In 1912, a group of Guelph businessmen introduced golf to the city of Guelph, founding The Guelph Country Club. A Clubhouse was built across the river from Riverside Park, which is the core of the existing Clubhouse today. The pre-existing farmland was prepared for golf, and a herd of sheep kept the fairways trim.
A nursery was started in 1935, planting 6700 trees. In 1943, Willow trees were planted between the 1st and 2nd fairway, and 9500 seedlings were planted in 1946. The legacy of these plantings is visible today with the countless mature, majestic, towering pines and blue spruce, and the magnificent fall colours that can be enjoyed across the entire course.
The first major renovation to Clubhouse took place in 1961. A new glassed entrance lobby was constructed, and a four sheet curling rink was added to the Clubhouse building in 1963.
For 87 years, The Guelph Country Club served as a premier private association, but in 1998 we welcomed public access, while still continuing the tradition of family and membership.
We are proud of our history and our heritage as Guelph’s very first golf course, and are pleased to now welcome members and public alike to enjoy our golf, dining and meeting facilities with our cornerstones of quality, service, history and family.
Read the letter that started the Guelph Country Club Here! Thank you to Wilson Clark for obtaining this peice of the Club’s History.
The Guelph Country Club remains Guelph’s Home Course
In the late 1800’s Golfing activities began to gain interest in Canada. The first Golf Club was established in 1873, at The Royal Montreal Club, shortly followed thereafter by the oldest in Ontario, nine-hole courses at Niagara on the Lake in 1875 and The Toronto Club in 1876, which remain nine-hole courses today. Then came Brantford, built in 1878, and Galt in 1908.
In Guelph, Scotland’s Hood family 3rd son William, had settled on the property just east of the river on Speedvale Avenue in 1852, and built a stone house on the land in 1856. It was known as the Racetrack farm, as there was a track located between the river and the house; the house was built with a veranda overlooking the Racetrack.
William Hood sold a piece of that land by the river in 1859 to the Goldie family, where James Goldie and his brother William operated the Speedvale Mills for several years (some 100 years later, in 1957, James G. Goldie became President of The Guelph Country Club). The Mills have long since disappeared (the John Galt Gardens and Fire hall are located there now).
After William Hood died in 1887, the Racetrack flats and the stone house changed hands, and finally, in 1911, a group of Guelph businessmen and enthusiastic golfers felt those Racetrack flats and stone house, across the river from Riverside Park, would make an ideal Golf Course site and Clubhouse.
The first meeting of the Guelph Country Club’s founders was held at Carnegie Hall, and elected Mr. Freer President. They then formed a Finance and Building Committee to erect a Clubhouse across the river from Riverside Park. The building was to cost no more than $6500. At the same time, a Greens Committee was established to prepare the farm grounds for golf, at a cost of no more than $1000. To access the area, a floating bridge was constructed at the dam on the river, across from Riverside Park. In the first three years of the Golf Club development, Directors meetings were held at Mr. Freer’s house. A Professional was hired to teach golf every afternoon for 50 cents per hour.
The original farmland was rough, and to keep the course in trim, it was decided to obtain a herd of sheep and install fences to contain them. Social activities began at the Clubhouse and fortnightly dances commenced, at a cost of $1.00 for the House and $2.00 for the Steward. It proved to be a very successful beginning, and by the end of 1915 the membership had reached 336, of which 162 were Shareholders.
However, the war had begun and already 15 members had gone on Active Service overseas. At that time Golf fees were raised for Men, to an Entrance fee of $20 and an Annual rate of $10. The Ladies’ Entrance was $6.50. Activities were such that, during the period from May 1st through Oct. 31st, a motor bus service was established to the bottom of the hill, starting at the Post Office every afternoon at 2.30 p.m., running every half hour. The fare was 10c each. During this wartime period, about 1917, the Red Cross was actively involved on the course, collecting donations, etc.
Coincidently, through the kindness of Mr. Arthur Cutten (one of the original members), the Club members were able to witness an exhibition match between Mr. Charles Evans and Mr. George Lyons. The match was full of interest, as evidenced by the number of spectators who followed the contestants twice around the course. In the Golfing season, at this time, regular interchanges of Golf matches, occurred with the Galt Country Club and the Weston Golf Club, under the auspices of the then President Dr. A.T. Hobbs. And, by the end of the War, over 23 members were on Active Service.
