New Denver (Slocan) Golf Course circa late 1930’s
Is Golf in the Slocan Valley Celebrating 90 Years in 2023?
Recently the museum received a postcard circa 1930’s showing an aerial view of the Slocan Golf Course. A search of the museum records indicated we had not determined a specific date for the introduction of golf into the Slocan Valley. Because of our access to an extensive collection of newspapers for the Kootenays, we conducted the research necessary to determine possible dates for the formation of the Slocan (New Denver) Golf Club and the Nakusp Golf Club. This article focuses on the founders New Denver (Slocan) – the founders, the development of the golf course, and the early club trophies.
Princeton Star: September 25th, 1930
“At New Denver Dr. Arnold Francis has just about achieved his aim for his new home. The Slocan Golf Club has been organized and a course site has been secured on the road between New Denver and Roseberry.” The 1931 New Denver City Directory lists “New Denver Golf Club Sec’t Dr. A. Francis.”
Using the Princeton note this article focuses on the life of Dr. Francis as he moved to various locals in BC. At each stop on his journey, he made contributions to the social life of the community including golf. Perhaps Dr. Francis could be referred to as “the Johnny Appleseed for golf in the Kootenays.”
Dr. Arnold Francis and wife Mary on their 50th wedding anniversary
Born in 1892 Arnold Francis was the fourth child of five children born to Byron and Edith Francis. The Francis’ arrived in the Portage La Prairie area in the early 1880’s. Like most of these early homesteaders the government granted them free property if the settlers cleared the land and planted crops. In the early 1900’s Byron moved his wife and five children to Vancouver. City Directories indicate he spent his life in Vancouver working as a Vancouver City employee.
Young Arnold joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the objective of taking Vimy Ridge, one of the major battles in WW1. He began his military career as an infantry soldier, but soon joined the medical corp. In 1918 he married Mary Edith and the couple moved to Toronto where Arnold pursued his medical career at the University of Toronto. Upon graduation he returned to BC to begin his medical career. A note in the Vernon News implies Arnold had a previous connection to the Armstrong area. Speculation implies perhaps he trained at Vernon before being transferred overseas as part of the CEF.
Research indicates Francis began his golfing career at the Vernon GC while serving his internship in Armstrong, BC. Arnold worked as an assistant to the long serving Armstrong doctor Dr Van Kleek. The pair provided medical services to the small towns in the Vernon area. At this time the government hired local doctors to act as the Medical Officer for the region. Because the small mining towns in BC could not afford a regular doctor these medical officers served large regions as the country doctor and the coroner. Each doctor usually had a regular practice in the main town and also served the small unincorporated surrounding camps and villages.
After serving a two-year internship under Dr Van Kleek, Dr Francis assumed his own practice in Greenwood BC in 1924. Again Dr. Francis became the medical officer for the region. At this time the original 1913 Greenwood golf course had closed. The following year the young doctor joined the group of founders to form the Kettle Valley GC. Was he the main force behind the formation? Further research is necessary. He certainly became an active member participating in the club events. Curling also occupied his sporting activities. He refereed hockey games in the winter and umpired baseball games in the summer. As a service to the region, Dr Francis convinced the BC Government to refurbish a local vacant hotel into a regional hospital.
In December 1928 the Hedley Mining Co. convinced Dr. Francis to join them as the chief medical officer for the Company as well as the Princeton-Hedley region. Newspaper accounts show the Doctor as an active member of the Princeton and Hedley golf clubs. For some reason he only remained in the Hedley region for one year then moved to New Denver in January 1930.
Map showing Nakusp, Sandon, New Denver, Kaslo and Slocan
In 1930 the New Denver area from Slocan City at the south end of Slocan Lake to Nakusp to Sandon lacked medical services. Dr Francis served approximately 2000 citizens in the region. At this time the residents competed regionally in baseball and tennis in the summer. Hockey and curling were the winter sporting activities. No golf courses existed in the area.
The Princeton Star news article indicates the Doctor took the initiative to bring golf to the area. The article credits Dr Francis with organizing the original group that formed the Slocan Golf Club probably in early 1931.
Dr. Francis acted as the secretary – treasurer for the club from 1930 – 1933. His compatriots included Frank Broughton, the local constable for the BC Police; Charles Nelson, druggist; Al Levy, retired superintendent for the Provincial Highways Department; Charles White, local engineer; John Tier, garage owner; John Irwin, manager of Bank of Montreal; Eddie Graham, Slocan City clerk; James Greer, hardware and general store owner in Sandon; and Neil Tatrie, local hardware and general owner.
Al Levy leased thirty acres on the hillside overlooking Slocan Lake on the Rosemount Road at a nominal fee. When Al passed away his wife sold the land to the club. James Greer and his partner Neil Tatrie under the supervision of Dr. Francis laid out the first five-hole course. The Creston Review on September 11th, 1931 reported “New Denver has just opened a golf course. At present it has only five holes, but is being enlarged to nine.” The 1932 and 1933 annual general meeting reports indicate the New Denver Golf Club had approximately thirty members. Each year the members volunteered their time to clear the additional land required to expand the course to nine holes. The first New Denver/ Nakusp interclub match occurred on the October 1933 Thanksgiving weekend. Thirty-three members from New Denver visited the Nakusp course.
