Fernie Golf Course History
History of the Fernie Golf Club
The Fernie Golf Club is one of the oldest in Canada and in 2018, the club celebrated its centennial. One hundred years of continuous operation is quite an accomplishment given that the City of Fernie is only 14 years older.
At every stage of its 100+ year history and development the FGC owes its beginnings to continued support and contributions by local citizens and businesses. Since the early coal mine and forestry industries were founded in the late 1800s the City of Fernie (incorporated in 1904) has endured significant hardships along with considerable growth and prosperity. Today, Fernie is a growing center for outdoor recreation but continues to celebrate its beginnings as a coal mining and lumber town. The FGC, like the city at its door step, has undergone many changes since the club was founded in 1918. The course development and enhancements have occurred due to the imagination, initiative and contributions from its members, local citizens and businesses. Throughout this evolution, the club has retained its humble, community based roots while offering an excellent golfing experience for local residents and visitors. It is notable that the club’s guiding principles focus on providing a positive experience for guests, members, staff and community.
1918 – Golf Course – From Idea to Reality
An early reference to the possibility of establishing a golf course in Fernie appeared in a 1916 edition of the Creston Review. Then on April 12, 1918, several curling club members met in the law offices Herchmer & Martin and decided to create a golf course at the north end of the town. A committee of volunteers was quickly formed to lay out and to construct the course. Donations from local citizens raised $500 that allowed the work to begin on land donated by the Crows Nest Coal Company. The Fernie Free Press asked for volunteers to help build the course and it was reported that many citizens turned out to help.
|Fernie Free Press Articles Trace the Fernie Golf Club’s Beginnings in 1918
The original course consisted of nine holes located just south of a Great Northern Railway spur line. Today, a line of tall fir trees along the southern edge of the Fernie High School marks the location of the old railway line. Prentice Park, with the high school playing fields, now occupies the site of those original holes. The opening of the course was commemorated with an 18 hole match with Sandy Watson and R.M. Young defeating Alan Graham and Sherwood Herchmer. It is likely that these founding members carried the love of the game from their Scottish heritage.
1918 FGC Executive:
- President – Alan Graham
- Vice-President – R.M. Young
- Secretary/Treasurer – Sandy Watson
- Executive – Sherwood Herchmer, Jas McLean, E. Daniels, Thomas Prentice and E.K. Stewart
Course maintenance during the first few years was carried out by volunteers. In 1920 the club had 50 members who hired a greens keeper to improve conditions. A year later there were 85 members.
1921- Club Expansion and Club House
|In 1921 the club’s male members paid $20 and annual dues for ladies was $10. Then, only three year since its inception, the club began expansion with new holes being laid out on the north side of the railway spur line. This land was also owned by the Crows Nest Pass Coal Co. and was being used for grazing cattle. The expansion was overseen by R. Smith, a golf pro from Nelson. The Coal Co, which has played a prominent role in the club’s history, leased the land to the club for an annual sum of $30 in lieu of grazing fees. The club then abandoned its original layout.
|In 1921, the club also acquired a club house. In the spirit of the course operations, using a team of horses, members relocated the former McDougall Sawmill manager’s house and offices from its original location on today’s 15th fairway up the embankment to what is now the site of the golf cart shed.The first and second storey wrap-around porches overlooked the 9th green while the back faced the lower fairways of the present course.
|In the early years, bar and food service at the ‘house’ was provided by member volunteers. Eventually staff, sometimes even the greens keeper, ran the bar and restaurant. Despite lacking central heat and electricity (wood stove and coal oil lamps) it was the scene of many social events. Skifty Morris, a retired miner, looked after the building and also lived there along with the greens keeper. ‘Thirsty’ members could pretty well be satisfied any time of the day or night any day of the week. Skifty managed and looked after the place and never requested nor drew any pay.
Access to the original clubhouse was via a majestic, tree-lined drive that wound through the center of the fairways adjacent to what is now the 13th and 14th holes.
|To this day, the Fernie Golf Club still operates on land owned by the current iteration of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company. A 99-year lease agreement was established in 1980, with a covenant stipulating that the club must continue to provide affordable golfing opportunities for the residents of the valley. The land where the original course was located south of the high school was donated to the City of Fernie by the Crows Nest Coal Company in 1972 and Prentice Park was established. This followed a long history of support to the club and the community by the Coal Company.
