Thomas A. O’Donnell’s “Desert Golf Course,” known today as the O’Donnell Golf Club, was the creation of oil tycoon Thomas O’Donnell who began construction of the course in 1926, finishing the first iteration of his private 9-hole course the following year. It is the oldest existing golf course in the Coachella Valley. In 1936, he commissioned architect William Charles Tanner to design a custom Spanish-Colonial Revival residence on the golf course, which O’Donnell called the “Golf House.”
In 1944, O’Donnell willed the course to the city of Palm Springs, which leased it back to the O’Donnell Golf Club for 99 years. Under the terms of the O’Donnell gift, when the lease ends in 2043, the property’s use must remain “a public benefit” or it will revert to O’Donnell’s heirs.
On August 14, 2020, the Thomas A. O’Donnell “Desert Golf Course” nomination was heard by the California State Historical Resources Commission in Sacramento. The commission voted unanimously to add the golf course to both State and National Registers of Historic Places. Notably, the golf course nomination received a letter of support from the O’Donnell Golf Club and further “approval” from the city of Palm Springs.
On June 12, 2020, PSPF asked the California State Historic Preservation Office to add the O’Donnell Golf Course to the California State Register (and by extension the National Register) of Historic Places. Accompanying the request was a scholarly 62-page application authored by Susan Secoy Jensen.
On October 23, 2019 the Palm Springs city council unanimously approved (5-0) the Class 1 Historic Resource designation of Thomas A. O’Donnell’s “Desert Golf Course.” After a presentation on the merits of the nomination by PSPF board member and nomination author Steven Keylon, compelling public comment was made by PSPF board member Jan Harper and PSPF honorary board member Hugh Kaptur. A large contingent of golf club members attended to support the nomination. Several city council members made favorable comments about how well written and persuasive Keylon’s nomination was.
On October 8, 2019 the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board voted unanimously (4-0) to recommend to city council approval of the Class 1 Historic Resource designation of Thomas A. O’Donnell’s “Desert Golf Course.” Several HSPB members made enthusiastic comments in support of designating the entire site. PSPF board members Steven Keylon and Jan Harper made compelling public comment in support of the nomination.
On September 27, 2019, PSPF assigned the task of writing the National Register nomination for the Thomas A. O’Donnell “Desert Golf Course” to PSPF advisor and preservation architect Susan Secoy Jensen. The effort supplements PSPF’s successful campaign to have the historic golf course designated a city of Palm Springs Class 1 Historic Resource.
On September 3, 2019 the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation (acting on behalf of the O’Donnell Golf Club) submitted the 118-page Class 1 Historic Resource nomination for Thomas A. O’Donnell’s “Desert Golf Course” to the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board.
In June of 2018, the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board of directors assigned the task of writing the Class 1 Historic Resource nomination of Thomas A. O’Donnell’s “Desert Golf Course” to PSPF board member Steven Keylon.