Merritt Golf 100 Years Old

Golf in Merritt Celebrates 100 Years in 2022

These articles start with a basic premise.  Here the premise was our records show the Merritt Golf Club commenced operation in 1922. The article would  describe the short history of the club from 1922 – 1933. Why did the course close? In 1923 the Merritt Herald reported: “ The first golf club formed in the Interior was located in Merritt on September 13, 1913.” Is this actually correct?

First golf club in the Interior –  Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon or Merritt. ?

Kelowna Golf

August 24th, 1899 Vernon News

“Golf in Kelowna July 1st, 1899 Vernon News

“In May past 1899, Dr. Carruthers laid out a short nine hole golf course along the lake shore north of the English Church. The field consisted of eight golfers practically none of who had more than four weeks acquaintance with the game.”

April 30, 1914. Kelowna Courier & Okanagan Orchardist

“Kelowna Golf Club is organized.  Mr. L.E.Taylor conducted a party of enthusiasts over the proposed links, which had been professionally laid out. The course is an excellent one. Kelowna is fortunate in having sixty acres of land so near the city. (Bankhead Property). The course should be ready for play by August. This will allow for five months of play this year.”

Penticton GC

April 4, 1912 Kelowna Record Newspaper

“Penticton is to have a golf links this summer in conjunction with the new hotel which is starting.”

April 24th, 1913. The British Columbia Gazette

“The Penticton Golf Club Limited has this day been incorporated under the “Corporation Act” as a limited company with a capital of ten thousand dollars divided into ten one thousand shares. “

Vernon Golf Club

June 17th, 1913 The British Columbia Gazette

“The Vernon Golf Club has been this day incorporated under the “Corporation Act” as a limited company with a capital of $25,000 divided into Five Hundred shares.”

March 13th, 1913. Vernon News Thursday

“H.G. Nagle is in hopes that in the near future the proposed golf club will be well started on a successful career. A meeting of all those interested has been called for 2:30 PM tomorrow to be held in the board of trade Room The tract of land that is proposed for the course is that lying between Bray Canal and the land belonging to Mr. Dedecker on the BX Valley”

From this research, we conclude Kelowna citizens formed  the first golf club in the Interior in 1899. The Vernon GC formed about three months prior to the formation of the Merritt Golf Club. Unfortunately we have no access to the Penticton Herald. Therefore we cannot comment on the roots of the Penticton GC formed on April 24th, 1913. Did Penticton build a course and operate tournaments? An extensive article in the Okanagan Historical Society Review states the Penticton GC formed in 1917. This course was laid out within the present city boundaries.

Early Golf in Merritt

ANB Rogers formed the Merritt Golf Club on September 19th, 1913.

“A meeting was held at the Adelphi Hotel last Thursday evening where it was decided a once to form the Merritt Golf Club. The group elected A.NB Rogers President, William East Vice-President, JA Simpson Secretary/Treasurer.”

ANB Rogers arrived in Merritt to operate the new Toronto Bank in 1912. He likely came as a golfer and became the guiding light for golf in the Merritt area. Under his direction he called the first meeting for the purpose of forming a golf club and constructing a course.” The attendees elected him their first President plus the next threes years. Unfortunately when the Toronto Bank closed the Merritt Branch in June 1916, no golfer stepped forward to fill his shoes. Golf ceased in the area.

Unfortunately little is known about the course or the membership.  It appears about twenty enthusiasts competed for two trophies –  the Ross Trophy and the Rogers Trophy. The group of avid golfers interspersed their golf with curling. The group included Grimmett, Wilkinson, Rogers, Methuen, Simpson Darknell, Priest, Lacombe, Leitch and Eddy. These gentlemen operated the local businesses, served as lawyers, and accountants, and manged the local timber industry. Unfortunately Harry Priest, the local photographer never took any photographs of his fellow golfers or of the course. If he did none have survived. The Merritt Herald never reported the scores for the nine-hole course indicating players had scored par or birdies.  Rogers laid out the course northeast of town on the Merritt – Princeton highway. One fall while burning the summer grass from the course, the flames jumped the road to the Lauder farm. The golfers quickly extinguished the flames on  the neighbouring farm.

In 1921 Dr JP Coghlan established his dental practice in Merritt. Like Rogers, the Doctor became the guiding influence for the rebirth of the Merritt Golf Club. In 1927 the Merritt Herald paid tribute to Dr Coghlan’s dedication to golf in the area.

“Dr Coghlan termed the “Father of the Merritt Golf Club” and the first President is an ardent enthusiast of the game. Always anxious to keep up interest in the club he spares no efforts to uphold its reputation and it is owing to his untiring energy that golfers from far and wide remember with pleasure their visits to the Merritt Golf Club”.  The newly formed group included most of the original members from 1916 Merritt club. The Doctor and his compatriots returned to the original course. 1927 the Ladies formed their own Ladies Division. Merritt golfers played regularly in the Interior Men’s and Ladies Championships. For some reason Merritt never hosted this prestigious event. Kamloops, Princeton, Penticton and Vernon members made annual visits to compete against the Merritt members. The financial reports published in the Herald indicate the club thrived until 1933. During the decade it existed about 60 – 75 members including RS Ware, HC Meeker, RP Boyd, JE Dalton, GF Ransom, C. Stephenson, ML Grimmett and H. Ransom  supported the club annually. In 1927 the group constructed a clubhouse to enhance the experience at the links. The members competed annually in the Interior Championships. In 1932 JP Boyd, one of the best Merritt players, won the annual Commercial Men’s Championship. To maintain the course, the club annually hired W. Binnie 1922-24) and Frank Cousteau (1925 – 1930) as the professional/greenskeeper during the decade. Problems appeared in 1933 when the club could not afford to hire someone to maintain the course.

Nothing is known about the layout of the course during this decade. No photos exist. Why did it close in 1933? Probably seum is constantly on the search due to the depression and the relocation of several prominent citizens who golfed at the club.

JP Boyd, longtime member and Merritt mayor,  attempted a rebirth of the club in May 1937. Apparently the small group could not find enough enthusiasm to proceed. No further golf reports appear in the Herald until 1949.  “ A group approached WP Sandy in an attempt to lease the old course.” In July 1949 the Merritt Golf Club sold the 1927 clubhouse ending their long golfing association with the property.

In 1961 a group moved to bring golf back to Merritt.  Under the name Nicola Valley G& CC Society the group secured a lease on property in Quilchena near Nicola Lake. However soon after the construction of the course problems arose between the owner and the members. The members sold the lease. The golfers played the layout on a green fee basis. By the 1970’s a new movement arose to find another location for the golfers. This effort failed.

The present Merritt Golf Club formed because an agreement with the City of Merritt allowed the golfers to lease sixty acres on a long term, low cost lease on the property. The club assumed all the costs for constructing and maintaining the nine-hole course. The course officially opened in 1985.

Colletvile Golf Course

“Mr. McVittie and ANB Rogers laid out the new golf links on the bench land to the south of Collettville. Collettville was located across the river from Merritt. It had a population of approximately 250 citizens.

Middlesboro Golf Links

The BC Golf Museum is constantly on the search for any information regarding our early golf courses. for golf in Merritt we have no scorecards or early images.

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