First Golf Course in the Fraser Valley

Chilliwack Golf & Country Club – History 1924 – 1940

One of the purposes of this article is identify the location in the Fraser Valley where the 1st golf shot was made. Prior to 1924 the Chilliwack Progess published reports indicating groups planned to construct a golf course in Maple Ridge and in Harrison Hot Springs at the new hotel. Research shows these two courses opened in 1925 and 1926 respectively.

Major Nigel Theobald – “The Father of golf in the Fraser Valley”

Major Nigel Theobald

Born 1893 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England Nigel Theobald was the second child of Charles B. and Ellen Theobald. Charles, a retired Royal Navy Captain and wife Ellen had three children Geoffrey, Nigel, and Marjorie.  Pre 1915 BC government advertised in the major British newspapers to educate young British males from well to do families about the economic opportunities in BC. Specifically, the government identified the Kootenays, the Okanagan, the Fraser Valley, and the Island. As areas of economic possibilities for this group. Specifically, the government wanted wealthy Britishers to invest in mining, fruit orchards, mixed farming, and forestry in the various areas of the province. These advertisements attracted our early entrepreneur/ investors who delivered enthusiasm, finances, and expertise to BC. The British papers advertised Victoria as the most British city in the Empire – all the best characteristics of London existed in the capital. In fact, Queen Victoria’s niece spent many years in the early 1900’s living in Victoria. She frequently submitted praising articles to the London Times lauding the advantages of BC.

Likely young twenty-year old Nigel Theobald joined this group to investigate the opportunities in BC. Around 1913 Nigel pondered the idea of purchasing an orchard in the Okanagan; but settled for a fifty-acre farm on Fairfield Island near Chilliwack. When Britain declared War against Germany, young Britishers throughout Canada joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force to support the British war effort. Nigel served in the New Westminster Battalion. His successful career in the Army earned him the Military Cross. Throughout his life, he remained a staunch supporter of the military. In 1940 he again volunteered to serve overseas in WW2.

After WW 1 Nigel returned to his Fairfield farm. Newspaper accounts showed Nigel heavily involved in the Fraser Valley Militia (D Company) part of the New Westminster 47th Battalion. In fact, he gained the rank of Major in 1922 when the New Westminster headquarters gave him total command of D Company.  This commitment prevented him from assuming the role of a hard-working farmer. Perhaps he never wanted to be a farmer. Now Nigel had new plans for his acreage. At this time Nigel’s mother, Ellen, and his sister Marjorie joined him on the Fairfield farm living in the 1905 farmhouse. Marjorie advertised for sale laying hens and eggs were available at the farm. Research to date has not uncovered any previous golf record for Nigel in England.  (Note Mark Theobald, Nigel’s grandson and presently living in Kelowna, indicated the family has a golf trophy won by Nigel’s father in England. The fact Marjorie became the best golfer in the new Chilliwack GC probably indicates she had played golf in Woodbridge.) Further evidence Nigel knew the rudiments of golf are shown in his planning for the golf course. In 1924 Nigel immediately laid out a temporary nine-hole course on his property. He commenced advertisements to test if local interest existed for a golf club. The Chilliwack citizens responded overwhelmingly. On May 31st, 1924 JE Leslie, the first president of the Chilliwack Golf Club struck the opening shot struck the first golf ball in the Fraser Valley on Nigel’s Fairfield farm. In Britain a person in Nigel’s position would seek the advice of the most prominent professional regarding the laying out of a championship course. Nigel approached Davie Black, the head professional at the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club in Vancouver. At this time Davie ranked as one of the most noteworthy professionals working in the northwest. Davie gave a positive response regarding the property stating the site had many natural hazards and water where a challenging course could be constructed. Next Nigel hired an experienced golf architect Reginald A. Meakin, to design and construct the permanent nine-hole course.

The Chilliwack council praised Nigel for his efforts to encourage tourism in the Valley.   Of all sports golf had the greatest attraction to the tourist to spend one more night in town to play the course.

