Nakusp Golf Club History 1925 – 1938


While researching the history of the Slocan GC we discovered another lost golf course for BC – the Nakusp Golf Club. Similarly during this research another lost golf club appeared – West Demars. Further research is required to determine how long this course existed. The research for this area adds credence to our theory that every smal town in BC during the 1920’s and 1930’s may have had a golf course.

Sources: Slocan Enterprise (SE), Arrow Lakes News (ALN), Nelson Daily News (NDN)

We would like to extend a special thank you to Kathy, the volunteer researcher at the Arrow Lakes Historical Society. Kathy’s research provided all the information for the pre 1932 section of this article.

When researching these early courses, it is always a challenge to determine who or why the course began. Usually, a golfer who moved to an area where a course did not exist immediately called an informal meeting to survey if the citizens would like to form a golf club. “All interested citizens please attend.”

In the case of Nakusp the editor of The Arrow Lakes News (ALN) on April 30th 1926 published the probable reason why a golf course was required in his town.  “West Demars has started a golf club. We wish to congratulate them and to urge the Nakusp people to get to work and get one. Where could one find a better site than that around the ball park? Think it over citizens and let’s have one.”

West Demars was located eight miles south of Nakusp. The sixty residents worked in farming, ranching and logging. If a golf course existed at West Demars this would definitely be the smallest town in BC to have a golf course. Over the past thirty years we have believed that a golf course may have existed in every small town in BC. The West Demars course provides more proof to this claim. When the Canadian Government signed the Columbia Treaty in 1961, the agreement created  a reservoir on the Arrow Lakes. The new reservoir flooded the West Demars village and the golf course. (Further research is now required to investigate the history of golf in West Demers.)

In the Nov 30, 1928 issue of the ALN, Reverend Cannon Thompson, the local Anglican minister, “advocated the formation of a golf club for Nakusp.”  He argued with the opening of the new Kootenay-Okanagan road, Nakusp should build a golf course “to induce the tourists to stay over and spend their money in our midst.”

Formed in 1913, the Nakusp Recreation Association (NRA) oversaw the sports activities for the Nakusp residents including: tennis, basketball, and baseball. The CPR donated the original parcel of land for the association’s playing fields. As the Reverend suggested the golf activities should operate under the NRA.

By Sept 20, 1930 the early beginnings of a golf course and a golf club began to take shape.

“Nakusp has a number of golf enthusiasts. A three- hole course has been constructed around the perimeter of the recreation grounds.” Utilizing his farming skills, Peter Olson dedicated the next three years to creating a golf course for his fellow citizens. To recognize his countless hours of dedication to the course, his fellow golfers gave him a golf club. At the close of 1930, “The original three holes were now in pretty good condition and three more are under construction”.

For some reason the April 4, 1931 ALN reported: a second golf course under the leadership of Messers Kershaw and Henke began in April 1931 on the old Baird Ranch property at Brouse located three miles south of Nakusp just off the Nakusp-Nelson highway.” Research indicates this golf course never opened. (Today the present Nakusp Centennial; Golf Course occupies the site. See comment at the end of the article.) Why H.K. Kershaw, a local farmer, and G. Henke, the secretary for the Live Stock Breeders Association,  would build a competing golf course in the vicinity of the Nakusp course is unknown.

The organizers formed the Nakusp Recreation Golf Club in May 1931. The club operated as a separate entity under the guidance of the NRA. The initial Board included; President Ralph Islip, owner of the local grocery store; Vice -President Nels Alspen, co-owner of Allshouse and Alspen Logging Company; and Secretary/Treasurer William J. Butlin, bookkeeper for White Pine Lumber Company. The Nakusp founders concluded the property around the Recreational Grounds would not be large enough to accommodate a full nine holes golf course. The newly formed Nakusp Recreational Golf Club arranged with Lewis Edwards, Nakusp’s local notary, insurance agent, and the Canadian Government Telegraph agent, to purchase additional property adjacent to the recreational grounds. The golf club paid him $150.00 for the land. Under the guidance of the Recreation Association, work commenced on the property.

“Nancy and Ralph Islip posed on the Nakusp Golf Courselocated in the Nakusp Recreational Park which now houses the arena complex. The course was never groomed and the grass and the weeds you see in the photo were regular obstacles for the golfers.”  Ralph served as the club’s only president from 1931 – 1938. He devoted countless hours to making the golf experiment work.

At the first Annual General Meeting in April 1933, President Ralph Islip summarized the work accomplished in 1932. He praised the membership for donating over one hundred fifty hours towards the goal to create a nine-hole golf course. He singled out Peter Olson, a local farmer, and Reverend Canon George Thompson for their extra contributions to the golf community. Six to eight acres had been cleared to create the initial three holes.

In April 1932 the Board called for tenders to clear 4.5 acres to establish 4 new fairways and 3 new greens. “The area includes leaving the present course at what we call the Stump green #8 and circling around the baseball diamond and coming in again at the present 9th green. The contract with Parkinson & Sons were given the job for $225 – 50% paid by club and 50% by Recreation Association.”