In the early 1920’s the Chamber of Commerce’s rooms on Douglas St. served for Annual Meetings, approving invitations to dances and many other reciprocal privileges with nearby Clubs. Active in the Club at this time was George Drew, as Golf Captain, later to become the Honourable Premier. In this same time frame, Mr. Cutten, later to be the benefactor of the Cutten Fields Course, was partly responsible for the creation of the Woodlawn Cemetery, and in fact paid for the iron fencing around the whole property.
In 1929, under President F. R. Ramsay, Directors meetings were held in the Priory Club. With a membership of 366, this period was the first time that Electric Refrigeration was installed in the Clubhouse.
In early 1930, the Golf Professional was also the Greens keeper. It was in that year that the then Professional Mr. James Carmichael became the first to qualify for the Canadian Open and also the Professional Golf Championship, then the presidios “Miller Cup”. The members were indeed proud of their Pro. During 1931, modern changes began to show up. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, steward and stewardess, were provided with upstairs living quarters in the Clubhouse at a rate of $75 dollars per month, and a rug and electric Victrola was purchased from C.W.Kelley and Son to add to the comfort of the lounge.
On the course, Golf was well-played as Mr. Ken Walker made a hole-in-one at the 7th Green, and Dr. Proud got an Eagle on the 4th by holing out a 250 yard Brassie shot. Not to be outdone by Dr. Proud’s skill, Mr. J.H. Newby went forth and got an Eagle 2 on the First Green. It was in this year that the Professional Carmichael passed away and was replaced by John Porteous.
Some time during 1934, permission was granted to the City of Guelph to entertain a group of traveling Australian cricketers at the Club. It was not known for sure if this was the reason, but in this year, the Club took out its first beer and wine license. The Grounds continued under improvement, and in 1935 for the first time the coconut mats, at each of the Tee boxes, were removed. A nursery was started, planting 2700 trees and ordering 4000 more to be delivered by the 1st of May. At the flower garden around the Clubhouse, 48-dozen small plants and 400 tulip bulbs were planted during that fall.
The next year, President G. C. Humphries authorized the destruction of all the past record, except those pertaining to the shareholders and outstanding stock. However, records of the Annual Meetings were bound and now remain, for the period 1912 through 1948, in the archives of the Guelph Public Library.
1938 was one of the Club’s most successful periods, winning the Tri-County league and the Howitt-Gifford Trophy for the first time since the league started. The league, which continues to be active today, remains the oldest regular interclub Golf contest in the Western Hemisphere. The Club successfully defended next year with the help of, one handicapper Thomas Bell, later to become President of The Abitibi Paper Co. The story has been reported, but not confirmed, that President Tom Bell’s V.P. and Controller, Mr. John Palmer was actually born in the living quarters of the old Clubhouse.
By the end of the first year of the World War II, 18 members were already on Active Service, the Club making them Honourary members until their discharge. One of those gone to War was Club Professional John Porteous. At that time Jack Pearson took over, assisted by Frank Robinson, until Frank too went into the Service. The development of the Golf Course continued and in those first years of the War, sand was placed in all the bunkers, 50 loads of which conveniently came from the Farr farm just across the road from the Club.
In 1943, more Greens and Fairways work was developed under the supervision of John Thompson, who after eleven years at Cutten Fields replaced Bill Robinson, who had been Greens keeper at Country Club for over 18 years. With the help of Dr. H.O. Howitt, dozens of Willow trees were planted and a grass development area was established, in between the 1st and 2nd fairways. Later in the year, another 300 trees were planted nearby.
Today this area is now a mature forest. The next year’s President Mr. Fielding, with the help of Dr. H.O. Howitt, had some additional 5000 seedlings planted.
At the end of the War in 1946, John Porteous came back as Professional to face the new problem of cows breaking in to Grounds. The Directors authorized a new fence on the north and south of the Property. A good farm fence at that time would cost 15 cents per yard. To continue course development, Dr.H.O.Howitt arranged for another 9500 seedlings to be planted. The benefit of this early nursery work is visible today, with many mature Pines, Blue spruce and magnificent fall colours.