1928 to 1967 – The Golf Course Continues to Develop
|In 1928 the golf and tennis clubs amalgamated to form the Fernie Country Club, with golfers outnumbering tennis players on the executive. The Ladies Club joined the larger organization the same year. Representation on the board of directors was 4 men, 2 women and 2 tennis players.
|From the 1930s through the 1960s, the club was devoted to maintaining
and upgrading the course despite a constant struggle with dwindling finances and aging equipment. Water was piped to several fairways which were maintained by a horse drawn mower. The early greens were made of different mixes of sand, sawdust and used oil (collected from local garages). Eventually sand greens replaced this mixture.
|The club continued to upgrade the course. Improvements included new tee ‘box’ mats, realignment of holes, nets along the river to prevent ball loss, privies on the course, and foot bridges over creeks. An irrigation system was added in 1960 using pipe from the old Coal Creek mine. Volunteers carried out most of the work under the guidance of a greens keeper that the club employed through these years.
Original #1 Fairway
View of Club House From Near Current #6
Old #4 -Hole
1968 – Grass Greens
|In 1968, after some 30 years of discussion, the Club’s sand ‘greens’ were finally planted with grass. This improvement helped encourage increased membership and promote local interest in golf.The only issue with the club’s determination to create grass greens was how to pay for it. Again, club members and the local community came together with both time and money. Debentures were sold to members and donations were received from Crow’s Nest Industries and Kaiser Resources. There was also generous support from equipment contractors.
|Planting a New Green
The work was completed under the direction of the Lethbridge Agricultural Station. New green locations were chosen to maximize views of the mountains. Once again, volunteer labour, supplied by both the men’s and ladies leagues, help plant and build the long anticipated grass greens which were playable 6 weeks later. Total cost was approximately $30,000, which included a new tractor, greens mower, verticut and a hammer mill.
1972 – Second Club House
|Once the grass greens were in place, the next major project was a new clubhouse. The Club’s second home was built in 1972. The new clubhouse was situated at the end of 2nd Avenue, opposite what was then the 6th green. The ranch-style clubhouse (which still stands next to the 12th green) provided a covered deck with a restaurant and bar.
|The building was erected by volunteer labour with donated materials. The new location also had a pro shop, club storage and a maintenance shop. This required a revision of the golf hole numbering, whereby #7 became the first hole. The original clubhouse, which had served the club for over 50 years, was abandoned and burned.
1980 – 1986 – Expansion to 18 holes
In 1980 the club signed a 99 year lease for the land north of the course which permitted the club to begin the process of expanding to 18 holes. Golf course architect W. Newis, designer of several golf courses, including Bear’s Paw in Calgary, was retained to layout and supervise construction. Three holes from the original 9 (#s 3, 4, & 9) were eliminated and 12 new holes were built. Financing involved government grants, a bank loan, and generous assistance from local businesses. The expanded course also saw enlarging and raising of the existing low lying greens, installation of an irrigation system and the greens were seeded with Penncross, Creeping Bent and native blue grass. White silicon sand from Golden B.C. was placed in the bunkers. The new course opened for play in early 1986.
Other work undertaken by long time course superintendent Bob Bryden included planting conifers to replace aging cotton woods, building dykes to protect holes closest to the Elk River and overseeing the construction of a new maintenance shop.
1994 – New 18th Hole
In 1994, the club sold the land that was then occupied by the 18th hole and the club house to the local School District to allow construction of a new high school. This sale required construction of a new 18th hole (current 12th hole) and vacating the clubhouse which was now on school property. This transaction initiated the process of building a new clubhouse and maintenance facility.
1996 – New Clubhouse
With the selling and trading of property around the former 18th hole, the Fernie Golf Club was presented with an opportunity to create an esthetically pleasing golf course neighbourhood that would become a truly magnificent asset for the whole community.