This appears to be the land for the new holes: #6, #7, #8 and#.9. Because of lack of funds the contractors ceased working in June 1932. President Islip called for the membership to begin raking and leveling the cleared land in order to prepare the green and tee areas.

On April 30th, 1932 the Nelson Daily News (NDN) reported thirty-five members of the Nakusp GC attended an exhibition match between Ralph Moore, the sales manager for the Pro-Made Golf Company located on Pender Street in Vancouver against five club members. At this time Ralph Francis, the Vancouver owner of BC Leather Company purchased the Pro-Made GC from Dave Macleod. Francis had the vision to distribute handmade golf clubs from his Pender St. location world-wide. Moore stopped at Nakusp on his western Canada tour promoting the new Pro-Made golf clubs. After playing the new course (probably) 5 holes and viewing the new hole, Moore recommended; “Every effort towards lengthening the fairways to provide a wider variety of shots. Each player could learn to make good drives at the start. Lack of proper clubs was holding back the Nakusp players from improving. Each player should have at least five clubs.” He recommended the membership purchase their made to measure golf equipment from the local Nakusp Cash& Carry store owned by John Bailey.

“After May 15th 1932 the citizens wishing to play the course must purchase a membership from Mr. Butlin, the secretary: cost men $5, ladies $2, family $7.50, and school children over 14 – $1.”  The local school principal encouraged parents to purchase memberships for their children. “Mr. Alspen then assembled a crew of high school boys to clear off the rocks and haul material for the greens – cost $40. Due to lack of funds this work not completed”

Throughout 1932, the weekly golf column in the Slocan Enterprise (SE)praised the Improvements to the golf course. The Editor singled out particular members for specific work. “Improvements to the 9th green and #1 tee by Nels Alspen and Howell Jordan, a local lumberman.”; “Peter Olson continues to burn and rake fairways Monday – Saturday. Three new permanent greens continuing to be constructed”; “1st green improved thanks to Percy Young, the newly arrived BC Government Forest Warden”;  “William Morgan, a local carpenter, donated a new card box, notice board, and seating  bench near 1st tee”; “C. Frank Howarth, a local farmer in Browse,  loaned a team of horses for three days to pull stumps on the new 3rd fairway with its drop green. “Peter“ the clubs’ horse took a rest”;

The SE continued to praise Peter Olson’s work clearing and caring for the course. Also, Canon Thompson, Nels Alspen, Percy Young, the local BC government fire warden; and Howell Jordan, the manager of the local Shell Oil Company, received recognition for their greens work.

First tournament for the Nakusp GC occurred on Empire Day May 21, 1932. Secretary Butlin encouraged the members to submit five cards to obtain a handicap. To participate in the club’s first tournament each member required a handicap. Handicap tournament underway. “If enough members have handicaps  by Empire Day the tournament will be held.”  William Morgan, a local carpenter and beekeeper, donated  “a lovely set of mounted buffalo horns.” In the qualifying rounds Secretary Butlin, playing with President  Islip and Nels Alpsen made a 2 on #9.  Robert L. Skillicorrn df Howell Jordan to win the buffalo horns.

The Ladies first ladies’ tournament finished in June 1932. Mrs. P. Young won the first Ladies Club Championship winning three golf balls.  Her 93 strokes became the ladies course record for the club. It is unlikely  if the course had nine holes.

Peter Olson on hole #9 landed just short of the gully;  then played a magnificent second shot right into the cup for a 2. In August Fred Mayoh, a local carpenter, established the men’s course record scoring 72 strokes for 18 holes. President Islip informed the membership that members of established clubs had donated the early trophies. He  encouraged his members to consider donating perpetual  trophies to their club. Soon the annual men’s club championship trophy and the annual women’s club championship appeared.

On July 19th, 1932, Horace Davies, an employee of the White Pine Lumber Co., donated the first perpetual trophy to the Nakusp GC. The Board set the championship rules; the winner each year his name engraved , a member winning 3 consecutive years keeps the cup, the competition is open to gentlemen members, each player enters a 18 hole qualifying round, using full handicap from their medal score, players scoring net score over 80 to be eliminated from competition, the remaining players divided into 2 flights, each flight playing 36 holes, the  low net score is declared the winner, the entry fee $.25, and the tournament to occur annually in June. Walter Maxwell 36 holes net score of 107 for 36 holes defeated Howell Jordan’s net score of 109 to win the inaugural Horace Davies Trophy.

Later in the summer Walter Maxwell ‘s course record net score 61  (first nine 27 and second nine 34). N. Alspen recorded the club’s first hole in one on the  3rd hole. William Morgan recorded club’s 2nd hole in one on 6th green

Dora Lidberg donated the club’s second perpetual trophy. The Dora Lidberg trophy was awarded annually to the ladies club champion. The rules followed the men’s club championship events. Mrs. P. Young was the first winner.

First Inter club match between Nakusp and New Denver golf clubs at New Denver occurred on Thanksgiving Day October 19th, 1932.  Ten members from Nakusp visited the New Denver GC. The Nakusp players included: Ralph Islip, Nels Alpsen, Roy Skillicorn, W.L. Maxwell, C. Howarth Sr., C. Howarth Jr., Howell Jordan, Hunter Gardner, George Martin, J.W. Butlin. The Nakusp defeated the New Denver club in a 18 hole four ball tournament.