Reginald Meakin – Businessman and Golf Architect

Reg Meakin may have actually sold this brassie at Chilliwack

Born in 1891 to George and Francis Meakin in Burton Staffordshire England Reginald was the last of five children.  George owned the Nags Head Inn which he inherited from his father. Further research is required to determine what occurred during the fifteen years.  The 1901 British Census shows ten-year old Reginald residing as a boarder in the home of Clement and Julia Bode in Burton-Upon-Trent in Staffordshire. He is training to be a brewmaster. In 1906 Nigel’s father died probably leaving the Inn to Nigel’s oldest brother. Within one month the sixteen-year old Nigel arrived in Quebec City. His documents show he had twenty pounds and is travelling to fort McLeod the Northwest Mounted Police Headquarters NWMP). Perhaps one the NWMP advertisements in a British newspaper attracted young Nigel to seek adventure and romance in the wild west of western Canada. After six years with in the police force, Nigel moved to Victoria. On September 3rd, 1913 Nigel married Col. John H McIllree’s, daughter Violet Cecilia.  When Britain declared war on Germany, all Britishers throughout the Canada were expected to join a military force to assist the mother country. He joined the 88th Victoria Fussiliers. This unit targeted British sportsmen living in Victoria. For future reference it should be noted, A. Vernon Macan, who later became the most prominent golf course architect in the northwest, was also a member of this regiment.

Upon his return from the War, Reginald abandoned cricket for golf. He became a prominent member of the United Services GC. In 1920 the aspiring Nanaimo golfers attracted Reginald to the Hub City, to create their golf course. (Note There is no indication Reginald had any experience designing or building a golf course. But did he and Macan become friends during the War? Did Macan encourage Meakin to consider golf course architecture as a profession?)  Meakin served as the Nanaimo professional / course superintendent/ designer from 1920 – 1923. In 1921 when the United Services Golf club decided to construct a new 18-hole golf course on the Uplands farm. The club gave the task to their fellow member Reginald Meakin. While building the permanent course at Chilliwack in 1924, he served the club in the same capacity as Nanaimo from 1924 – 1925.During the winter season he operated an indoor golf school at the Imperial Theatre.

In 1925 he then left to construct the Maple Ridge golf course. The following year, 1926, a group of Vancouver investors believed a golf course and hotel could be successful on the Capilano River in North Vancouver. The group purchased 150 acres near the present Cleveland Dam. They hired Reginald Meakin to layout a championship 18- hole golf course on the property. The project died around 1928. No further golf projects have been found for Meakin. Until his death in 1934 the Vancouver City Directories list him as a labourer, carpenter, and businessman.

Nigel wanted his course to be the best. He spent $300 on a mower and $300 on golf seed for the new facility. The new course to be opened on June 1, 1925 is located on Major Theobald’s property 4 miles from the post office. The Province on February 22, 1925 provided this description.  “Course provides many interesting features from a scenic as well as a golfing point of view. It is nine holes, 3004 yards, with a right and left hand dog leg holes, two – one shot holes (one has a punch bowl green), two holes with water hazards, the water coming at the drive on one and at the second shot for the other, and four holes over 400 yards in length. The big cedars and maples dotted here and there about the course make it very attractive and the surrounding setting of snow-capped mountains add splendor to the natural rolling features of the playing field. It will provide many pleasures for the motorists from the coast.”  In the first year the club had 93 members and 73 green fees from visitors from the US and Vancouver.

To promote the course Reginald submitted the following note to the Canadian Golfer Magazine May 1925 issue. “The nearby Canoe River that borders the course on two sides provides drainage and an ample water supply in the summer to artificially water the fairways and greens during the hottest summer months.  There are three water hazards on the course, two one-shot holes, and four of over 400 yards in length. Of the two short holes one is a punch bowl, 127 yards in length and the other 100 yards blind, over a sand hill.”

In June 1925 the Chilliwack Council invited the Institute of Journalists in Vancouver to visit their city. The Council wanted the group to publish favourable articles about Chilliwack hoping these news clippings would attract tourists and investors to the area. On July 5th 1925 the sports reporter for The Vancouver Province published a hole by hole description of the course.

This map was created using the hole descriptions as described below

The course is nine holes. Most of these average 400 yards, but two of these are short holes 125 to 165 yards each. From the clubhouse on the 1st hole one drives down a long green fairway. There are few natural hazards at this point. It curves slightly, however, giving one the chance to hook into the rough.