Construction Begins – October 1995
1996 March – New Club House Takes Shape
Work on the new clubhouse began in October 1995 and was completed and open for business just nine months later on July 22, 1996. In keeping with the club’s history, many hours of volunteer labour (over 6,500 hours) and donations of materials and money of valued at over $0.5 million dollars kept the cost of the new building, access road, pathways, new #12 hole and parking lot within a modest budget. Chuck Shoesmith, the building’s general contractor, recalls that the volunteers, organized by Bob Lozza would show up in all kinds of weather to do roofing, plumbing, and finishing work. Chuck commented that he has never drunk so much beer or eaten so many donuts provided by the volunteers on the project. Two plaques in the clubhouse (see photos below) list the names of volunteers and businesses who contributed.
|Volunteers Were a Huge Help – June 1996
|Open For Business – Summer 1996
By 1997, a new access road traversed a well-appointed residential subdivision, which lined newly revised fairways and holes. At the end of the road golfers now found a brand new clubhouse, cart storage building and a paved parking area – a truly world-class facility.
The new home of the Fernie Golf Club stands as a testament to club members, who for years have spent untold hours volunteering to build and maintain the club. Club members continue to provide guidance and direction to the entire operation, which will allow the sport of golf to be played in Fernie for years to come.
1918 to 2018 – What’s In a Name?
The club was founded in 1918 under the name the ‘Fernie Golf Club’. This name remained in use until 1927 when the Fernie Golf Club and Fernie Tennis Club were amalgamated to form the ‘Fernie Country Club’. Based on recorded minutes, this name remained in use until 1950 when the title given to the club seems to have evolved to the ‘Fernie Golf and Country Club’ by the club secretary or whoever was taking minutes.. Documentation of a name change is not apparent in the club’s meeting minutes and the title for the club in subsequent minutes references both names for several years after 1950. The club is registered with BC Registries under the Societies Act as the Fernie Golf and Country Club (1974) as being incorporated in 1966 (officially, it still is). In 2018, the club decided to revert to the original name that it was create under – Fernie Golf Club.
|1950 to 2018
The Fernie Golf Club – A Vital Asset
For over 100 years, the Fernie Golf Club has been a vital part of the fabric of the community. Since its creation in 1918, by a few dedicated volunteers and little cash, to today’s thriving operation, people have been afforded the chance to try their hand at the “Royal and Ancient Pastime”.
The organization has a yearly operating budget of more than $1 million and fixed assets in excess of $2 million. The club operates approximately six months a year and employs upwards of 40 staff, both full and part time. On annual basis, more than 10,000 green fee rounds are played on top of the more than 9,000 rounds played by club members. In 2018, the club had more than 250 members.
The Fernie Golf Club continues to be a vital community asset, providing quality service, contributing substantially to the local economy. This dedication will see the club well into the future.
The Grounds Keepers
The job of maintaining a golf course is a labour of love. Technological advancement has made the job easier but it has also raised golfer’s expectations of playing on pristine fairways and luscious greens.
A list of early course managers and maintenance personnel include Andrew Lees, Thomas Illedge, A. Peters, Andy Traska, and Frank Gigliotti, and Bob Brydon. These people, along with volunteers, maintained the course, and, in some instances their wives looked after the clubhouse.
By 1926, a horse drawn roller and triple mower were purchased to be used on the fairways and near greens. Rummy the horse (loaned to the club by owner Thomas Prentice) pulled the roller and mower around the course in an effort to significantly improve course playability.
Much to the consternation of the grounds keeper and the club executive, on day Rummy wandered off and could not be found. The grounds keeper and the club shared the $100 cost to compensate Mr. Prentice. But, the horse was later found, and the was money refunded.
Rummy was eventually replaced with a more reliable tractor, adapted from a Ford truck by T. Baker, for mowing the fairways
In later years, Skifty Morris, having left mining after an injury, decided to look after and live in the clubhouse. “Thirsty” members could pretty well be satisfied any time of the day or night or any day of the week. Skifty managed and looked after the place and never requested nor drew any pay.
Bob Brydon became the Course Superintendent in 1975 and was dedicated to creating a course that would become a source of community pride. As early as 1976 the club recognized that course maintenance was getting more complicated. It was not just mowing grass anymore. Throughout his tenure, the club supported Bob’s participation in programs to learn the latest advancements in course upkeep. Ray Bryant, the current superintendent, has maintained this commitment and is a member of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association.
|A commemorate plaque dedicated to long-time Course Superintendent Bob Brydon can be found on the 8th hole
|A large factor in golf course maintenance is ensuring the machinery is in top working condition. Greens mowers, like the one Bob Brydon is riding here, need an exacting touch to get the blades sharpened properly
Ray Bryant recounts his first season working at the Fernie Golf Club under the astute direction of Bob, who passed away in 1998. “When I came to the golf course I thought all there was to maintaining a golf course was cutting grass and moving sprinklers. The first year was a wake up call, as to what a golf course was all about and how meticulous I had to be in setting up equipment so the grass wouldn’t be bruised if the reel bed knife wasn’t adjusted properly.”