One of the interesting innovations during this period was the “Church matches” played between the Presbyterians and Anglicans, with dinner afterwards. During 1947, Rotarian luncheons were allowed at the Clubhouse, without the prescribed cover charge and members of the Cutten Fields golf Club were granted playing privileges during the playing of the professional championship for “The Miller Cup”. To promote Jr. Golf, Major Thomas Bell donated a silver Trophy to be presented annually to the Junior Men’s Champion.
Immediately after the war, steady changes took place under various Club Presidents: Mr. Ken Walker in 1948, Mr. C.V. Force in 1949, Mr.. Sanderson 1950, W.E. Bahen 1951, G. H.Edwards in 1952, and in 1953, Dr.H.O. Howitt who had been elected an Honourary member in 1947. In 1953, Miss Effie Smith, one of whose paintings still grace the walls of the Clubhouse, planted a Maple Tree on Coronation Day June 2 1953, in Honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd. That afternoon, Judge Stewart Clark made a brief address that was captured on the TV, and the Sheepbridges Engineering Co. presented a stainless steel plaque for the Coronation Tree and a metal fence to go around it. It was in 1954 that the purchase of the Cutten Fields Golf course was completed by The Leland Electric Co., Federal Wire and Cable Ltd and The General Electric Co., for the sum of $100,000.
Over the next few years from 1955 through 1958, a number of changes to the Clubhouse took place. The large open verandah overlooking the river, which today is the main banquet hall, was repainted and totally screened in. The canopy over the front entrance, which provided nesting area for many bird’s nests, became a dangerous nuisance, and had to be removed. At that time the entrance doors to the main Club and he men’s and ladies’ locker rooms were accessed directly from outside of the building. It was not until later, in about 1964, that a new glassed entrance lobby covering all these entrances was constructed.
On the course, the early nursery work of 1921 had developed such mature tree growth that 70 poplar trees had to be removed. The same number that had been removed in 1954. Mr.J.G.Goldie became President in the year 1957, and the Club voted Miss Effie Smith to be a Honourary Member. She had been a member since the inception of the Club in 1912. Miss Smith was then 90 years young. It was at about this time that the Club Professional of 25 years, John Porteous, passed away. The next year, due to concern about the Clubhouse water supply, it was decided to connect the Clubhouse to the city sewage system for the first time.
In this same year,1958, the Club membership reached 420, including 198 social members, and it was decided that all members must become shareholders. With these strong Club activities, Wally Slatter, a long time active member had, his Radio station CJOY donate a City Championship Trophy and broadcast the event, which that year The Guelph Country Club won. Strict controls were maintained in 1959, and beer was not allowed to be sold on Sunday, although this was the first year it was decided to keep the Club open in the winter months. Mrs. Dick was hired as the Stewardess at a rate of $50 per month, and the Dick family lived upstairs at the Clubhouse, also performing caretaker services.
In the early 60’s, several offers to purchase the Club property were tendered. Many questions about the Club’s future were under discussion at special meetings of both the directors and the members. The main alternative discussions under consideration were to remain, and improve the existing grounds and Clubhouse, to purchase alternative land, or negotiate to purchase the Cutten Fields Golf Club. These considerations continued to be discussed over the next decade.
In 1961 a letter of resignation was accepted from the Premier, the Honourable George Drew, with the provision that he be approved as an Honourary Member of the Club for his service to the club over the past 40 years. The first major renovation to Clubhouse took place this year, and membership was closed in all categories, with a number of names still on the waiting list. This was primarily due to Saturday and Sunday overcrowding on the course.
Some additional work was done to the men’s locker rooms, and the ceiling was insulated, as noted in the Club’s minutes, “so ribald comments will not penetrate the main lounge”. With Dr. Norman Burbidge as President, the membership remained closed during 1963. In that year, meetings with past Presidents Ed Spall, Larry Demaray, E.C.Tate and Club Manager Robert Jeans thoroughly considered the addition of a four sheet curling rink to the Clubhouse building. Subsequently, on November 10, 1964, The Guelph Golf and Curling Club celebrated the opening of its new facility, and a new era began.