Koksilah/Cowichan /South Cowichan Golf Courses


The Maitland – Dougall family roots

Admiral William Herriot Maitland Dougal

On Christmas Day 1851 the village of Ferry-Port-On-Craig celebrated the union of the Maitland and the Dougall families. The Fife Herald reported the occasion similar to the festivities surrounding royal events. The Maitland family, owners of Scotscraig Castle, was the village’s royalty.

“By daylight, the village of Ferry-Port assumed a holiday appearance. All the vessels in the harbour and roadstead were gaily decorated with flags, while the ancient tower of Scotscraig and other points of eminence displayed a breadth of bunting never before exhibited in this neighborhood – of course the Union Jack held the most prominent place. The church bells rung a merry peal, the juveniles, having been relieved of the monotony of their scholastic duties for the day, took an active part in the rejoicing. At ten o’clock the entire village went in a body to the heights over hanging the village, where a large bonfire had been blazing since four o’clock. The evening’s rejoicings were terminated by an extensive display of fireworks. Captain Maitland is a direct descendent of the much respected family of Dalgleish, who so long were proprietors of Scotscraig.

After the wedding Captain William Herriot Maitland and his wife Elizabeth Stark Dougall assumed the family name Maitland-Dougall. William entered the British navy at age twenty-three as a first class volunteer. His naval career spanned four decades. He fought naval battles in India, China, West Indies, and North America.  He retired in 1879 as Admiral.

During his retirement until his passing on March 7th, 1890, the Admiral served his community as chairman of several boards including Deputy – Lieutenant of Fifeshire. Colonel Commandant of the Tay Submarine Miners, President of the Mars Training Ship. Justice of the Peace for Fife, Chairman of the Committee of Prisons for the Police Committee, Honorary Colonel of the Fife Brigade, and the First Chairman of the Fife School Board.

The Admiral died leaving his wife Elizabeth, three sons, William, who served as commander on one of the Royal Navy gunboats in the China Sea, Frederick and James farmers in the Cowichan Valley, and one daughter Mary. William Sr. started the local curling club. Most important he was a golfer. He founded and financed the Tayport GC. As a member of the Royal & Ancient GC he won sixteen medals during the 1850’s and 1860’s;including the Bombay Medal 1850, 1851, 1854, 1856, 1857, 1860, 1869; the Silver Cross Medal 1850, 1852, 1855; the Royal Medal 1856, 1863, 1865; and the Gold Medal 1859, 1860, 1864. The Admiral’s three sons each became members of the R&A. Although each maintained a single digit handicap, none had success like their famous father.

The Admiral played the Old Course during an interesting period in golf history. In 1850 the gutty ball replaced the featherie. Players could now drive the ball consistently near 175 – 200 yards. The old featherie carried about 125 yards. The change in equipment from basically a collection of all woodenhead clubs to a combination of woods and irons may have contributed to Maitland Dougall being a more proficient stroke player than a match player.

“Admiral Maitland-Dougall was the most successful medal-player at St Andrews during the 1850’s. Hw was never troubled by any brilliant play on the part of his opponent. He was a fidgety player, but by no means nervous. His anxiety was plainly marked by his expression. For fame alone he entered the contests. No other competitor’s play troubled him; his mind was absorbed in his own play. He used rosin on his gloves, and he put his left thumb straight down the shaft instead of crossing it over the handle. He addressed the ball as much with the pendulum motion of the hands and the clubhead. Mechanically he went to work; methodically he played successive strokes, and pawkily Sandy Pirie, his long time caddy, piloted him through. When a slip was made, a word of encouragement from Sandy restored his equilibrium and he forgot the past. In match play he seemed to change his style altogether. He could not play that game. Maitland Dougall was the best medal player. “

Around 1875 at age twenty-one, Frederick H. Maitland Dougall joined into a partnership with J. Briefly and the two brothers, F. and A. Wood. The new company had its headquarters in Liverpool with branch offices in Savannah Georgia and New Orleans Louisiana. The company supplied cotton from the US to the mills in Liverpool. Frederick maintained his membership at St Andrews but also joined the Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) GC. Fred followed in his father’s footsteps by competing in the Spring and Fall Meetings at St. Andrews.  Fred found success on one occasion winning the Bombay medal at Hoylake.

While living for about six months each year in Georgia, Frederick married Bessie Hopkins in Savannah. The couple had one daughter, Edith, also born in Georgia during this decade. The partnership dissolved in 1885. Census records indicate the brothers, James and Frederick, arrived on Vancouver Island around 1887.