“Then there was the golf course and what it takes to maintain a healthy turf – What were those terms Bob was talking about?- snow mould, red thread, Pythium blight, anthracnose, blue/green algae, black layer, percolation, leaching and compaction – just to name a few turf problems. Bob loved his job and he and I hit it off right from the start.”
After his first year, Bob asked Ray to become his assistant. Ray said, “this man set me up for the most exciting years a person could ask for in a job.” Ray Bryant has been the Course Superintendent for more than 30 years. Ray’s son Jason has been working alongside his dad for many years.
|Many course improvement projects have been managed and completed by the maintenance staff. The course irrigation system was installed by staff assisted by volunteers in 1960.
|The Fernie Golf Club has joined the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System of Canada (ACSSC), an international program designed to help landowners preserve and enhance the environmental quality of their property. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses is co-ordinated by the ACSSC and is sponsored in part by the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
|Many of the fairways and clubhouse flower beds were maintained for years by maintenance crew member Ursula Schroeder, a 35-year employee and member who recently moved to Vancouver Island.
Rules and Score Cards
Golf rules have been developed over the years in response to changing playing conditions and evolving technology. In 1921, Fernie Golf Course rules covered such contingencies;
- as a ball laying against a gopher hole may be lifted and dropped one club length no closer to the hole
- a ball in a gopher hole has to be recovered or be counted as a lost ball
- a ball within a club length of a stump, excavation or log could be lifted and dropped no closer to the hole
Often tournaments would have a set of special rules that governed play. Emblematic of inter club championships was the Boyd Cup, which started initially amongst the Fernie, Cranbrook, Kimberley and Creston clubs and later included Wardner. The rules stipulated that:
- The Club holding the tournament was to supply a meal and two bottles of beer
- Each of the losing teams was to supply a bottle of Scotch the following year
- The Scotch was to be poured into the trophy with two parts water and the cup passed around
- All beer, apart from the two bottles, to be sold at $0.25 a bottle
- A prize was given to the two players with the lowest scores
A 1994 Scorecard
Fernie Golf Club Staff
Over the years the Fernie Golf Club has had exceptional professionals who have provided top-notch instruction as well as mentoring younger players.
As Club operations grew, a golf professional, along with support staff, became a necessity for the course to succeed. The Fernie Golf Club has been fortunate to have attracted many qualified golf professionals to direct club operations including Dave Rogers, Mike Will, Doug Robb, Mel Dies and now Max Sherwood.
The pros have mentored many young local golfers who have gone on to pursue careers in the golf industry.
- Kevin Maffioli has been the Head Golf professional at the Christina Lake Golf Club for many years
- Cindy Carson-Soukoroff, along with Max Sherwood, both started in the Fernie pro shop and moved to the St. Eugene Golf Resort where Cindy still works as the Head Golf professional.
- Danielle Poupart turned professional in 2011 and is now teaching golf at a facility in Calgary after having worked for the Priddis Greens Golf Club.
- With 11 years at the course, Craig Macarthur is the head golf professional at Blackhawk Golf Club in Spruce Grove, Alberta.
- Chad Scott is the Head Golf professional at the Rise in Vernon and is the current president of the PGA of BC.
|Kevin Maffioli, Head Golf Professional at Christina Lake Golf Club, got his start at the Fernie Golf Club pro shop in 1996.
|Mike Will, left, grew up golfing in Fernie and went on to become the Head Professional for the Cordova Bay Golf Course.
|Chad Scott, Head Professional at The Rise Golf Course in Vernon, was appointed the PGA of BC Association’s 39th President in 2017.
|Max Sherwood, Fernie Golf Club’s CPGA Head Professional , center, with Gus Twamley and a visiting professional, on the left, and Gerry Pang and Steve Servello, on the right.
