One day in 1969, George Glickley, the President of Bermuda Dunes Country Club, had to wait an hour or so for a tee time.
He decided to use that time to get a haircut. While at the barber shop, he learned from a manicurist that her boyfriend had a parcel of about 600 acres in Palm Desert that was for sale. The parcel was bounded by Frank Sinatra Drive on the north, El Dorado Drive on the east, Country Club Drive on the south and Cook Street on the west. Mr. Glickley immediately contacted the owner, entered into a purchase agreement, and closed escrow on the purchase within two weeks.
Mr. Glickley and his four financial partners then hired Jimmy Hines, a renowned course designer and golfer, to create a course and residential development on the eastern 240 acres of the parcel. Mr. Hines was the initial golf pro at Thunderbird Country Club, the winner of nine PGA tour events, and a member of the 1939 Ryder Cup Team. He was also the architect of Friendly Hills Country Club in Whittier, CA. Mr. Glickley, a Chicagoan, wanted a course that would look and feel like a Midwestern course, not the barren and arid courses that were typical in the Coachella Valley. Mr. Hines’ design, with tree-lined fairways and grass rough, met Mr. Glickley’s wishes.
The course and clubhouse were completed within a year after the land purchase. The grand opening of the Club was held on January 23rd, 1970, with the development named Del Safari and the streets named for significant African landmarks. The round clubhouse, sitting on a man-made 67 foot hill, was described by the local press as a “Foreign Legion Fort.” At the time, the clubhouse was the tallest structure in Palm Desert. From its third level, called the Zanzibar Room and named the Lookout, the Salton Sea could be viewed to the east and Palm Springs to the west.
Even before the Club opened, Fred Scherzer was appointed Head Pro at Del Safari. Mr. Scherzer served as Head Pro for the next 35 years. Mr. Scherzer, named Pro Emeritus after his retirement, remained a cherished Honorary Member of this Club until his passing in 2015.
Troubled economic times in the early 1970’s led to a bank takeover of Del Safari in 1974. For the next five years, the Club was in receivership. In 1979, the Club was purchased at auction by William (Bill) Stevens, a person of considerable wealth who loved the game of golf.
He often recounted that on the day he graduated from law school, he officially retired. The ownership of the Club was a pleasant hobby and an enjoyable way to occupy his time. He subsidized the Club’s operation from his personal wealth, and membership grew. In 1986, Mr. Stevens changed the name of the Club to Avondale Golf Club to reflect his British heritage.
By 1986, Mr. Steven’s health was failing, so he decided it was time to sell Avondale. He received a generous offer from a Japanese investment group, but elected to sell the Club to its then members at “bargain basement price,” less than half of the investment groups’ offer. By 1990, a group of members had raised the needed cash, formed a California not-for-profit corporation, and purchase Avondale from Mr. Stevens, creating a member-owned Club.
Today, Avondale remains a true equity Club, with its “regular” (equity) members owning the course and clubhouse through the not-for-profit corporation, Avondale Golf Club.