A Capsule History of the First Golf Course in Chemainus
The St Paul Daily Globe newspaper reported the recent purchase by John A. Humbird, John E. Glover and William H. Phipps as follows:
February 29 1892 (Leap Year) St Paul Daily Globe
“We have almost 100.000 acres of timber land at Chemainus, BC on the Gulf of Georgia. We are known as the Victoria Lumber and Manufacturing Company (VL&MC) with John A. Humbird as President. The company is capitalized at $1,000,000. The three principles have 20,000 acres outside of the general holdings. There is a mill with a band saw and gang. The timber, mostly Douglas Fir scales from 5,000 to 40,000 board feet per tree. The markets from there include: China, Japan, Australia, Central America, south America, and Mexico.”
The three partners expected great returns from their investment in the far northwest. In 1909 John Humbird Sr. passed. His son John Humbird Jr. assumed control of the vast forest company interests in the US and BC. In 1924 disaster struck the Chemainus mill. A fire destroyed the facility. John Jr. moved to Chemainus to assume total control of the operation. Research has not uncovered any instance of John playing golf. But within one year of his arrival, he acted as the guiding light for the new game.
In the Pacific northwest “golfitis” struck like a violent illness for the period 1920 – 1935. Research indicates more golf courses were started in this period than any other period in the 125-year history for golf in the northwest. In fact, perhaps every town that existed during this period had a golf course.
On March 5, 1925 the Cowichan newspaper reported; “A Six Hole Course is coming”.
“Golf has been the latest sport taken up in Chemainus and a good deal of practice has been going on in Mr. J.A. Humbird’s field. On Sunday a meeting was held in the reading room of the Recreation club to discuss the subject of a piece of land suitable for a golf course.”
Chemainus was no exception to the spreading epidemic. A group of golfing addicts led by John Humbird, the principle shareholder in the VL&MC, met on the Dodd’s farm at the end of Chapman Road in north Chemainus to prepare the ground for the Royal & Ancient game. The group made such significant progress in developing their links during the early spring months in 1925 that the Chemainus News section the Cowichan Leader reported; “Golf at Chemainus is daily becoming more popular. It is proving a great asset to the community. Work is progressing most favourably on the course and it is hoped that the new greens, which were recently seeded on the first, fourth, and fifth holes, will shortly be open for play, thus adding to the attraction of the course.”
On March 18th, 1925, Mrs. Humbird drove the opening shot for the club’s first official tournament. Twenty men and women, including; S.G. Slinger, J.A. Humbird, H.E. Heslip, J.C. Adams, C. Moffatt, H.H. Panning, G.L. Read, L.P. Smith, J. Campbell, G.H. Wilson, G. Smith, and H.W. Evans competed for a silver spoon. Mrs. J.C. Adam won the competition recording a low gross 63 less 30 handicap for a net 33.
“On Sunday the official opening of the Chemainus golf course took place before a goodly group of members and friends. Mr. J.C. Adams, the Captain of the club, made an introductory speech in which he detailed the plans for the maintenance of the course by individual members.
Mrs. J.A. Humbird very successfully drove the first ball which, together with a brass stand, was presented to her on behalf of the committee by the secretary. Mr. A.E. Stubbs Mrs. Humbird and Mr. Adams played the first official round in excellent form. Other players participating included; Madams Adams, Evans, Jarrett, and Miss McInnes. Meessers Wilson, Evans, Humbird, Jarrett, Fanning, J. McKinnon, Stubbs, Moffatt, Read and Getus.
Most of the credit for the creation of the course belongs to Adams and Stubbs. It is now up to the members themselves under the guidance of the greens manager Mr. G.H. Wilson to show that with good co-operation a really good course can be made out of quite a sporting bit of country.” On April 30th 1925 the newspaper reported the progress on the additional three holes. “The golf course is proving to be a great asset for the community. It is hoped the recently seeded greens the first fourth and fifth will shortly be open for play.”
Playing on their six-hole course the club held their first monthly medal competition on May 14th 1925. “First monthly medal. Two rounds were played under medal conditions. Mrs. J.C. Adams playing excellent golf tied the lowest gross score 63 with G.H. Wilson’s 63. Mrs Adams net 33 led her nearest opponent J.A. Humbird’s net score 42. The short second hole has already recorded the club’s first hole-in-one. H.E. Heslip playing with a mashie drove the ball straight into the cup much to the surprise of his fellow addicts.”
At the annual general meeting the members elected G.H. Wilson, Captain; A.E. Stubbs, Secretary; R. Jarrett, Greens Chairman. The club held their first hide hole or tombstone competition on April 29, 1926. “Run Out competition. Each player added their handicap to 50 strokes. The closet to the 18th pin won the competition. C.D. Ross finished within 10 yeards of the 17th hole with his 86th shot. Mrs. Adam holed out on the fifteenth with eighty strokes. Most players ended their rounds on the 12th thru 15th holes.”
Inter club team play for men and women between Cowichan, Nanaimo, Gorge Vale, Uplands and Royal Colwood became the popluar type of competition for the Chemainus members.
At the Annual General Meeting on May 5th, 1927, the membership elected J.P. Smith Captain; A.E. Stubbs Secretary; G.L. Read Greens chairman. The Annual fees were set at Men $24 and Ladies $12. “Guests wishing to play the course must be introduced by a member.”
News reports give the impression the club probably had a solid core of about thirty members who all worked at various position for the VL&C. This list included GH Wilson, J. Campbell, JC Adam, JA Humbird, AE Craig, HE Heslip, SR Irvive, HW Evans, AR Stubbs, and CR Jarrett.
The Wright Cup competition between Cowichan’s B team and the Chemainus team began in 1935. By following the results of this event for the years 1935 – 1940 we can gain an insight into the probable closing date for the club. No further results appear after 1940. A search of the Chemainus City Directories for 1940 – 1943 reveal the majority of the golfers had left the area. Furthermore, in 1944 John Humboldt sold the mill to APT Taylor and eastern investors, the owners of the newly formed Victoria Lumber Company.