Other Related Histories & Documents
Incorporation as a Society in the Province of British Columbia
October 22, 1974
Crows Nest Pass Coal Company History
From B.C. Golf Museum Site
Fernie Golf Club Celebrates 100 Years 1918-2018
FERNIE GOLF CLUB CELEBRATES 100 YEARS
When speaking about centennial celebrations for golf clubs in British Columbia, the most frequent question asked is: “Where does our club rank in BC with regard to centennial celebrations?” The following existing clubs have celebrated centennials since the first in 1993: Victoria Golf Club (1893), Vancouver Golf Club (1910), Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club (1911), Royal Colwood Golf Club (1913), Qualicum Golf Course (1913), Vernon Golf Club (1913), Cranbrook Golf Club (1913), Kamloops Golf Club (1914), Kelowna Golf Club (1915), and Penticton Golf Club (1915).
In 2018, the Fernie Golf Club begins a decade for golf club centennial celebrations. In fact, from 1918 – 1928 over fifty golf courses began operation. Research indicates more golf courses opened in this decade than any other time in the history of golf in the province. Golf became the preferred sport for citizens of small towns because residents from all ages and economic levels could play the game. City officials encouraged groups to build a golf course so the motoring tourists could be encouraged to stay one more night in the village “to play the best golf course in the province”. The golf course clubhouse became the community centre for the townspeople.
Golf historians believe Scots introduced the game to many regions of North America. The standard belief is: when a Scot arrived in an area, he immediately began the process to form a golf club and construct a course. With regard to the Fernie GC perhaps townspeople visited Cranbrook or the Okangan region, saw golf being played, and decided to form a golf club.
Maybe, a transplanted Scot, Alex (Sandy) Watson introduced the game to Fernie? In 1912, he arrived in the coal town to work as the government customs agent. By1917, he had changed professions from the government to the Home Bank as their manager. With strong Scottish roots, Alex came with a golfing background. Did he inspire his fellow citizens to add golf to their summer activities after the curling season concluded in March? The Fernie GC officially formed on April 5, 1918 when a group of citizens met. The attendees elected Alan Graham as President, R.M. Young as Vice-President, and Alex (Sandy) Watson as Secretary-Treasurer. S. Herchmer, Jas McLean, E. Daniels, E. K. Steward, and Thomas Prentice comprised the Executive Committee. This committee chose the land known as “Prentice Park” with a spur line of the Great Northern Railway forming the north boundary for the first golf course. When the local newspaper announced the new golf group required assistance, volunteers appeared for the work bees with shovels, rakes, hoes, and scythes ready to contribute to the cause. The aspiring golfers worked diligently to transform the land into a make shift links. By the end of July, the work on the course was completed at a cost of $500. In August, Alex Watson and R.M. Young defeated A Graham and S. Herrchmer in the first club match over the newly competed course. In 1919 at the annual general meeting, the Board announced the course wintered well. The members chose W.R. Wilson, General Manager of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Co, as their Honorary President and R. Wood as the Honorary Vice President. These appointments began a seventy-year relationship between the Fernie GC and the coal company. In September, Fernie defeated Cranbrook 15 – 2 in the first inter-club match held on the course. In 1920, the club officials hired a greens keeper to improve the playing conditions. The following year, golf professional Bob Smith of Nelson, laid out a new course across the spur line that formed the northern boundary of the original course. The club paid Crows Nest Pass thirty dollars per year. Basically this represented the equivalent amount the local farmers paid to the company for the right to graze their cattle on the company’s unused lands. Because golf became so popular by the mid-twenties, Watson encouraged Suddaby’s Drug & Bookstore to order golf supplies from Scotland.
Fernie Free Press Commemorative Insert – June 2018
Retired golfer recalls sport with fondness
By Jennifer Cronin – Fernie Free Press – June 20, 2018
Verne Hornquist has looked back on his golfing years ahead of Fernie Golf Club’s 100th anniversary.
Verne Hornquist arrived from Kimberley to Fernie with his family in 1945 at the age of 10.When Verne was a young fellow, his parents became members of the Fernie Golf and Country Club, and he would watch them play. This motivated him to take up the sport around the age of 18.
Playing on greens made of sand, sawdust and old car oil was the norm. It was the way the game was played. After putting, the “green” would be swept with a homemade sweeper consisting of a pole with a vertical pipe attached to it.
A motion of sweeping side to side kept the sand from disappearing. A ladle was then used to scoop out the hole in which there would be placed a flagstick, approximately three feet in height, the bottom of which was weighted to stop it from falling out of the hole.
