UNITED SERVICES /UPLANDS CELEBRATES 100 YEARS.
Our long-term plan is to update any pre 1900 historical references for golf courses in the province. To date we extensively researched the Maitland Dougall family and the Koksilah Golf Course roots. The original Koksilah GC evolved into the present day Cowichan G&CC. Last month we updated the golf reference to the Tadanac Flats course in Trail. From the research we concluded a course definitely existed around 1900. S. G. (Blay) Blaylock, who helped build the early course, founded the first Rossland Course in 1922.
This article discusses the earliest roots for golf in Victoria. Many references exist listing the first golf course in Victoria at Esquimalt in 1887, 1888, 1892 or 1893. Using the Victoria Daily Colonist and the Victoria Daily Standard newspapers, we have identified the possible dates for golf at Beacon Hill Park and Esquimalt.
During the fiftieth anniversary for the Victoria GC, Harry Pooley related his recollection about playing golf in Beacon Hill Park in 1889. On November 13, 1943 B.C. McKelvie published Pooley’s recollections in an article for the Vancouver Daily Province. Pooley credited Wastie Green with constructing the first golf course in Western Canada.
“An odd but highly educated chap was Wastie. He was the golf tutor to the Prince of Siam and upon his retirement came to Victoria to live. He brought golf clubs with him. So unique was the sight of a driver and an iron that the clubs were put on display in the window of Hibbens Stationary store on Government Street, and bore the sign ‘These are golf sticks- the national game of Scotland’. Some of us young fellows got interested and wanted to learn the game, so we got in touch with Wastie, and after discussing the matter with him, Heben Gillespie and I accompanied Wastie to Beacon Hill Park where under his direction, we laid out seven holes. Others took up the game, and it was from there the move was made to form the Victoria Golf Club.”
Can any of this story be verified? James Wastie Green Jr. was the oldest son of Reverend James Wastie Green born 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. He had two younger sisters Mary Margaret and Bessie Gertrude. Junior followed in his father’s footsteps to study theology at Cambridge University. Like his father he spread the Lord’s word throughout the British Isles. At age twenty-eight he married Beatrice Maria Ramsay. According to UK Passenger Departures Records, around 1887 the couple left for Siam. He listed his profession as a professor.
The Green family composed of Wastie, his wife and two daughters, Phyllis and Gladys, arrived in Victoria on November 6th, 1889. The Victoria Daily Colonist described their arrival. “The Reverend James Wastie Green scholar of St Catherine’s College Cambridge and late Governor to HRH the Crown Prince of Siam has arrived via Australia. He contemplates settling in Victoria with the objective to develop a high class English education school based upon the English system paying special regard to preparation for university or civil service careers.” In the 1891 Victoria City Directory he is listed as the headmaster for the Victoria College. On February 5th 1892 Wastie is reported to be out of the hospital after a severe illness. After placing all the belongings in a local summer auction, the Green family returned to England.
Harry Pooley’s recollection is not entirely accurate. Wastie came with the purpose to establish a high-class English school in Victoria. If Pooley and his friends constructed the course at Beacon Hill they did this in Nov or Dec 1889. The Victoria Daily Colonist reported on July 26, 1890 “An effort is being made to introduce the good old Scotch game of ‘golf’ in Victoria. It is fascinating and muscle-producing, and a good game to watch as well as participate in.” It appears from this note golf had not been played in Victoria prior to this time. Wastie Green, Harry Pooley and friends likely laid out the first course in Victoria in August 1890. Research has found golf courses existed in Manitoba prior to 1890.
Now with regard to golf being played at Esquimalt it appears writers and researchers are using the book Beyond the Bridge – Stories from Esquimalt complied by The Esquimalt Silver Threads Writers Group as the chief source for the establishment of a golf course at Macauly Point. No specific date is given for the construction.” The course was designed by Hans Ogilvey Price, a clerk at the Naval Yard, who lived nearby at Tyn-y-coed at 820 Dunsmuir Road. There were six par-fours, two par-threes, and one par-five.”