For the first decade the brothers farmed and participated in the social life of the Valley. Fred was instrumental in the formation of the Cowichan Tennis club and the Cowichan Yacht Club. To promote the Valley he organized the annual Regatta through the Yacht club. Sadly in January 1905 Mrs. Frederick Maitland – Dougall passed away on a journey to her old home in Savannah Georgia. Fred and daughter, Edith, were notified of her death while the two were in Scotland.” Bessie Maitland-Dougall is remembered as the founder of the British Columba Branch of the International Order of King’s Daughters, with whose work she had been closely indentified since its inception. She was a woman of deep culture and broad sympathies.” Fred continued his wife’s work in establishing a convalescents’ home in Duncan.

Koksilah Golf Course

Fred Maitland Dougall in background

On March 1, 1909 Fred “purchased the Crozier Farm consisting of 200 acres at the Koksilah Station on the E&N Railway. It is probable the property will be used for a country club.” In a letter to his daughter, Fred outlined his plans for the new purchase; “I am going to Victoria tomorrow (Feb 24th, 1909) to make final arrangements for taking over the Crozier place. – at least part of it- I am leaving the timber part of it alone, about 75 acres on the south side of the railway tracks for which he wants $10,000. I am going to pay him $20,000 ($12,000 down payment) for the rest of the property including the barn and equipment. The house I am going to turn into a clubhouse. I am going to layout a polo ground, golf course, lawn tennis courts, bowling green etc. On about 50 acres of the cleared land I will be able to increase my stock of horses. I am thinking of trying to get the Koksilah Hotel man & wife to look after the clubhouse. I am having the time of my life organizing everything.”  One month later the Victoria Daily Times reported; “ F. Maitland-Dougall has had the golf links at Koksilah put into shape. Nine holes will be in use shortly and the complete course will be finished later.” The local cricketers and the tennis players became keen golfers. The BC Golf Museum has on display the original Koksilah GC guest book from 1909 – 1914. Interestingly most of the entries show groups of women from Victoria playing the course. The women likely rode the E&N in the morning played, golf, had tea, and took the train home at the end of the day.

The Victoria newspapers frequently reported the activities of the Cowichan Golf Club associated with the Koksilah links. Fred won the Bundoch Cup in 1912 – the only golf event he won in BC.

Upon his death on October 21, 1916 the Victoria Daily Standard reported, “ For thirty years F.H. Maitland-Dougall influenced all aspects of life in the Cowichan Valley. He founded and supported all sporting activities such as tennis, golf, sailing, yachting, cricket, and shooting.”  To support his wife’s activities in the formation of the Duncan Hospital he served as the President. To expand the agricultural industry in the Valley he founded and served as President of the local Agricultural Society.  His daughter Edith who lived on the family property in Duncan, his sister Mary, who lived in the family home “Scotscraig”, his brother James, the Duncan government agent, and whose two sons served in the British Navy and the 103 Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, survived him. His older brother William predeceased him a few months earlier at Scotscraig, Williams two sons also served in the British Navy.

The Koksilah golf course with the Cowichan GC associated continued to actively function until the last reported event on May 6th, 1921. A team of fourteen Cowichan members entertained a team from Colwood GC. Newsclippings indicate his daughter Edith (Maitland- Dougall) operated a successful farm specializing in asparagus on the property for many years.

The course may not have closed immediately because George Sharpe, Edith’s husband, offered the course to the new Cowichan GC members while their new course was under construction. The members who played the old Koksilah course wanted a new location closer to the town centre and a longer more challenging layout. Golf Guides in the Golf Museum library show a relatively short course at 1900 yards.

Cowichan Golf Club 1st Course

Course Map

Under the leadership of C.H. Dickie, the local Member of Parliament, the new Cowichan group signed a lease with the local First Nation Band to lease 31 acres between Trunk Road and the Agricultural Building to the west bank of the Cowichan River. (See Map)  The E&N Railway tracks traversed the land.  Players entered the property off Trunk Road. (Today a Starbuck’s Coffee location is at the entrance.) The Cowichan Golf Club formed on September 9th, 1921 selling 400 debentures at $50 each to raise $20,000 to finance the new club. The local community certainly supported the idea because all the debentures sold, except for three, in the first year.

C.H. Dickie

Did Vernon Macan design the new layout? No newsclipping reported his involvement in the design or construction of the course. Phil Taylor, the Victoria GC professional, and Bigger-Staff Wilson, one of Victoria’s premiere players, visited the new course site offering several hole suggestions.

A. Vernon Macan GA ( Golf Architect ) circa 1922

Prior to his death in 1964, Vernon Macan encouraged his fellow architects to compile lists of their work over their career.  “If you do not provide lists when you die others will take credit for your handiwork.” When the BC Golf Museum received all the material left in Macan’s office upon his death, we found numerous scribbled notes where Mac listed the courses he designed or renovated. With regard to Cowichan he marked “the old and the new”. We know from his correspondence he definitely designed the new 1947 golf course. From these notes we assume he designed the 1922 course. This is the only direct indication he was involved in the 1922 course.  The fact the course had two dogleg holes, a standard Macan design characteristic, also implies Macan’s influence in the design.

