhouse increased expenses.
Disgruntled members tried to sell their membership and were told only the trustees could sell them. Facing mortgage payments and the risk of members skipping their monthly dues, the country club board tried a short-term fix. It opened the course to nonmembers, charging a green fee of 50 cents on weekdays and $1 on weekends, to reduce the club’s reliance on membership fees.
The stock market crashed that October, sending financial shock waves through American banks, businesses and families. Stretched thin, families cut back on spending. Members ignored dues. Membership declined. As the Depression deepened, the club failed to meet its financial obligations.
The mortgage company took over the property in 1932 but folded two years later. Then the state of Washington assumed the $45,000 mortgage and the property. Desperate for cash flow, the club manager canceled memberships and went to green fees only.
The state banking supervisor, Howard Hanson, entered a quitclaim deed in 1935, ending the drama and the club’s liability. The following year, Portland real-estate magnet S.E. Henderson bought the property for $18,000, holding it until 1940. The clubhouse was renamed The Plantation Club, which became a popular dinner club with live music and dancing. It burned in 1948, leaving ashes as the last remnant of the Clark County Country Club.
Martin Middlewood is editor of the Clark County Historical Society Annual. Reach him at ClarkCoHist@gmail.com.