By researching Hans O Price we can establish a good idea when he constructed this course. He was born 1867 in Somerset England, as the first son – third child – of Hans Fowler and Jane Plaisters Price. His father advertised his architectural business in the Somerset area as a well-known architect for “stately homes.” There is no indication the Prices played golf on any of the local courses. Hans arrived in Canada on May 6th, 1890. His first Victoria reference occurred on February 13, 1892 in the Victoria Daily Times. “ Tenders are invited by Mr. J.G. Tiarks for the erection of a two story frame residence on Dunsmuir Street, off Esquimalt Road for Mr. Hans O. Price”
The 1892 Victoria City Directory listed Hans O Price as a waiter for the HM Dockyard living on Dunsmuir Road. Likely this means he was a labourer at the base and occupied his home in the summer of 1892. If he constructed the course it was likely between the summers of 1892 – 1893.
From the book “A construction Engineering History of the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt 1855 – 1992”, we know Lieutenants F.N. Templar and G. E. Barnes arrived at Esquimalt in August 1893 with the first detachment of the Royal Engineers. Templar only remained in at the base until 1899 when he was reassigned. Barnes, after his retirement, resided in the Crofton area.
Various dates, 1886, 1888, 1889, and 1893 exist for the establishment of the United Services Golf Club. Most of these references may originate from an article published on June 16th 1922 at the opening of the new Uplands Golf Club titled “Oldest Golf Club Changes Its Name”
“Victoria boasts of the sixth oldest golf club in Canada in the Esquimalt Golf Club (actually United Services Golf Club). It is a bobtailed course of nine holes and was established in 1886 by the officers of the Imperial Pacific Squadron and the regular forces at Work Point Barracks.”
From the above research this statement appears to be false.
After WW1 Vernon Macan actively campaigned to bring municipal golf to Victoria. He cited the profitability of the Edmonton, Calgary, Seattle, and Portland municipal courses. He believed an entire new group of residents would have the opportunity to play golf particularly those who did not have the resources to join a private club. At the same time members of the United Services Golf Club grew disgruntled with the short nine-hole course. “Often irritable delays while attempting to make two trips around a cluttered, nine hole course on busy weekends, or even on a summer weekend evening caused frustration.” Also the membership had many very good high caliber tournament players. These proficient members wanted a better longer more challenging course. Finally it appeared the owners of the property ,the Hudson Bay Co. and the military, had no desire to improve the conditions. The Municipal Golf Association (MGA) and the United Services GC sought to lease the Uplands farm for their new enterprises. When the municipality of Oak Bay supported the MGA project, the Services club members felt their destiny was sealed. The ratepayers in Oak Bay passed By-Law No 251 to support the muni golfers. All residents of the Victoria region felt passage by the Victoria residents was a certainty. Then came the shock. On January 15th, 1920 the Victoria residents rejected the MGA plan refusing to allow the Victoria City Council to participate in any municipal golf course project. For many years after this event, Vernon Macan used this defeat as a warning for any future municipal golf course project.
This unexpected defeat allowed the United Services GC to enter into the same agreement for the Uplands farm as the previous MGA had tentatively arranged. The United Services GC survived and moved to their new premises in 1922. Although Macan ranked as the leading golf architect in the northwest, he did not design the new Uplands course. Reg. A. Meakin, a civil engineer and member of the United Services Club, laid out the holes, hired the crews to build the course, and supervised the project. For his dedication to the club, the members made him a honourary life member. From 1921 onwards Meakin changed his title from civil engineer to golf course architect. In 1922 he designed and served as the professional for the original Nanaimo Golf Links. In 1924 he moved to Chilliwack to design their first course. Many references to RA Meakin occur in the Kootenay newspapers during the 1920’s. Further research is required to determine his roots and his total architectural career.
After two years constructing the course, the United Services GC informally opened their new layout on July 1, 1922. The club members from the old United Services GC adopted the new name “Uplands GC” to better reflect the history of the land. Immediately the remaining members of the original United Services GC changed their name to the Macauly Point GC. The formal opening for the Uplands GC occurred on September 5th, 1922 Labour Day to coincide with the opening of the clubhouse. Because of the War, the Macauly Point Club closed in 1942.
In summary as of this writing, we now believe the oldest GOLF COURSE in BC is the seven-hole Beacon Hill course constructed by Harry Pooley and friends in the summer of 1890. In 1921 Francis Chaldecott, a founding member of the Vancouver CC at Jericho in Vancouver, conducted the research to determine the oldest GOLF CLUB formed on the Pacific Coast. He published his results in a booklet titled “Early Golf in Vancouver pre 1905.” He listed the Vancouver Country Club founded in November 1892 as the oldest. The Victoria Golf Club founded in November 1893. The United Services GC , the New Westminster GC, and the Tacoma GC formed in 1894.