CAPSULE HISTORY OF GOLF IN THE BULKLEY VALLEY
Introduction: Since the BC Golf Museum opened in May 1989 one of our goals has been to identify every golf club ever formed in the province. To identify the opening date for these courses we research the historical newspapers of British Columbia. For our research on the Bulkley Valley we depend entirely on one source – “The Interior News” published in Smithers, BC. We have access to every newspaper printed from 1910 – 2007. Newspaper articles provided us with extensive information regarding activities f or the Smithers Golf Club. The newspaper reported the formation of other golf clubs in the Valley but very little history.We have divided our research project into two parts
PART 1. SMITHERS GOLF CLUB CELEBRATES 90TH ANNIVERSARY.
PART 2. COURSES BUILT IN THE BULKLEY VALLEY OVER 90 YEARS
Part two only identifies the opening date other courses built in the Valley over ninety years. To date we have identified twelve courses. Some no longer exist.
SMITHERS GOLF CLUB’S 90TH ANNIVERSARY
This article is not intended to be a comprehensive history of the Smithers Golf Club. Rather this article recognizes the founders of the club. These individuals exhibited a strong desire, dedication, and determination to maintain the club. Their efforts created a club that is recognized today as the oldest continuous golf club in its original location north of the Trans Canada #1 Highway in British Columbia. Prince George and Quesnel are older, but have moved from their original locations.
When other golf clubs failed over the ninety history of golf in the Valley, how did the Smithers Golf Club manage to survive a depression, a World War, several economic downturns, and a migrating population?
The research strongly suggests two gentlemen created the stability, necessary financing, and dedication to make Smithers successful through its formative years.
Robert Charles (Bob) Davidson “Father of Golf in Smithers”
Born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland Bob Davidson arrived in Canada in 1908. Prior to WW1, he worked on the original surveying crew for the Grand Trunk Railway between Prince Rupert and Prince George. He served overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Battle of Ypres. His wounds cased him to transfer to the Artillery for the remainder of the War.
After his demobilization, He returned to his old job with the Grand Trunk Railway first at McBride then to Smithers in 1929 as Divisional Engineer. Like most Scots, he probably played golf in his childhood in Scotland. Likely he initiated the movement to build a golf course in Smithers. When the club required financial support for a project such as fencing around the property to prevent the local farmers cows from grazing on the fairways, Bob supplied the money. During other challenging periods he assumed the Presidency of the club to maintain its existence.
His greatest contribution came in 1953. Olof Hansen, the local Member of Parliament, had passed away. Hanson’s estate auctioned five parcels of land. Fortunately Bob Davidson purchased the one hundred fifty acre parcel adjoining the golf course. Immediately he donated this parcel to the club “to build a new eighteen hole golf course.”
The club recognized his contribution to the club by naming a tournament after him – the “Bob Davidson Championship” for the Bob Davidson Trophy. Robert “Bob” Davidson died in Vancouver BC on February 14th, 1966.
Norman Herbert (Norm) Kilpatrick “The Secretary/Treasurer for 26 consecutive years 1933 – 1959”
Born in Elmsdale, Ontario Norm attended school in Ottawa and the University of Manitoba. His family moved to Prince Rupert during the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway. His father served as the first Superintendent of the Western Division of the railway. At the outbreak of WW1 Norman enlisted in the Royal Flying Corp. After the War he returned to Smithers to join his family. In 1928 he assumed the postmaster position in Smithers, retiring in 1963. Norm served his community in many capacities. While serving Smithers GC as its Secretary Treasurer he actively served the United Church in the same capacity.Working with Bob Davidson the two provided stability over many years to the Smithers GC. This stability probably contributes to the survival of the club during its formative difficult and challenging years.Norman Herbert (Norm) Kilpatrick died in Smithers, BC on December 27th, 1968.
.The Smithers Golf Club opened on May 17th, 1931 BC’s mostly northerly golf course.
“Taking the fullest advantage of natural fairways and interesting hazards offered by the deeply warn channel of Chicken Creek, the course has been laid out in a manner which preserves to the utmost the virgin beauty of the surroundings. The huge bulk of the snow-capped Hudson Bay Mountains served as a backdrop for the opening day foursome Charles Reid, Bob Davidson, Mrs. W.H. Doodson, and Mrs. George Glay. Second group: Dr. R. Bamford, George Glay, Dick Evans, and Allan Rutherford. The Honourable Joshua Hinchcliffe, Minister of Education attended the event as guest of the Smithers GC.”
The Lafleur Hardware Company and Watts & Nickerson supplied the original equipment to the aspiring golfers.
The Original Five-Hole Course
Research in the Interior News produced no detailed description of the five-hole golf course. From 1931 – 1958 golf news articles provide clues for some holes. Even from these few snippets, it is difficult to determine the routing, or the length of each individual hole. It is difficult imaging how the club operated nine and eighteen hole tournaments. In fact one event had to be cancelled due to “overcrowding on the course”. The museum does not have any scorecards for the Smithers Golf Course.
