Michael Dawe: Red Deer found its golfing sweet spot 100 years ago

This spring marks an important milestone in the sports and recreational history of our community.

One hundred years ago, in 1919, the first golf club was organized in Red Deer.

The devastating First World War had just ended. Veterans were still coming home from overseas. Many were suffering from wounds to their bodies and/or their minds.

There was a strong push to create new and affordable sports activities in the community, preferably ones that could be enjoyed by people of all ages.

In June 1919, after a very harsh winter had come to an end, a small group of golfing enthusiasts were able to lease a timothy hay pasture on the Cronquist farm in what is now West Park Estates.

The course was laid out with a few hours work. The fairways were quite short, and there was initially only six of them. There were no “made” greens.

Gopher holes were a problem. Nevertheless, local golfers greeted the new rudimentary course with great enthusiasm. Before long, the number of holes was increased to nine.

By the beginning of July, it was obvious that there was enough interest to officially organize a Red Deer Golf Club.

J. F. Boyce, a local school inspector, agreed to be the president. J. R. McClure, a local lawyer, agreed to be secretary-treasurer.

To create some income, a membership fee of $5 was established. However, the executive announced only men were asked to pay up.

Women golfers were welcome and were not expected to pay a fee. However, if there was a scheduling conflict, the male players would always take precedence.

Extra fencing was installed to keep cattle off the course. Sheep were acquired to keep the greens trimmed.

Unfortunately, they also left little piles of hazard around. An attempt to control the gophers had an unfortunate consequence. A number of Cronquist’s turkeys were killed by the gopher poison. The club had to quickly pay compensation.

The course was alongside the Calgary-Edmonton Trail, the main highway into Red Deer. As such, there was a great deal of traffic and a lot of dust.

Another problem was some of the passersby did not like what they saw.

In particular, a number of local residents objected to seeing people out playing golf on Sundays.

One angry local farmer complained of “the necessity of driving my family past the Sunday golfers indulging themselves,” while on his way home from church.

Other protesters soon chimed in. Two citizens wrote to the newspaper that “the public playing of golf on Sundays is a bad example for the young people. It will lead the boys into evil paths.”

The Red Deer Ministerial Association held a meeting to discuss the issue. A formal request was made to the golf club asking the playing of golf on Sundays cease. The golf club declined.

A snowstorm Oct. 8 brought an end to the first golf season. It was also the start of another long and brutal winter.

By spring, the local golfers were itching to start their second season. The club had been able to sign up 31 members in 1919, but now more than 50 people put up $10 (double the first year’s amount) for a membership.

A. B. Mitchell, a local jeweler, provided a trophy for the season’s competition among the members.

With the sport continuing to rapidly grow in popularity, plans were made to find a new course location and to raise funds for a clubhouse. However, the early 1920s were hard times economically. Despite the golfers’ enthusiasm, fundraising was tough.

Finally, in the early spring of 1922, the club had enough funds to buy the old Wilkins brothers’ ranch on the north side of the river and to proceed with the construction of a clubhouse.

In April 1922, the old golf club was disbanded and the assets were turned over to the new Red Deer Golf and Country Club.

The official opening for the new course and clubhouse took place Aug. 22, 1922, with the first Central Alberta Golf Tournament. The event was a tremendous success.

Red Deer historian Michael Dawe’s column appears Wednesdays.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 323 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)
‘We’re in a danger zone,’ says Hinshaw

The province’s top doctor says “we’re in a danger zone” when it… Continue reading

Mayor Tara Veer pleads with the premier Tuesday to review the decision to move to a consolidated EMS dispatch system, which will be moved to three centres across the province. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
‘Issue of life and death’: mayors plead with government to halt consolidated EMS dispatch

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer calls on premier to overturn consolidated EMS dispatch decision

A $2.3-billion expansion of Alberta’s natural gas transportation system has been approved. “This should provide significant benefits — and we need every little bit of economic boost we can get,” says Reg Warkentin, policy adviser for the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Flickr photo)
Red Deer-area to benefit from $2.3 billion gas pipeline expansion project

Project will add 344 km of new pipeline between RMH and Grande Prairie

Dustin Snider was elected the new board president for Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Earl’s Restaurant manager re-elected Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce president

Dustin Snider has been re-elected president of the Red Deer & Distict… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford leaps over a challenge by PSG's Presnel Kimpembe during the Champions League group H soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Hamilton Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis, right, hugs captain Kyle Bekker following their victory in the Canadian Premier League soccer final against the Calgary Cavalry in Calgary, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Under Smyrniotis, Forge FC has been the class of the Canadian Premier League. The two-time champions from Hamilton look to mark their internationally this week as they open CONCACAF League play in El Salvador. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Players' sticks are shown during a World Hockey Championships game in Moscow, Russia on Thursday, May 12, 2016. A senior hockey team in a small city in southern Manitoba has changed its name following a push against the use of Indigenous names and caricatures as mascots. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev
Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Jason Kokrak tees off during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament at Shadow Creek Golf Course Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in North Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

The Los Angeles Dodgers line up during during the national anthem and a fly over before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Keegan Messing performs in the Gala at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Most Read