Verne recalls the greens being small, and how he got used to tending the greens during the game. “We had to do it all the time,” he remembers.
Most of the tee areas had platforms with a rubber mat. There was a standard on which hung two buckets – the first full of water, the second filled with sand. “We used to get the ball wet, and then rub sand on it to get it clean,” he said.
“It was a beautiful clubhouse, and originally the home of Alex McDougall, the owner of the Fernie Lumber Company,” the foundation of which you can see as you walk down the 15th hole of the Fernie Golf Club. “There were good times in that clubhouse,” Verne stated.
He recalled that there was no power in the clubhouse until East Kootenay Power gifted it to the golf club. Prior to that time, lanterns fueled with white gas produced the lighting.
Andy Traska, Verne recalls, was the first caretaker of the course. “He would mow all the holes with one tractor,” he said. As there was no water on the course, when the weather warmed up, usually in June, the course would dry out and mowing became unnecessary. “When this happened, we would play a preferred lie,” Verne chuckled.
Water was put in around 1960 using old piping from the old Coal Creek mine. The local members got together to install the pipe. “People from all walks of life helped out, even those wearing ties,” said Verne. There were heavy hoses attached to standards, with taps. The watering was done with sprinklers and water guns. The hose would be dragged to different locations. “This made a big difference, it allowed us to put in grass greens around 1967 or ’68,” said Verne.
Local contractors and members pitched in to do all of the work to build the greens. “We used to have so much fun, especially on men’s night. Sometimes we would play a dime a point, (winning) that dime was important as draft beer was only 10 cents,” Verne laughed.
As well as men’s night, Verne would usually play the course, which was at the time nine holes, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “Everybody had their turn throwing a club, which sometimes got stuck in the tree, and a couple of days later they would still be up there,” he smiled.
“There is always that one hole that will give you a hard time, and there are always some bragging points. We had so much fun, it was amazing,” Verne shared. “It (the Fernie Golf Club) is a beautiful course, people are sure lucky to have it.”
After playing with a regular group of 10-12 friends, Verne put down the clubs about 1994. Retiring with a seven handicap, he recalls his years of playing golf as “one of the best times he had”.
Contributions from Local Industry and Businesses
Over its first 75 years, local industries and businesses, particularly the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company made significant contributions to the operation and expansion of the Fernie Golf Club. After its first year, the new club astutely added Mr. W.R. Wilson, along with R. Wood to its executive. They served as Honourary President and Vice President. At the time, aside from apparently being a keen golfer, W.R. Wilson was also the General Manager of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company upon whose land the first golf holes had been developed. Thus started a long relationship between the golf club and the Coal Company, undoubtedly spurring other local businesses to contribute to the club.
In 1921, just three years following the initial course layout, Mr. Wilson built a new fairway on the north side of the railway spur line (site of the current high school) at his own expense. This started the process of moving the rest of the course to where it would operate for the next 65 years. The new site was leased from the Coal Company for a sum of $30 per year which had been previously paid by local farmers for grazing rights on the land.
Also, in 1921, the club acquired and relocated the former home and office of the Sandy McDougall, owner and manager of the McDougall Sawmill. The building, which had survived Fernie’s two big fires (1904 & 1908), was dragged by building contractor George Cody using a team of horses from its original location (vicinity of the current 15th hole) up the embankment to the location of the current golf cart shed. This building, despite having no electricity or running water, would serve the club until a new club house was built some 50 years later.
Local retailers also supported the new sport. In 1924 it was reported that Suddaby’s Drug and Book Store was carrying a complete line of golf equipment – Auchterlaine golf clubs from Scotland , including left handed clubs. Putters, drivers and brassies – $5.50, Brassie Spoons – $6.00 and other irons – $3.50. The Trites Wood Co. carried McGregor Drivers, Cleeks, Mashies and Putters – $3.00 plus Buhrke Metal Bottom Bags.
In 1960 the club installed a much needed irrigation system using pipe donated by the Coal Company from the recently closed Coal Creek mines. In 1968, the conversion of the sand ‘greens’ to grass was made possible with the sale of debentures and donations from Crows Nest Industries (the evolution of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company), Kaiser Resources (Westar), local equipment contractors and volunteer club members.
In 1972, Crows Nest Industries donated land to the City of Fernie for the creation of Prentice Park, the site of the original golf course.
