Langara Golf Links Celebrates 90 years in 2016
Public Golf Had a Late Start in BC
The Early Experience in Vancouver
On December 2nd, 1917 The Vancouver Daily Sun commenced a debate to encourage the Vancouver City Council to construct a public golf course in Vancouver. To add credence to their campaign the newspaper circulated letters to the mayors of the major cities throughout North America that had a municipal course asking for their experiences. Mayor Gill of Seattle provided this typical response: “Our municipal links have been of the greatest benefit to us; are used by all classes of citizens and I am convinced that no city will make a mistake from a recreation standpoint in building such a course as ours.” Seattle’s Jefferson Park course was the first public golf course in the northwest. Complete Jefferson Story It proved to be an instant financial success for the Parks Board of Seattle. Prominent golfers at Jericho CC and Shaughnessy Height GC supported the idea because their memberships were full. New facilities were required to allow the game to expand to the majority of the citizens. Publicity Agent for Vancouver, J. Reginald Davison supported the idea because he felt another tourist attraction for Vancouver would provide new sources for revenue to the City coffers. The Downriver public course in Spokane and the Eastmoreland course in Portland were cited as strong examples of existing profitable public courses.
The debate continued for about three months then it became apparent the majority of the citizens felt the City could not afford such a facility at this time due to the huge debt created by the War. Also citizens expressed concern about Stanley Park being used for such an extensive recreation project. At this time Vancouver did not have an abundance of cleared space for a 150 acres eighteen hole golf course.
Victoria – The Elk Lake golf course plus hotel project
Private enterprise in Victoria planned a major hotel/golf course complex in 1921 at Elk Lake. The group hired Vernon Macan to design a nine-hole public golf course. As the project neared completion the funding ceased and the company filed for bankruptcy. Vernon Macan then led a campaign to have the City of Victoria purchase the land. “Something more than thirty years ago (1922) the City of Victoria submitted a bylaw to the voters for $25,000 to build a nine hole course on the Elk Lake property. There have been few city by-laws which were so badly defeated.”
The Pacific National Exhibition constructed Vancouver’s first public nine-hole golf course
The Hastings Park public nine-hole golf course opened in 1925. Complete Hasting Park Story
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) constructed BC’s first 18- hole public golf course
In order to sell their lands for housing the CPR had a very simple company philosophy. We will build or we will lease the land for the construction of a golf course. The members of the golf club will then purchase our lots in order to live near the course. Other citizens will be attracted to the area because the golf course provides a desirable residential area.
In 1908 the CPR decided to create a luxurious neighbourhood adjacent to Vancouver on the lands around Granville Street from 16th Avenue to 41st Avenue. The Shaughnessy Heights area became the home for the wealthy citizens of Vancouver. The first step in the development was the construction of the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Course. In 1911 a group of wealthy Vancouver businessmen signed a lease with the CPR and created the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club to supplement the Jericho Country Club. The idea worked extremely well for the CPR. On opening day the CPR sold one hundred lots.
Following the same model the CPR planned to develop their Arbutus property by first leasing land to the Quilchena Golf Club. Complete Quilchena story
In order to sell their large tract of land for housing in South Vancouver, in 1924 the CPR altered their philosophy slightly. They decided to construct the best 18-hole public golf course in the Dominion on land bounded by Cambie and Main and south of 49th Avenue. To accomplish their goal they hired the leading golf course architect in the Pacific Northwest A. Vernon Macan. At this time Macan’s credentials were beyond comparison. He had constructed Colwood GC, Manito GC, California GC, Columbia GC, and Alderwood GC and had altered every golf course on the prestigious Pacific Northwest Golf Association championship rotation. All the leading players knew him and the masterpieces he had created for them.
To further insure a high quality course the CPR gave him 170 acres and basically an unlimited budget. Deciduous trees like oaks, maples and alders covered the sloping terrain to the Fraser River. A natural stream through the property provided Macan with the necessary ravens and gullies to provide character to his layout. He did face the challenge to design a course where the player would not notice the 130-foot drop from the clubhouse to the lowest point on the course.
The CPR felt the construction of a high quality public golf course with an 18-hole rate of $.50 would entice the average worker in the Vancouver area to purchase lots adjacent to their golf course. The plan worked perfectly. On opening day one thousand cars surrounded the course. Players assembled early in the morning darkness to have the privilege to play a course built strictly for them. The sale of building lots boomed.
Spring 1926 the CPR prepared for the Official Opening Day.
First the company appointed two Vancouver based company officials JE McMullen and Newton J. Kerr as the President and Vice President of their new golf course. They selected Nat Cornfoot from the Halifax GC and originally from St Andrews, Scotland as the course professional. ES McCaddem, the club captain, at Marine Drive became the Secretary /Manager.
In order to add a local flavour to the new enterprise the company revived a lost name “Langara” for the golf course. In 1790 Lieutenant Jose Narvaez named the peninsula that we know today as Point Grey the Islas de Langara. Captain Vancouver renamed the area in 1792 as Point Grey. This choice preserved the name “Langara” forever.
The Langara Golf Links Opened June 26th, 1926.
Every golf course in the City sent a representative to the official opening. All the local professionals plus the club captains attended. It was only fitting the Reeve for South Vancouver, JW Cornett, should hit the first shot. After the dignitaries teed off the local professionals headed by Davie Black, Jimmy Huish, Roy Herne, Nat Cornfoot, Alex Duthie followed. Dave Ayton established the course record at 73. Davie Black had 4 birdies in a row.
The players praised Macan’s newest accomplishment. “Authorities like Davie Black and Alex Duthie who have visited the course and have played on the leading courses in North America and in the old country say it is one of the finest in the country. The greens are the big feature, being approached generally through a neck and with an unusually large surface (6,000 – 8,000 square feet) and are well trapped on both sides. The course is over 6400 yards and many holes require a brassie shot for the second. High handicap players will need to pitch their approach shots on many holes. The architect has made the course playable for the short player. Because of the cross design of the holes the player never notices the change in elevation over the layout. The low player can only reach the green on 16 holes in one or two shots if he plays them correctly.” The old time British golfers on opening day felt the course resembled the famous Westward Ho Links. To insure a high quality layout year round Macan designed the first automatic sprinkler system for a golf course in BC.
Soon in 1928 and 1929 Peace Portal and the University courses opened to satisfy the pay as you play players in the lower mainland.
Future monthly articles will focus on
The Professionals of Langara Golf Links
The Glen Oaks Golf Club & the Champions from Glen Oaks
The Commercial League
The Daily Province Publinx Tournament
The Parks Board Tournament
The CPR sell / course redesign
The Granville Report (1989) showed a need for more golf facilities
Tom McBroom redesigned for Langara
The Museum is searching for pre 1970 images of Laagara for our display. Any other memorabilia related to Langara would be greatly appreciated.