Tokatee – A Chinook Word Meaning “A Place of Restful Beauty”
N.B. (Nat) Giustina, a lumberman from Eugene, became interested in golf in his early 40s. After becoming a “golf nut” he began to look around the McKenzie River Valley for a piece of property he could build a nine-hole course on. Often on his way up to his cabin in the McKenzie Bridge area he would turn off the highway onto Mill Creek Road (Fox Farm Road) so he could get a view of the Three Sisters mountains. From Mill Creek Rd. one could look across an open field (area west of #3 and #4 holes) and view the mountains. This open area was used in the early days for an overnight stop by travelers, including Native Americans, on their travels between Eastern Oregon and the Willamette Valley.
In 1962, Nat Giustina bought the Belknap Ranch as the future site for his golf course. The western half of the ranch was 160 acres, which Clarence Belknap had bought from the Oregon Boston Timber Company and logged in the 1940s, and the eastern half was 160 acres that had been the Sims Homestead. The Sims had farmed their property, had a small orchard, a barn, a lake, and ran a dairy at one time. The Sims’ property had also been the site of the first school above Blue River.
Clarence Belknap owned both parcels and was using them as a cattle ranch. He had sold his sawmill several years before and was selling off his property. The Belknaps were early settlers on the upper McKenzie and had their home on the south side of the McKenzie River across from the Holiday Farm. Their sawmill was also located near their home on the south side of the river across the Rainbow covered bridge.
Construction of Tokatee began in 1964 and the front nine holes were opened on July 1st in 1966. Dirt moving for the course was minimal. The big challenge was land clearing because much of the area had been an old-growth forest logged in the 1940s. The stumps had to be “blown” with dynamite, then the roots dug out and piled to be burned. A few stumps were left to show the size of the trees and how they were felled with cross-cut saws.
Tokatee was the first course in Oregon to use the white sand from Boise, Idaho and has used the USGA Green Section Advisory Services since its beginning. The back nine was completed and opened in the summer of 1969.
Ted Robinson, the brother of Robin Jaqua (wife of a local attorney), was the architect for Tokatee. Ted had already done Meridian Valley and Sahalee in the Seattle area and during Nat’s interview it was found that the two had a common philosophy on golf course construction. The course was laid out so that in the future homes could be built around it. At present there is no desire to develop the property.
The original entrance was off of McKenzie River Drive (Old McKenzie Highway) at Mill Creek Road. After the “new” McKenzie River Highway was built, or rebuilt, from Blue River to the junction with the Santiam Highway, the entrance was moved to the present site. Most of the land between the golf course and the new highway has also been acquired.
A trailer was used in the beginning for the pro shop, then in 1969 the original pro shop was built, which was used until 1995, when the present club house and restuarant was built. The old shop was moved north across the parking lot and is now used as a shelter for group outings. A new cart shed was also built in the area. In 1996 a new Toro 8000 “state of the art” irrigation system was installed.
Tokatee’s first golf professional was Robert Hodge who worked with his wife, Karen, until November 30, 1972. Bob was followed by Mickey Sullivan who, with wife Arlene, came from Bend Country Club. Mickey retired to fishing full time in 1995 and still lives in the area. The third professional was Dan King who came to Tokatee in 1995 from Longview Country Club. Dan and his wife Wendy retired this year (2023) after 28 great years. The current professional is Kennedy Swann, a NCAA National Champion as well as an Oregon Open Champion. This is her 4th season at Tokatee, and first as the head professional.
Tokatee Golf Club was built and managed by N.B. (Nat) Giustina until 1996 when Larry Giustina, his son, assumed the management responsibilities. Unfortunately, Larry passed away in 2022 so Mark Giustina, his son, has now assumed the management responsibilities. The course is owned by the Giustina family and they are happy to be part of the Upper McKenzie/Rainbow community.
The Giustina family and Tokatee employees welcome you all and appreciate your patronage and friendship. Their goal (as it has always been) is to maintain a low-key, rustic operation furnishing enjoyable “golf at its finest” as well as the motto "everyone welcome."