The Golden Tee Dragons – Rumors about a safe buried under the Golden Tee Dragon Volcanoes are true.
By Linda Sandsmark
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM
One of Castro Valley’s most visible landmarks, Golden Tee Golfland, celebrated its 50th birthday this year.
Thanks to its vibrant décor, upgraded grounds, friendly staff and jovial manager, Golden Tee miniature golf never really seems to show its age.
“We’re always willing to help do anything that will help make the community better,” says long-time manager Bob Anthon.
Golfland often donates rounds of golf to worthy causes. Charitable and school groups hold fund-raising “tournaments” there. Students with intellectual disabilities have gained work experience in the arcade. And parents looking for the perfect party venue know they can always count on the Golden Tee.
“We really enjoy being part of the community,” Anthon adds.
The Golden Tee’s original owner, Ben Kenney, came to the U.S. from Canada. While in Mesa, Arizona, he spotted his first miniature golf course and liked what he saw. He built his first course in Tucson (which was managed by Anthon), and it was such a hit that he eventually built about a dozen more.
In 1962 he started building Castro Valley’s Golden Tee, which was finished in 1963. Currently the company has seven locations: four in the Bay Area, and others in Roseville, Anaheim, and Mesa, Arizona.
Ben Kenney passed away in 1994, and the business is still continued by Kenney’s sons and daughter: John, Fred, Jim, Bob, Don and Kathleen.
Under the heading of “Golfland folklore,” Anthon says there is indeed a safe — an empty one — buried under the golf course. He says that before Golfland was built, there was a savings and loan building at the front of the property.
“There was a big old safe in there. As they were constructing the golf course and filling in holes in the ground, they stuck the safe in the cement under the dragon volcanoes,” he says.
In addition to the safe from the savings and loan, Golfland has another early claim to fame. There was also a dog kennel toward the rear of the lot, and one of the “Lassie” dogs from the popular TV show was kept there.
“That’s our star connection,” says Anthon.
People who visited Golfland in the 1960s and ’70s might also remember the giant bears that once stood in what is now the large glass “party room” near the park entrance. The back-story is that Ben Kenney went to Alaska with his then-12-year-old son Fred. They returned with two polar bears, one grizzly, and three wolves. He displayed them at the Castro Valley location from about 1966 to 1972, then donated them to a natural history museum in order to better preserve them.
“Golden Tee was left with the empty glass showroom, which was redesigned two years later into a party room. It’s very popular,” adds Anthon.
The Golden Tee is always in the process of improving. The latest feature is a Mayan Temple, which just opened in November. Since as many as 10,000 customers per month come to the Golden Tee during busy times, the grounds get a lot of use. To keep the course looking nice, its 14 employees inspect it closely every day.
Miniature golf is the perfect activity for grandparents and grandkids, teens, children and adults. Golden Tee’s arcade with over 50 videogames is a popular spot even for those who don’t golf.
Golden Tee Golfland has two 18-hole courses and is open seven days a week. Prices vary from $4.99 per person on Family Night (Monday after 6 p.m.) up to complete party packages with arcade tokens, pizza and soft drinks in the party room. Seniors over 55 and juniors (under 11) receive a discount, and toddlers under 4 are free.
Golden Tee Golfland is located at 2533 Castro Valley Blvd. Visit www.golfland.com/castrovalley/ or call 510-537-2168 for more information.