Country Club

Mike Sabo, of the La Canada Country Club, practices with an iron. The club is celebrating its 50th anniversary. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / August 9, 2011)

The La Cañada Flintridge Country Club is quietly celebrating 50 years of lost balls, community fundraisers and memories this summer, and long-time members say that it’s the camaraderie on the greens that have kept them coming back.

“We like to think of it as the best-kept secret in the valley,” said Joanne Farmer, a member of the club since 1987. “Most of it has to do with the members.”

Plans for the club were first unveiled by local developer Bill Godbey in 1959. Three years later, what was then known as the La Cañada Country Club opened its doors and gave golfers a chance to chase balls up and down a hilly course designed by noted golf course architect Lawrence Hughes. With majestic views of the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles, the facility has hosted countless weddings and local events, from charitable galas to the 2011 memorial for Sport Chalet founder Norbert Olberz.

General Manager Tom Frost, who came on board in February 2012, said the club is not planning a 50-year anniversary party, but is holding membership promotions throughout the year to mark the milestone. The private club is also welcoming non-members to its weekly Sunday brunch.

On Thursday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce will hold its June mixer at the club.

Members say a meal in the clubhouse, a drink on the deck or chasing a ball on the club's tennis courts often are safer bets than a round on the links.

“It has a lot of up-and-down play and hills, so it’s difficult,” said Farmer, the club's women's champion last year. “The general skinny is if you can play that golf course, you can take your game to any other course.”

Like Farmer, Penelope Verner, a member since 1973, said that she saw the club’s emphasis on couples, including the annual Jack and Jill tournament, as one of its attractions.

“Most country clubs, the men run the whole show,” Verner said. “Here, the couples are extremely active. What makes it special are the people that I’ve met through the years, and many that are long gone from here I’m still friends with.”

Verner said that she’s enjoyed seeing the club upgrade its facilities, including a new driving range and practice area — and she said the practice must be paying off.

“After 47 years of golf, I got my first hole in one here on 7 here at the club,” she said. “I’ve played so many away places, I was really happy to get it on my own court.”