Location of the original 1st green near the tree

2nd tee on the dyke, player hit towards the trees located on the Canoe River

For the 2nd hole one tees off from the dyke which surrounds the course. This is a straight fairway, but a bunker placed in the middle of the fairway and a sand trap placed at the very edge of the green make it sporty enough for the most experienced golfer. Yet the traps are so placed that almost invariably the beginner’s drive falls just short. Most players manage to get onto the green in three if the hazards are missed. The sand trap next to the green often brings the total up, however.

The 3rd tee on the dyke with the Canoe River as a boundary on the right side of the fairway, probably the longest hole on the course, green near the bow in the Canoe River.

The 3rd tee is also placed on the dyke and gives a good view of the fairway. On one side a small grove of trees and on the other a river marks the boundaries. This hole is a long one and most people require a brassie and an iron shot besides the drive to make the green.

The 4th tee is on a knoll and although the distance is 165 yards it requires no little amount of skill to drop the ball onto the green in one. Par is three, and a fairly good player can equal it.

The 5th hole is another long one and without a hazard of any kind. One drive, a brassie and a short pitch with a mid-iron usually puts the player in a position to use his putter.

Trouble begins on the 6th hole, however, for a natural water hazard faces the player. A hefty drive puts one over and up for a short mid-iron shot to the green.

The 7th is a punch bowl and most players use a mashie. The distance is only 125 yards. Par for this hole is 3. And four is considered good. Birdie shots are not uncommon, however, among the better players.

When one tees off the 8th it is with a sinking feeling for the fairway is long. The ball usually stops half-way to the water hazard which bars the way to the green. It sometimes takes a brassie shot to put one near the hazard, but more often a brassie and an iron short, too, with a niblick to drop the ball on the green. Par is 5.

If one is even with his opponent on the 9th, the finish is bound to be interesting. Just about the length of a medium drive is a water hazard. If the player is lucky or playing well he will put the ball over the top or drop it on the bank.  Just before coming onto the green, another water hazard has been placed by nature, just for fun.”

Course scorecard 445 354 354 Par 37

The 1st clubhouse  Destroyed by fire in 1927

Nigel knew the course and any future club would require a functional clubhouse. On August 13, 1924 he revealed his plans for a building measuring 40’ x 48’with a men’s and ladies’ dressing rooms, a 16’ x 48’ dance floor, and a 12’ x 48’ veranda facing the first hole. The formal opening of the new clubhouse and completed Meakin permanent golf course occurred on May 20, 1925. Eighty players and visitors from the Valley attended. Unfortunately fire destroyed the clubhouse on July 5, 1927. Undeterred the Chilliwack Golf Clubmembers  on  July 21 1927 undertook the job to construct a new one. A subscription campaign among the members raised $2500 plus the insurance of $2100 paid for a new more commodious building. (Note The 2nd clubhouse still stands at the entrance to the Bow River farm today.)

Chililwack’s 2nd clubhouse – opened in Oct 1927.  Used by the owner of the                                                        property today as a farm house for his son.

James (Jimmy)  Warman – Chilliwack’s 2nd professional

James and his four brothers were part of at least three generations of Warmans who caddied or worked at the Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich,  England. St George’s is one of the courses used in the rotation for the British Open Championship.

James and his older brother George came to Canada around 1912 seeking golf professional positions. For some reason both came to Vancouver but did not work in golf. Soon his other brothers joined the pair. When Britain declared war all the Warman brothers enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Vancouver. Around 1917 Mrs.  Warman arrived in Vancouver to the sad news three of her son’s had died in the Battle of the Somme.

After the War James worked in many labour positions in Vancouver. He probably never had the funds to join one of the newest private golf clubs (Marine Drive or Point Grey). But when the new Hastings Park course opened in 1925, James discovered his old golfing skills had not abandoned him. At the opening of the course, he set the course record that stood for several years. During an interclub match with Chilliwack, he lowered the course record for Nigel’s course. In 1926 the Chilliwack club hired him to be their professional and groundskeeper.

In December 1927 James joined a group of Vancouver professionals who spent the winter in California playing golf. At the Lake Merced course in San Francisco he established a new course record on the new layout. Lake Merced immediately hired him to be their first golf professional. Until he retired from, golf in the early 1950’s James worked at Lake Merced and Wawona golf courses in California.

