YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. -- Inside perhaps the most beautiful national park in the country sits, possibly surprising to some, a golf course. Less than five miles from Yosemite's south entrance, nestled between the towering pines, lies the appropriately named Big Trees Golf Course in the park's Wawona area.
"This area was outside of Yosemite National Park until 1932," said the course's unofficial historian Tom Bopp. "It was like Fish Camp or any other place. You'd drive a ways up the road to enter the national park."
This year the course, one of just a handful inside a national park, is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
In the adjacent hotel that has hosted housed President Teddy Roosevelt and actors Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, Bopp can be found playing the piano for hotel guests. For the last 35 years, he's been gathering images that tell the course's story. From the original sign that advertised the once new course architect Walter Favarque designed, to an image captured by legendary photographer Ansel Adams.
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"Ansel Adams had to make a living too," Bopp said. "While he was doing his toweringly wonderful artistic photography he had to make a living. So he was working for the concessioner here."
There are no pesticides and water that has been recycled and treated is all that is used to irrigate the course.
Spring to Fall are the only times the course is open, and snow could force the closure at other points.
You can walk or ride an electric cart around the nine-hole track, but due to conservation efforts and government regulations, you have a better chance at hitting back to back hole-in-ones than seeing the back nine ever get built.
But Bopp says there's a different allure that brings people to the course. "Anybody can go out and find a golf course. It takes people with special depth and imagination to realize that to come to a course like this is to experience a century ago experience here in Yosemite."
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