Yosemite National Park is one of the only national parks to host a golf course within its boundaries. For the public record, I own the sixth hole. Not own as in, I hit a hole-in-one there and now both the sixth hole and I are famous. I don’t golf. But I think of it as mine just the same. That’s because each year during Wawona Elementary School’s Golf Tournament and Fundraiser, it’s the place I sit waiting to witness someone else make a hole-in-one. If they do (and so far no one has), they instantly win a car. And while it would be thrilling to see someone win both the hole and the car, it’s not the reason I sign up for sixth-hole duty each year. Nope. My reasons have to do with its quiet and beauty and the sheer audacious resilience of the place.
Originally designed in 1917 for the Washburn brothers (the original owners of the Wawona Hotel), the Wawona Golf Course became part of Yosemite National Park when the Wawona Hotel and its surroundings were deeded to the federal government in 1932. More interested in wilderness than golf courses, the federal government found they couldn’t get rid of the course (it was there before they took ownership), but they could let it die of benign neglect. Which is exactly what they set out to do until a man named Kim Porter showed up in 1980. He became obsessed with restoring the nine-hole golf course to its former glory — no mean feat when it’s inside a national park.