L to R James Draper and Frank Broughton – charter members
Sometime in late 1933 or early 1934 the New Denver course had a complete nine-hole course. The secretary Frank Broughton encouraged his fellow West Kootenay residents to visit, “One of the prettiest spots and we invite all the commercial men to come along with their clubs to try out our sporting golf course.” To further encourage the golfers from the West Kootenays to play their course, the New Denver (Slocan) Golf Club began the Slocan Open Championship in 1934. This one-day event, usually held in August, attracted the best players from Nelson, Kaslo, Trail, and Naskusp. At the 30th annual event in 1964 over 100 players participated representing Salmo, Trail, Rossland, Nelson, Nakusp, Kaslo. Castlegar, and Silverton.
L to R Bill Mawhinney, Reg Stone, Art Donaldson, Roy Stone 1950 Trail Open
To illustrate how difficult the 2700-yard par 34 course was, Reg Stone became the first golfer in the 25- year history of the course to break par. In August 1957 playing in the Slocan Open; “Reg Stone performed the feat beating par on the front nine with 33 and coasted in with a two under par 66. Only once had par been equalled on the course in competitive play. That was by Stan Angus of Trail in 1955”
Present layout the 1930’s image shows the top four holes
In 1936 the club purchased the Chinese laundry building, moved it to the course, and renovated the structure into their first club house. In April 1941 to commemorate the opening of their new clubhouse (2nd ), the club inaugurated a new annual “Open House” tournament. To recognize the long- time service Dr Francis devoted to the Slocan Golf Club the men’s low gross trophy was named the Dr. A. Francis Trophy. Again Eddie Graham donated a third trophy, the E.W. Graham Trophy awarded to the low handicap score.
Image from the 1940’s players unknown
Over his fifteen-year residence in the Slocan Valley, Dr Francis played an integral role in the life of the residents. On his last assignment he worked for the for the federal government acting as the medical officer for the Japanese Internment Camps in the Slocan Valley. In 1946 he moved to Ganges, Salt Spring Island. There he purchased and converted the historic Bittencourt home. The facility became a residential home for destitute and homeless men on Vancouver Island. In 1956 due to hindering government regulations, Dr. Francis retired from medical practice. He died at his Chilliwack retirement home in 1976
Strangely newspaper accounts imply regular club events for trophies donated by the prominent members did not commence until the late 1940’s. Most early clubs began club championships for men and women as soon as the club formed.
Eddie Graham Cup Low handicap 18 holes men’s champion
Forsythe Cup (Quintin A Forsythe local druggist) Ladies Gross Club Championship
Neil Tattrie Cup (Neil Tattrie local hardware owner) Ladies Handicap Club Championship
James Draper Cup (James Draper local magistrate) Beginning women’s trophy
Bishop Embling Cup (Reverand Embling Anglican church) 18 holes medal handicap
Johnny Tier Memorial Trophy (club founder) 18 hole gross medal
Tattrie – Broughton Cup Junior club championship
New Denver (Slocan) Golf Club Presidents
1932 C.F. Nelson
1933 C.F. Nelson
1934 – 1940 Names not available
1941 A. Ham
1942 OL Thompson
1943 J.A. Greer
1945 F. Broughton
1946 S. Harris
1948 Q. Forsythe
1949 T. Clarke
1950 H.B. Robison
1952 A. Ham
1953 A. Ham
1954 A. Ham
1955 T.W. Clarke
1958 A. Ham
1960 A. Harris
1962 Dr. E.A. Baja
1963 T.W. Clarke
Slocan Lake Open
Low Gross Low Net
Trophy Wood Vallance Cup Eddie Graham Cup
Newspaper accounts report the tournament started in 1934. No results are available for the early events.
1939 Ernest Brown
1941 Robert Watson Dr. A. Francis
1944 Roy Stone(T) Gordon Allan (N)
1945 CJ White (K) Sandy Harris (S)
1946 Reg Stone(T) Elgin Hill(T)
1948 Roy Stone (T) Denis Clarke (K)
1949 Reg Stone (T) E. Kennett(S)
1950 Harry Donaldson(T) Ivan Price (T)
1951 Roy Stone (T) John Leschuk (N)
1952 Roy Stone (T) Bill Vickers (N) Silverton golfer
1953 Roy Stone (T) N.J. Briscoe (K) Ruby Stone (T)
1954 Reg Stone (T) AM Chesser (N) Mrs. Perkins(T)
1955 Stan Angus (T) JJ Morrey (N) Mrs. B.B. Townsend (N)
1956 M. Wellock (R) JB Higashi(K) Mrs. B.B. Townsend (N)
1957 Reg Stone (T)
1958 Roy Stone (T) GS Sands (K) Ruby Stone (T)
1960 Roy Stone (T) W. Drayton (K) Mrs. Monica Irwin (S)
1961 Roy Stone (T) Whitey Paugh Ruby Stone (T)
1962 Roy Stone (T) Buck Higachi(K) Ruby Stone (T)
1963 Jim bilesky (C) W.V. Jones (K) Nonie Gordon (S)
1964 Roy Stone (T) Ruby Stone (T)
1966 Mickey Maglio (N) Ernie Fitzpatrick (C) Mrs. K Harris (N)
1969 Bill Terehudoff
1970 Terry Terehudoff
We conclude the New Denver (Slocan) Golf Club formed in 1931. Prior to the fall of 1933 the members played a five hole course. In 1933 the entire nine hole course was in play. The Club can use 1931 or 1933 as their anniversary date.
Museum would like to complete the records for the Slocan Open. Can you assist us?
We are also seeking any memorabilia for golf in the Slocan Valley particularly scorecards and photos.
Contact us at email: office @bcxgolfhouse.com