CRESTON GOLF CLUB HISTORY – THE BEGINNINGS 1926 – 1956
Existing Golf Courses in the Kootenays in 1926
In 1926 several centres in the Kootenays had constructed a golf course. These included: Cranbrook (1904 & 1915), Invermere (1911), Balfour (1917), Nelson (1919), Fernie (1920), Windermere (1923) Kaslo (1924), Kimberley(1924). The citizens in most of the centres curled in the winter and played golf during the summer months usually from May 1 – October 1. Hence most of the golf clubs commenced as extensions of the curling clubs. As golf became more popular as a sport for all the citizens the golf clubs formed their own organizations.
Creston Golf Club – first Attempt
On April 23, 1926 at the annual meeting of the Creston Curling Club, the President Guy Constable, formed a committee composed of Allan Speers and Roy B. Staples. The task was very simple. Find a location where the curling club members could play golf during the summers and report back to the club in one month. The two investigators identified two locations. “A suitable location for a nine hole course has been spotted by using part of the fair grounds and some of the wild land owned by S. Trembley. As soon as a lease price on the Trembley acreage is in hand another meeting will be held to finally decide on what action will be taken.” Creston Review. April 23, 1926.
The Trembley site was too small. “At the curling club meeting on Friday night the special committee on the golf course took a very definite shape this week when an option was secured on a tract of land about sixty acres at the back of the Heric and Penson ranches and taking in what is known as Little Mountain near Erikson and a stock subscription list is being circulated with a view to securing fifteen citizens to form the holding company. With this detail successfully accomplished the next effort will be to organize the golf club – both men and women and proceed to layout any size course as funds will permit.” Creston Review April 30, 1926.
Again the Little Mountain property appeared too small. “ The committee in charge of the Creston GC have been looking over the LSB land near the Kemp Ranch and are inclined to attempt to make it into the golf links.” Creston Review May 14, 1926.
No further references appear in the Creston Review with regard to the construction of a golf course and the formation of the Creston GC until May 22, 1936. Why was the idea abandoned? While the curling club attempted to construct a course another project supersede the club plans. Research indicates the curlers probably abandoned their goal because the Creston Reclamation Syndicate indicated they would supply ample land for a golf course when their project came to fruition. It is unlikely, however, the Creston Curling Club realized the golf course lands would not be available for a decade.
Capsule History of the Creston Reclamation Land Syndicate
From 1908 many individuals and groups attempted to reclaim the Kootenay Flats for farming purposes. In 1925 Duff Pattulo, the Lands and Forests Minister visited Creston. A local group headed by brothers Roy and Frank Staples, presented the minister with a plan to finance the Reclamation project. He strongly offered his support plus encouraged them to bring their proposal to Victoria. In 1926 the BC Government endorsed their plan to reclaim 10,000 acres of flood plain for farming purposes. The group planned to finance the project by selling a commitment to purchase ten-acre parcels to the local farmers. The Government placed a stipulation on their agreement. The Creston Reclamation Land Syndicate must supply Creston with land for a nine-hole golf course, an airport, and recreation areas.
Obstacles to the project
After the provincial government endorsed the Syndicate project, Frank Staples the secretary throughout the project, now began to receive objections from various departments of the federal government, private groups, and international commissions. First the Indian Affairs Department raised issues whether the lands belonged to the First Nations. Because the Kootenay River flowed southward to Washington State the International Waterways Commission raised concerns. Because the Kootenay Lake level would rise by ten feet the hay farmers surrounding the Lake worried their crops would be affected. In the late 1920’s similar reclamation projects in Washington State showed the recovered land became extremely valuable. A private company proposed to construct a Hydro Dam near Bonners Ferry. This project would recover 35,000 acres for farmland extending into the Creston Valley. The company argued the Creston project would not be required. In 1928 BC electors changed the provincial government. The Creston Project now required new provincial approval from the newly elected government. Finally after in April 1932 all obstacles had been overcome and the project could proceed. The dyking on the Kootenay and Goat Rivers varied from five to ten feet high. The base of the dykes spanned one hundred feet at the base and eight feet on top in the strongest sections.
In September 1935 the Syndicate offered free hay cut on the reclaimed land. “Notwithstanding the dyking of more than 8000 acres by the Creston Reclamation Syndicate the outlook is for as free hay cut on the recovered lands near Nick’s Island and the north end of the flats.” Nelson Daily News September 19, 1935.
