The History of CordeValle

Our Past, Present & Future in California

Archaeological evidence shows that long before CordeValle was sculpted into a luxury destination golf resort along the inland foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the heritage of the serene landscape was established by the Pitac tribe of Native Americans, who inhabited the fertile grasslands and dense forests throughout the region.

Descendants of the Ohlone, also known as the Costanoan, the Pitac culture was thriving some 8,000 years ago, prior to its discovery by Spanish colonial explorers and missionaries in the late 18th century. Pedro Fages led the first European expedition through the Santa Clara Valley in 1772, camping in the near vicinity of what is now CordeValle.

In 1821, following Mexican independence from Spain, the Santa Clara Valley was divided into ranchos. The CordeValle region became part of Rancho San Francisco de las Llagas, nearly 27,000 acres granted to Carlos Antonio Castro in 1828. Castro focused on raising cattle for the hide and tallow trade, incorporating a soap factory and 500 acres of cultivated orchards, vineyards, and gardens.

The future of the region changed significantly in 1844, when pioneer settler Martin Murphy brought his wife, three sons and two daughters from Iowa to California on the first wagon train to cross the rugged Sierra Nevada mountain range. The Irish immigrant purchased a 9,000-acre parcel of Rancho San Francisco de las Llagas, which today is the San Martin area.

Through the years Murphy, a devout Catholic, eventually tired of needing to make the long ride to attend church at Mission San Jose, so he built his own chapel near his home. In 1869, a railroad was built paralleling Monterey Road through the South Valley region. A few miles north of Gilroy, a flag-stop station, originally called Mil’s Switch, was established for farmers. But locals referred to the station as “San Martin” after Murphy’s chapel and he eventually named the area San Martin in honor of his patron saint, Martin. Through the years the town of San Martin grew up around the Murphy ranch.

Murphy’s descendants inherited the property, but it later changed hands several times. Lazard Lion purchased 5,582 acres of the ranch, including what is now CordeValle, cultivating extensive fields of fruit trees, barley, corn, and alfalfa. And by 1918, there was a 40-acre vineyard producing grapes for wine. The ranch owner is forever memorialized by the name of the mountaintop overlooking CordeValle: Lion’s Peak.

The property was sold in 1921 to one of Lion’s business associates, Frank Hayes, who continued to graze cattle, added a dairy, and tended to the prune and walnut orchards, as well as the vineyards until the early 1950s. Prior to the advent of CordeValle, the property was still known as Hayes Valley, with ensuing owners maintain a home for cattle to roam the rangeland.

The history of CordeValle has taken new directions in recent years—but just as the property was nurtured by Martin Murphy, Lazard Lion and Frank Hayes, it has been carefully shaped into a world-class golf course by internationally acclaimed golf architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Since debuting in 1999, CordeValle has established a legacy of championship golf that earned national attention, hosting the PGA Tour, the prestigious PGA Cup Matches, and the annual Gifford Invitational, one of the most prestigious fall collegiate tournaments in the country.