Before the close of the golfing season in 1932 the Nakusp members had probably opened a full nine hole golf course.

“Even at the time this modern photo was taken, an outline of the old course is quite evident. Number 1 tee-off started at a point just west of the present Halcyon Home, followed up by the cemetery, then over to the baseball grounds. A series of shorter holes concluded a round with a super long number nine . All sand greens and only weeds, sand, and dust on all the fairways it none-the-less provided great exercise, competition, and entertainment for the players.”

At the Annual general meeting on March 5th, 1937 the members re-elected Pres Ralph Islip. Islip for the 7th time.  The club’s best player W. Maxwell became Vice-President.  William Butlin had moved so the membership elected R. Thrower as Sec/Treas; Grounds Committee B Parkinson and W. Morgan; Handicap John Butlin. The membership continued spending money annually to improve their course. William Maxwell continued as the Men’s club Champion. (6th time). On Sept 26, /38 the NDN reported “Playing with R Islip, William Morgan dies on course.” This is the last club announcement to appear in the Nelson Daily News. (NDN)

In April 7 /41 the NDN reported  the efforts of the Nakusp golfers to revive their old club. The group turned to their only President the club had, Ralph Islip, to revive the club. “Nakusp reorganizes under Pres R. Islip G McIntosh Sec/Treas  Grounds W. Maxwell and D. Hummon.”

Again in April 29 /52 the NDN report another attempt to revive the Nakusp GC.  “The revival of the Nakusp GC will use part of the Nakusp Recreational Grounds (old course?) President Norman Bedard, a local poultryman;  Secretary/Reasurer Mrs. Clifford Jupp, wife of the local BC Police constable; the grounds Otto Yanigisa,  company lab technician. . Is hoped to make something of our old course, which originally cost $2500, and has been used for (fifteen) years. One green has already been put into shape and a work party will be out Thursday night to do more.” There is no evidence this revived course ever opened.

Why did the club fail? In the 1952 newspaper clipping, the President stated the Nakusp Golf Club had spent $2500 on their course. Over the years.  All the available annual reports for the Nakusp Recreational Golf Club showed the club operated at a loss each year. Fortunately the Nakusp Recreational Association paid the deficits. Perhaps the Executive of the Association in 1938 decided they could no longer pay these shortfalls. Basically the Nakusp GC never attracted enough members to support their golf course.

Kathy found the following two ancedotes from the Museum files recorded in 1971. They provide valuable insight into golfing life in the 1930’s in Naksusp.

Grace Hakman: (wife of James Hakman who owned the Imperial Oil Service Garage)

“We had a golf course you know and we enjoyed ourselves – we didn’t have much, but I bought some balls from the Somers store. (Ernest Somers manager of AL Supply Co.). One day, he (Somers) came in to the office where James was and said ‘I want you to pay this bill. After all, these are golf balls for your wife. They cost $10.’ James saw red and got him by the scruff of the neck and up against the door and said ‘I will pay your God damn bill but you get out of here and never come back.’ He went over to Ralph Islip and borrowed the $10 to pay him. I will never forget that. Somers had the hardware and was the undertaker.” (Note: To spend $10 for golf balls seems a bit extravagant. Ads during the 1930’s show golf balls selling for $.25.)

Bessie: “The golf course was at the recreation grounds wasn’t it?”

Grace Hakman: “Yes and on every Saturday afternoon the stores were closed and we would all get together and play for a nickel.”

Flo Hurry: “One weekend Rika (Sanderson) and I decided to play golf. We each had one club. Out we went. She had her shot and I brought my club back and hit the ball and it went straight at a tree and came back into my hat. The one and only time I played golf.”

During Canada’s 100th anniversary in 1967 several courses opened in BC. Many received grants from the federal government to construct their golf course. The courses celebrating 1967 as their opening year include: Prince Rupert Centennial, Valley View (Slocan), Pine Valley (Prince George), Squamish, The Hollies (Port Alberni).

Nakusp Centennial Golf Course

An aerial view of the Nakusp Centennial Golf Course probably circa 1970’s

After the 1952 rebirth failed, a movement led by Dupuis, Dunn, McCluskey, Fowler, and Henderson formed a committee to investigate if property could be found large enough to construct a golf course. The group found the Leverington farm, formerly the Baird property, was available. Soon the group formed the Nakusp Golf Club to sell debentures totaling $15,000 to construct a nine- hole course with sand greens.

Needles, BC occupied the territory at the junction of the Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes. When the BC Government flooded the area in the mid 1960’s, they created a new town, Fauquier, on the high ground above the Arrow Lakes. In 1968 the citizens opened their Fauquier executive golf course.

Further research is required to determine how many golf courses opened in Canada during the 1967 centennial celebrations. The result could be surprising.

The museum is on the search for any memorabilia associated with golf in the West Kootenay’s especially for the Nakusp GC. Photos, scorecards, trophies.

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