Various Golf Guides from the 1920’s and 1930’s indicate the course measured about 2800 yards with eight par fours ranging from 300 – 350 yards and one par three (the water hole) measuring 160 yards.  In 1927 the Greens Committee changed the hole numbers. The “water hole” changed from Hole #3 to Hole # 5 and the “Punch Bowl” became the new # 7.

Bill Heyworth, the Cowichan pro/groundskeeper for 1923 and 1924 golf seasons, provided this description of probably one of the most unique and strangest holes in BC at the time. NOTE: The hole numbers for the five holes on the south side of the railway tracks changed in 1927. Bill Heyworth described the “water hole” as the third. After 1927 it became the fifth hole.

5th hole The Water Hole

“ I am always glad of an excuse to talk about the Cowichan Golf Course having had a good deal to do with the construction of it. The most interesting hole is #3 (later #5)  -the water hole- that is about 160 yards in length with 140 yards of carry up the Cowichan River. The shot is full of thrills. First you walk on a rather shaky bridge or parapet to the tee, which stands out over the river with the water swirling around the supports. The green lies in the old riverbed and is trapped on all sides, with the river in front, a bunker behind, a terraced bank on the right and river again on the left. On looking towards the hole from the mat where your ball is resting you are liable to experience a sinking feeling, which tells you that your ball is going into the river and sure enough it usually does. Thought transference may have something to do with it. During the summer months this part of the river is used by the would be channel swimmers. As you address your ball the swimming activities cease. Everyone watches you hoping that you will drive the ball into the river. When you do, the boys will dive for it and return the ball in exchange for 10 Cents. “

Except for the “water hole” that followed the Cowichan River bank the other four holes ran parallel to each other traveling east and west. The other noteworthy hole was the “Punch Bowl” – the seventh. The players teed off near Strawberry Hill played back towards the river, in between the sixth and the third holes. (See Sketch). The green lay in a deep depression near the fifth tee. From the tee the players could barely see the top of the flag. Local knowledge played a big role if the player hoped for a birdie three.

7th Hole The Punch Bowl

Unlike many of the small club operations in BC, the Cowichan GC flourished. At the 1936 annual general meeting the President reported the club had over three hundred members – juniors, seniors, men and women regular members. The club members actively participated in the British Columbia Golf Association, the Pacific Northwest Golf Association, and the Canadian Ladies Golf Union BC Branch events.

Unfortunately World War Two had a dramatic effect on the thriving club. Negotiations for a new lease at a reduced annual rental fee with the First Nations Band could not be secured. On October 22, 1943 only twelve members attended the annual general meeting. President WT Greensides made the sad announcement to the golf community. “Owing mainly to a severe drop in membership the Cowichan Golf Club will be forced to suspend operations, at least for a time. The membership decided to keep together as a club and hold onto their material and assets, in the hope that at some future date, after the War, they will be able to start again.”

Under the leadership of WW Seymour golf returned to the Cowichan Valley in 1947. On August 28, 1947 the newly incorporated Cowichan Golf and Country Club held the first meeting to elect the new Board, to begin the sale of debentures to finance the purchase of the property, and to hire Vernon Macan to design and supervise the construction of their new course.

The next article shows Macan’s Irish stubbornness to follow his timeline for constructing a championship golf course.  The Cowichan Board encountered the non-compromising Macan.

A special thank you to the Cowichan Valley museum for their assistance in supplying the two photos – the Water Hole and the Punch Bowl.

Sources Various newspaper databases genenalogybank.com, newspaperarchives.com, britishnewspaper archives.com , newspaper.com

If you can supply additional information including photos, anecdotes, scorecards contact us at: email: office@bcgolfhouse.com

Another Lost Course in BC

The South Cowichan GC

While researching the article for the Cowichan GC we found that two golf courses existed in the Cowichan Valley for about a decade 1924 – 1934.

“In glorious spring weather the new golf course at Cowichan Station was formally opened on Saturday March 1, 1924 on ground known as the Townsite, situated on the undulating land opposite the schoolhouse. The clubhouse is the old residence once owned by Mr. Perry. President Joseph Reade drove off from the first tee in front of the clubhouse. The course consists of nine holes with varying hazards and sporting fairways.”

The club attracted players from the South Cowichan Tennis and Cricket clubs. Members also came from Shawnigan Lake and Cobble Hill areas. At the peak of the popularity of the club about sixty members played the course. Joseph Reade appears to have been the President during most of the decade of the club’s existence.




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