Second Golf Club Formation
On May 22, 1936 the Creston Review announced a meeting for all golf enthusiasts on Thursday May 26th at the town hall where the first step would be taken to form the Creston Golf Club. By July the newspaper announced the nine-hole course opened for play. In as recent conversation with one hundred year old Allan Staples he shed light on this early course. He believed the course was located on his family property near the original Goat river diversion. His father Roy Staples, a former Kelowna Golf Club member, laid out the nine-hole course. Gordon Sinclair, the owner of the Creston Hardware store, supplied the early players with their equipment. The first club competition featured a mixed open foursome tournament for the McCreath Cup. Like many early clubs members donated the intial trophies. The women golfers competed in their annual club championship for the Wilson Cup. Homer Eddy sheds light on the location; “Creston’s first course was on the flats where the present # 3 highway crosses the old Goat River Channel.
The Creston golf club history book “A History of the Creston Golf Club in the 20th Century” complied by Phil Thomas supplies insight into the first course. Marion Staples recalls: “ Uncle Roy took me out to the course with my new clubs in 1940. I recall a herd of sheep, which were used for mowing, a fine log clubhouse and one unusual teeing area, which had to be accessed by a ladder. I hit my drive two hundreds yards and Uncle Roy walked away in disgust.” Willow Labelle remembers mowing the course with a tractor and a converted horse-drawn mower.
In 1938 and 1948 the course suffered severe flooding when the dykes were breached in several spots. From newspaper accounts it appears the course rebounded into operation. The Creston Golf Club hosted the popular Boyd Cup competition in 1951. This regional team competition is a popular team competition still played today.
The success of the club is best shown in the number of members who participated in local regional competitions such as the Crow’s Nest Championship, the Wood Valance event at Kimberley, the Trail Open, the Rainbow tournament at Fernie and the Boyd Cup. If one adds a conservative number of members who never travelled to the regional events this club probably had about 75 – 100 members per year during its life span. Exactly when the club closed is unclear. The best guess is probably in the early 1950’s. After the course closure Creston members still traveled to the local events through the 1950’s and 1960’s even though they did not have a local course to practice on.
List of Creston members from 1936 – 1955 who participated in the regional events.
N Acked, G. Alger, Argue, J. Atchinso
Baldwin, P. Barrall, Baxter, C. Beebe, Brown, Burns, C. Bothalmey, Burgess
A Finley, Fergie, Forrest, Freem
O Gill, Graham, E. Guille
Jones, R. Joyce
Little, V Lundbom, Lunn
McBurney, DM MacDonald, W. MacDonald, McGillvary, McLay, H. Mackie, GE Mackinnon, McNaughton, MF MacPherson, Marchbank, Marshall, HS McCreath, J. McCulloch
Scott, A. Slocan, Spence, R. Taylor
C Ward, White, H. Wilson, Woodland
Research indicates Russ Joyce was probably the most successful member of the Creston GC winning the 1951 and 1954 Seniors event at the Crow’s Nest Championships.
Creston Golf Club today
The first meeting to form the present Creston Golf Club occurred on February 10, 1954. On April 2, 1954 the members formed the present company. Like the first course Roy B Staples supervised the course layout. Due to lack of funding the construction process progressed very slowly. On May 5, 1956 the Nelson Daily News announced the progress of the clearing. “The ground there is very verdant and it may be possible to play on three or four holes this year. It was felt best to get to work now while offers of heavy equipment were still good. The problem of financing heavy clearing and grading amounting to some $3000 will have to be left until later as the interest grows.” The Staples family financed and undertook the challenge to clear the land for the course.
In June 1962 “Archie Gray arranged to obtain Mannix Construction’s first aid and soil testing building – 12 feet by 32 feet for the club’s first clubhouse. President Alger states the fairways are being mowed regularly each week and the course is in good shape. Sand and oil are being put on the new sand greens. Each of which has a drag bar to smooth over the sand. Tee boxes with new mates have been properly positioned and new signs are to be placed at the entrance.”
On May Day weekend 1963 the Creston Golf Club introduced a new annual tournament, the Blossom Festival, to the regional golf tournament schedule. Research indicates this event is still held today.
The Museum would like to extend a special thank-you to Alan Staples for providing valuable information regarding the initial course, the Staples family, and the early players.
The BC Golf Museum is searching for memorabilia associated with Creston’s first golf course and the Blossom Festival Championship particularly trophies, scorecards, and photographs.
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BC Golf Museum