References to the five-hole course from the Interior News.
“Lending itself admirably to the game, a site has been selected just west of town the site offers all the requirements of a first class course and has the additional advantage of requiring very little cash outlay to put it into suitable playing condition.”
“Smithers has a five hole course with good fairways, sand greens, natural bunkers and hazards. Par for the eighteen holes is 64. – 1700 yards long.
1942 “Several changes are in the making with a view to improving the course. No 2 fairway has been cleared beyond the green for some distance and plans are being made to add another hole.” Note: This was never completed. “Water exists on #8 hole.”
1943 “The membership has rejected changing from sand to grass greens.”
1947 “Even though the club is experiencing difficult times, the club constructed a new bridge on #5. News reports provide the impression Chicken Creek crossed #1 and #5 in front of the clubhouse.
1949 “High cutting costs with no new members causing a problem.”
1950 “new groundskeeper Percy Davidson to maintain the course in playable condition.”
1951 Club to purchase tee mats
1953 President BOB DAVIDSON DONATES LAND
June 25th, 1953 “The executive passed a resolution to accept with thanks the deed to the Hanson property which adjoins the golf club property. This was purchased by Bob Davidson and presented to the club with a view to building a new course on the property.”
1957 “Club purchases the property the club has leased for over twenty – five years. “
Expansion to nine holes.
1958 “Work is progressing to provide additional greens and fairways to make it a nine hole course. The bridge has been rebuilt on #1. “
1959 “Projects planned by the club include finishing the new fairways for the none-hole course, purchase a new power mower.”
1960 “The work of increasing the course to a full nine holes is expected to be completed by the summer.”New fairways were completed and seeded last year. All that remains is the making of the four new sand greens.”
1963 Aug 7th Smithers GC leases 15 acres from the Hanson property to AM station SW corner of Smithers GC property near CN line
1967 “ Jack Goudy leads golf course to new “Grass Greens”. The Club is trying to get new fairways and greens started as soon as possible. The new greens will be grass.”
1972: The new grass greens are being shaped and planted. If your ball should happen to land on one please retrieve it gently.”
1973 A water hazard has been built on #8 fairway. And all but two sand greens have been replaced with grass greens. Course has been lengthened and some greens moved.”
May 29th 1974 “The beginnings of the golf season saw play commence on the old sand greens in order to let the grass ones get well established. Last week saw the first play on the new grass greens with the exception of #3 and #9 where some reseeding has been carried out. So far the grass greens seem to be faring well with all the traffic, and it is great not to have to sweep each hole.”
Expansion to 18 holes
1983“Smithers Golf Club manager, Jake Block and course development committee member Greg Cushing hold up the drawing for the new 18 hole Smithers Golf Course. Work has already begun on the 9-hole addition to the present layout. The new fairways have been cleared and Block hopes to have the seeding completed by fall.”
1984”Wilson, club president, said the club is in excellent financial position after completing the nine hole addition to the course in September.”
“After using a temporary structure as a clubhouse the club opened their permanent facility on June 6th, 1934.”
1959 “to finish the new fairways for the 9 hole golf course, to purchase a new mower, to construct a new clubhouse.”
1960 “Club seeks to hire a caretaker to keep the course in good shape. Grazing of animals belonging to the local farmers is no longer allowed on the course.
1962 “The Board plans to build an existing building for a new clubhouse. Electricity to be connected to the property.”
1963 June 26th 1963”Smither golfers open new clubhouse”
1983 President Wilson “I would hope that the club will have a new clubhouse by 1986 to complement our new 18-hole golf course, but it will be totally dependent on the club receiving government grants.”
1988 “Approval to build a new clubhouse on the Smithers Golf Course depends on the design for the building’s septic system. The club would like the new facility to be built in the same area as the current clubhouse due to its proximity to the best starting and finishing holes and the easy access to the highway.”
1990 “Tenders for the construction of a new clubhouse. The Smithers Golf club will act as general contractor with all phases of constriction and all subcontractors being tendered individually. All quotes shall be accompanied by a 10% certified cheque.”
1991 “With the addition of the new $800,000 clubhouse, club pro John Morgan said they will now have a first class facility. “
Hole in One Club
First reported in Interior News
July 19th, 1939 115 yard par 3 3rd hole by Ken Houghton Purported Tom Cook had recorded a hole in one several years before.
Sept 2, 1942 W.S. Hewson, guest, on #3.
Aug 4th 1949 Clary Goodacre 3rd hole
May 8 1963 Tom Collison Hole in one #9
June 17th, 1964 Stan Jackson visitor 9th hole
June 24th 1964 Oakie McCammon
July 24th, 1968 Roy Saby 6th hole
The Museum is seeking nine hole scorecards for the Smithers Golf Course to assist us to prepare a five hole course layout plan. Contact email firstname.lastname@example.org