On an open shelf inside the cozy pro shop at Arrowhead Country Club in eastern San Bernardino is a personalized plaque new owners Fariel and Mike Winn recently received as a gift from a regular.
“Arrowhead Country Club,” the keepsake reads. “The Happiest Golf Course on Earth.”
While a lofty standard for a place on the brink of obsolescence as recently as last year, the Winns have done everything within their means to restore the historic country club’s luster as somewhere to play 18 holes and gather as a community.
The Winns – Fariel, a registered nurse at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, and Mike, a 30-year golf pro – have owned or operated several golf courses in the area over the years, and understand how valuable a commodity they are not just to local and visiting golfers, but to longtime neighbors and new.
Arrowhead Country Club, with a history dating back nearly a century, is “one of the last gems,” Fariel Winn said this week.
And the Southern California couple is treating it as such.
“We’re golf people,” Mike Winn, a San Diego native, said. “We enjoy golf, and we want the community, especially the underprivileged, to be able to come to the golf course and play. People who have never had the opportunity to play at a country club, in this environment. …
“This golf course has great bones, and it’s got some great history.”
Originally built in 1927 to accompany Arrowhead Springs Hotel, Arrowhead Country Club drew illustrious stars from Hollywood such as Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin and William Randolph Hearst.
Beyond somewhere to play a round, the private club at the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains was a destination.
Somewhere to see and be seen.
Al Capone, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple – they all at one point or another sat at the clubhouse bar, Fariel Winn said.
And yet, the Parkside Drive country club the Winns bought a year ago last month – one of two remaining in San Bernardino – could not have been further removed from its gilded heyday.
“We bought a property that was in shambles,” Fariel Winn said.
While Arrowhead Country Club is not subject to development under any circumstance, the Winns said the previous owner’s plan was to build housing on the property – something the couple saw unfold firsthand at Sierra La Verne Country Club, which closed three years ago.
Paradise Knolls Golf Course in Jurupa Valley met a similar fate.
Over the past year, the Winns have revived the San Bernardino course with “sweat equity,” Fariel Winn said.
“We’re here for no other reason than to turn this place around and make it a better place for the community,” she added. “We want this to be a place where people come back. I don’t think there’s a lot of places around here that people can go to and be a family.”
With a fresh coat of white paint, the pro shop is homey, with Arrowhead Country Club-branded merchandise neatly hanging from walls and laid out on tables. Fariel Winn’s nearby workspace is pristine, not a pen or piece of paper out of place.
A signed picture of club regular and pro golfer Brandie Burton, a Southern California Golf Association hall of famer, hangs on the wall behind Winn’s desk.
“Arrowhead Country Club,” Burton wrote, “Thank you for all your support and generosity throughout my career.”
In addition to the pro shop, the Winns are in the process of renovating a bar-type building near the driving range.
Empty now, in a few weeks, the brick-walled space will have a small kitchen, plenty of comfortable seating and a pair of large televisions waiting for golfers after their rounds.
The Winns hope to eventually use the room as a restaurant for neighbors and visitors during off hours.
Another place the couple intends to renovate in time is the historic clubhouse, most of which had been closed for years before the two took ownership in August 2021.
“This was where everybody came,” Fariel Winn said during a recent tour of the property. “You’d come to Arrowhead for a wedding, for a party. The memories our customers have of this place go back generations. It’s amazing what this golf course has done for a lot of families and people around here.”
In recent months, the Winns touched up the banquet room and historic oak bar.
The other night, the two welcomed dozens of community members inside for the first time for dinner, and “the excitement on their faces, in their eyes, was unbelievable,” Fariel Winn said.
“This place had all these memories for them,” she added.
On the tour, Fariel Winn took great pride in sharing that the rectangular room would soon host a quinceañera for a local teen who waited a year to have her milestone birthday party at the same place her two older sisters had theirs.
“This is what I want to bring back,” Fariel Winn said, “that type of community vibe.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course.
The Winns have a long term plan to restore Arrowhead Country Club that includes ridding the golf course of foreign grasses and providing a monochromatic playing surface. Mike Winn is in the process of reconfiguring the hole sequence and adding other touches here and there.
Solar panels will be installed in the parking lot in the coming weeks, and Fariel Winn has all intentions of transforming the old Gentleman’s Lounge inside the clubhouse into a luxurious sitting room for all.
But already, Cal State San Bernardino and Aquinas High School have scheduled events at Arrowhead, with more schools and organizations expressing interest in doing the same.
While there are 55 members, the club is not private anymore, meaning anyone can book a round there.
Affordable individual and family memberships are available for those who want to golf, play tennis or use the pool, which was recently restored by home club Victory Aquatics.
In her native Trinidad and Tobago, “everyone gets along,” Fariel Winn said. “I think that’s where we’re getting back to here.”
“San Bernardino,” she added, “this is where home is going to be for a while.”