FROM THE ARCHIVES
The actor-director's 18-hole course in Carmel, California was laid out by Texas architect Jay Morrish
This article originally appeared in the March 2005 issue of Architectural Digest
Clint Eastwood is a man of few words, but lots of acres—most notably the spectacular 2,000 rising high over the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel, California. "When I was drafted during the Korean War, I ended up at Fort Ord," recalls Eastwood. "I was broke and had only an afternoon off, so I went down to Carmel. The air was clean and brisk, the sand white and beautiful, the people very hospitable. I thought, If I ever figure out how to make a living, I'd love to come and live here."
As the world knows, he managed to pull off both—make a buck or two in the movie business and go back to Carmel, whose residents returned the compliment by electing him mayor in 1986. It took a bit longer—until 1998—for the iconic actor-director to bring to his cherished spot in the universe another of his great passions—golf—to build, as it were, A Club of His Own. "I started caddying at 13 and knew I could carry clubs but never thought I'd swing one," he chuckles. When that spirit-changing moment miraculously occurred at 21, it inaugurated a lifelong obsession, leading to the creation of the Tehàma Golf Club, a glorious marriage of the best that game—and land—have to offer.
Nestled atop a stretch of gorgeous land with breathtaking panoramas, including the Santa Lucia mountains as well as a rush of raw coastline beauty stretching from Monterey to Santa Cruz, Tehàma (pronounced te-HAY-ma) comprises not only an exciting 18-hole, laced-in-the-hilltops course but an elegant 18,000-square-foot Spanish-style clubhouse incorporating a bar, restaurant, ballroom and four suites. "It was a wonderful site," says Eastwood, whose enthusiasm is shared by his vivacious wife, Dina, and their beautiful eight-year-old daughter, Morgan. "All we had to do was not ruin it. It's like a good movie script: It's great; don't let's screw it up.' " He pauses. "A lot of people buy stuff for investments. I only buy something I really love. I figure if I love it, I'll always take care of it." As indeed he has—for himself and others. Though Tehàma's invitation-only membership is limited to 300, there are also lots available to anyone "wishing to build his dream home"—owner included, who plans on building "my own place up there."
When it came to his dream clubhouse, Eastwood looked no further than his own 1928 hacienda-style home. "I said to my architect, Alan Williams, How about something like this, only set up as a club?' I wanted it to be nice and roomy but intimate. It was important that people feel it was like their home." "Clint wanted something classic but not prototypical," says Williams. "It could have been built 150 years ago"—but with the added attraction of underground parking. "When you fly over," says Eastwood of Williams's brainchild, "you don't see cars all over the place. The panorama feels more naturey' because it doesn't look like a wrecking yard."
True to its Native American name, Tehàma—or "abundance of nature"—the clubhouse exudes the same kind of long, lanky calm as its owner, a serenity only heightened by its breathtaking vistas.
For Tehàma's interiors, meanwhile, Eastwood turned to the same gang of artisans who, over the years, have brought audiences his movies—the furniture makers, painters, prop specialists—all housed at Warner Bros. Studios and overseen by Henry Bumstead, Eastwood's renowned art director of choice since 1992's Unforgiven. "I showed Bummy the plans and said, 'What do you think?'" he says. "The architects did a great job, but Bummy shines because he's a movie guy with very good taste who's great with details. He just seems to spot things. I don't know how to explain it other than you just trust him." Not surprisingly, the two were in sync. "Clint trusts me 100 percent," adds Bumstead. "And we both wanted to keep the rooms warm and friendly but manly."
"Working with Clint is like the old studio system where you knew everybody," continues the 89-year-old two-time Oscar winner. "You don't make a film for a couple years, but when you do, all the same people—the cameraman, wardrobe girl—are there. It's like a family. Clint likes people around him he knows."
And clearly trusts, as he did from the first time the two men worked together as director and designer on the western town in 1973's High Plains Drifter. "We staked out the location in a day, then Bummy asked, At what point during construction would you like to come back?' I said, When it's done—with the camera.' He laughed, then fainted. Here,' I said. Send pictures along the way if you want, but you've got a good reputation.' So it was all built before I saw it. If you have to micromanage people, you're paying them unnecessarily . . . might as well do it yourself. I get good people, and they do it."
Eastwood's main concern was "making the place look like it's been there a long time"—a Bumstead specialty, as it turns out. "I'm a stickler for aging," says the art director. "I paint, then glaze, the walls, for a beautiful patina. When I paint, I leave what I call little holidays,' or crevices, so that when you glaze it over, the paint sticks, making it look uneven and older."
That accomplished, Bumstead teamed up with Williams and his partner Michael Waxer to flesh out the hacienda. "Henry and I had a great time," says Williams, pointing especially to "The Bumstead Bar," as it's affectionately dubbed by the owner. "We did the countertops and table bases," says Williams, "while Henry, who designed the bar, took care of the leather, tabletops, cabinetry and woodwork"—all in pecan wood because, says Williams, "it's got such interesting character. It's like Clint's movies: non-perfect, nothing pretentious about it."
Though Clint Eastwood is hardly a man known for riotous outbursts of emotion, when it comes to Tehàma and its realization, joy is evident, even in this most subtle of men. "It was very exciting to see it all happen, to see it all there," he says. "And then to have people want to join and enjoy it. . . . "
As for Henry Bumstead, whose work, though immortalized on film, inevitably gets torn down when the director yells that final "Cut," it was his unique pleasure to create something meant to endure for decades—like the art director himself. "Without Clint Eastwood," admits Bumstead, simultaneously gearing up for his 90th birthday as well as his next Eastwood film, "I would never have worked this long. On films, I try to keep the set neutral, letting color come out in the costumes and set dressing. Sets should look like the people who live there."
As does the warm, charming, original, detail-perfect Tehàma. So is there anything Bumstead might change on this most lasting of projects?
"I've never known of any retakes," he laughs, "on a Clint Eastwood picture."
Written by: Nancy Collins
Photography: Scott Frances