Spokane Golf Course Was Once An All-Year Sports Venue

Mar 12, 2019

This car once served as a rolling billboard for the Wandermere sports venue in north Spokane.
Credit Courtesy Ty Brown

Opening day is probably still weeks away for the golfers who call Wandermere in north Spokane their home course.

In years past, Wandermere offered more than just golf. It was also a winter sports destination for people who enjoyed spending time outdoors.

A Spokane area school teacher who spent much of his childhood at Wandermere has written a new book about the resort.

Ty Brown comes at this from a unique perspective. He teaches history and English at West Valley High School, but he grew up at the golf course that’s bordered by the Little Spokane River. His dad is Wandermere’s long-time grounds keeper and his family still co-owns the place. Over a two year period, Brown collected photos and documents saved by family members over the years, conducted interviews and wrote a narrative about a place that hasn’t been given much attention by historians.  

The result was “Wandermere: Legacy on the Little Spokane River.”

“The property out there was really like a sportsman’s paradise. That’s how it kind of started," Brown said. 

"Francis H. Cook, one of the Spokane pioneers, he ended up living out there on that property and he’s the one that actually built the lake and the lake is really the centerpiece of that business because they used it for ice skating. He had an ice business. He would use the ice and store it in a big barn that they had out there and before refrigeration, they’d use that as one of their business practices. They’d have hunting and people would spend the night out there.” he said.

In the summer, people would come to swim in the lake and fish. In the 1930s, Wandermere opened as a nine-hole golf course.
 
“Golf was really needed in Spokane at that time in 1930. Downriver, it was often referred to as Riverside as well, that was about the only public course in town. You had Manito and the Spokane Country Club and you had the Hayden Lake Country Club nearby, but Downriver was literally busting at the seams for people trying to get on the golf course, waiting lists and it was just so hard to get in there. Wandermere came about, granted it was nine holes, but it really took some of the pressure off of Downriver," Brown said.
 
In 1948, Wandermere expanded to 18 holes.

By that time, Wandermere was known for one other sporting activity that you might not believe: ski jumping.

“The Spokane Ski Club, at the time, was looking for a place to hold a ski jumping event," Brown said. "Ski jumping in the 1930s was a huge thing in the Northwest. Spokane, really, developed ski jumping way before any other place. In the early 1910s people were ski jumping here off of Browne’s Mountain.”

Brown says the Spokane Ski Club wanted to send its jumpers to Mount Spokane, but apparently the road up there wasn’t good and there wasn’t much parking. So the club approached Wandermere about building a ski hill.  

“So my family built the hill and then they used the hill and they shared the profits of this," he said. "So, in 1933, they actually had a ski jumping event out there and it was really successful, 20-some-thousand people. It was allegedly the largest sporting event in Spokane history. The newspaper articles talk about traffic jams two cars wide from Boone and Division all the way to Wandermere. It was quite the spectacle.”

Now it’s just golf at Wandermere in the shadow of Highway 395 rolling past.

You can read more about Wandermere’s history in Ty Brown’s new book, “Wandermere: Legacy on the Little Spokane River” and hear more of our interview with him on Wednesday’s Inland Journal podcast.