Chilliwack Golf Club – Early 1930’s

During the club’s existence, the members played regular seasonal home and home events with Marine Drive, Hastings Park, Bellingham, Riverside, and Grandview. Like many of these small provincial golf clubs, they suffered greatly when the Great Depression struck Canada in 1930. Around 1932 the Chilliwack club members  could no longer pay the annual rental fee for the course  to Nigel. He assumed control of the course as the manager/ professional/greens superintendent. The Chilliwack members supported his enterprise by playing on a pay-as-you-play basis.

In 1933 Chilliwack Golf Club member, AE Philipson decided to construct a new golf course on the main road between Hope and Chilliwack. The  Meadowlands Golf course (a short distance away from Nigel’s course) opened in 1933. The unique course had nine holes with eighteen separate tees. Because of Meadowlands location and uniqueness, play on Nigel’s course suffered. In 1940 Nigel sold the course to Jim Brodie. Jim’s father, Peter Brodie, came from a long line of Scottish golf professionals in Aberdeen, Scotland. Specifically, Peter managed the Hastings Park public golf course in Vancouver. Jim, one of the most enterprising young professionals in Vancouver, entered his new position with great expectations. His mother operated the catering part of the business. Soon Jim foresaw the disadvantages of the Chilliwack course. In 1941 he returned the course to Nigel on the understanding the property would never be used as a golf course for twenty years. At this time Jim purchased the Meadowlands course. Three years later he sold Meadowlands to eastern investors. Jim returned to his original profession as an assistant pro under Stan Leonard at the Marine Drive GC in Vancouver.

Nigel served overseas in WW 2. While away his family in 1942 sold the property to John Liddle. Upon his return he sold his golf course property to Jack Liddle. The liddles became very prominent in the gymkhana horse activities in the Valley. Around 1955 the Liddles sold the farm to J.J. King who operated a dairy farm on the property. Mrs. King named their property the Bow River Farm because of the bow in the Canoe River that surrounded the property. This farm was located at 433 McSween Rd. Fairfield Island. Today the farm property can be found on Fairfield Island just over the Menzies Bridge on Fairfield Island. To locate the property turn north towards the Fraser River at the Anne of Green Gables Auto court onto Menzies Road. After crossing the Menzies Bridge turn right on the Hope River Road, travel a short distance and turn left on to the McSween Road. The old course is located at 11443 McSween Road.

Course scorecard 445 354 354 Par 37

August 8th, 1926 JA Warman  445 444 344 36

JA Warman July 1927                          35

May 27, 1931 Jack Fraser Shaughnessy 33 4 under par

June 12th, 1931 Reg Stone 334 344 254 32 5 under par 18 holes 36 -32 68


1st made by Major Theobald  7th hole 1929

2nd Dr. LA Patten July 20 1930 7th hole 127 yards

3rd Harold Manuel June 23rd 1939 7th hole

4th Albert Welles July 25th 1940 4th hole 160 yards

5th Jim Brodie 7th hole Oct 19th 1940

Exhibition Matches

Official opening of the finished nine hole permanent golf course –  July 1, 1925 Representing Vancouver Island Alex Marling (Colwood GC) & Walter Gravlin (Uplands GC)  vs Jimmy Huish (Vancouver GC) & Bill McKenzie (Marine Drive GC)

The club

Members Mar 4 1925 90 members

The presidents


Menzies Hardware Men’s Open 1st Ian Coote df Major Theobald 4&2

McDonald Bootery Ladies Open 1st Mrs. RC Philipson df Mrs. R. McCaffrey

Inter club play with Bellingham, Riverside, Grandview, Glen Oaks (Langara), Marine Drive, Hastings, Maple Ridge, Peace Portal.

Fraser Valley Open hosted by Chilliwack in 1937

Equipment Suppliers Menzies Hardware; Davies & Logan Hardware; Fox & Spencer Department Store

Advertisement from the Chilliwack Progress June 1925

Advertisement from the Chilliwack Progress July 1925.

The Museum is always on the search for memorabilia associated with these lost golf courses. We would like to add stories, photos, scorecards trophies etc associated with the original Chililwack Golf Course to our post.

Contact the Museum

email: or telephone 604 222 4653.

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