In 1968 a large portion of the Crows Nest Pass Coal Company properties and mines were acquired by Kaiser Resources Ltd. Later, in 1978, Shell Canada acquired the remainder of Crows Nest Industries.
Finally, in 1980, the golf club signed a 99 year lease with Shell Canada for the then current golf course plus land to the north that would enable the club to proceed with the long awaited expansion to 18 holes. Once again Crows Nest Industries plus Westar and Nohels Logging contributed to the course development.
Contributions from local businesses were vital to the construction of the current clubhouse:
Today, local businesses continue to support the club through advertising and support of events and tournaments.
Competitions and Leagues
As early as July 1918 work was completed on the first holes of the Fernie Golf Course and the following month the first golf match took place at the course with A. Watson and R.M. Young defeating A. Graham and S. Herchmer. In subsequent years competitions were keen with matches between M.A. Kastner and J. Corbet being compared with fights between Kilkenny Cats. In the first inter-club match play, held in September 1919, Fernie defeated Cranbrook by a score of fifteen matches to two.
Emblematic of inter club championships was the “Boyd Cup”, which started initially among the Fernie, Cranbrook, Kimberley, and Creston clubs and later included Wardner. Eight players from each club were represented by four teams of two players each and teams set out as foursomes. Twenty seven holes were played and low ball only counted. Lowest team aggregate won the “Trophy” and as laid out by Ian Dufour the rules stipulated:
- Club holding the tournament to supply a meal and two bottles of beer.
- Each of the losing teams to supply a bottle of Scotch the following year.
- The Scotch was to be poured into the trophy with two parts water and the cup passed around.
- All beer apart from the tow bottles to be sold at $0.25 a bottle.
A prize was given to the two players with the lowest scores. The competition became known as the ‘Boyd Haddad Tournament’.
In addition, the Crows Nest Pass Golf Association held tournaments at a different host club each year from Lethbridge through to Fernie. However during the 1930s and 40s many of these tournaments were cancelled due to gas rationing and the shortage of golf balls.
Each golf season now sees the Fernie Golf Club hosting a number of special tournaments. In May, weather permitting, the Men’s, Ladies and Juniors will host their opening tournaments. As the summer progresses many local charities will host competitions and often the area Pro-Am tournament is held at the club. Other staple tournaments throughout the season include the Club Championship, the Tony Servello Senior’s Open, the Adult/Junior Team tournament, the Ironman tournament and the Turkey Tombstone. The latter, which comes with a turkey dinner, closes out the season.
Leagues of Volunteers – Who Love Golf
From the initial meetings in 1918 the Fernie Golf Club’s success in becoming a reality would rely completely on its volunteer members. When a Fernie Free Press advertisement called for work bee volunteers to help create the holes, aspiring golfers responded eagerly. That volunteer tradition continues today. From the Board of Directors, to tournament coordinators and the Men’s and Ladies Leagues, volunteer members carry out most of the Club’s activities. Within the first few years, the club boasted both Men’s and Ladies League play each week.
|A staple for the Senior’s League each year is the Tony Servello Open, which attracts senior golfers from around the region. Tony Servello, , was a tireless volunteer and avid golfer in the early years of the club
The Men’s League has varied their competitions over the years, going from established teams, who played together each week, to varied foursomes. Weekly varied foursomes allowed new players to join and meet other established members. Through Men’s Night events, club members were cajoled into joining work parties to keep the course in good playing shape. In the early days, Men’s Nights were known to go from 5 pm to 5 am, when Skifty Morris was the clubhouse manager.
Since the early years, each Wednesday night is Men’s Night. Along with the nightly competition, the Men’s League also organizes a season long team competition. Men’s League Teams are drafted at the Men’s Opening by team captains. Rounds are played each week and points are accumulated toward the season total. These totals seed the teams for playoff matches. Prizes are awarded based on the number of teams competing – to encourage all players to come out each week, participation points are awarded.
|Men’s Night specials often featured different kinds of competitions. Men’s members, from left, Dave Burt, Bobby Lozza, Ron Hofner and Terry Cryderman
|Ron Bentley, left, Irv Mitchell, center, and John Hack would enjoy Wednesday night Men’s League play with other club members
In the early days, the women of the Ladies League were the backbone of clubhouse operations before a manager was hired. In the club’s early years lady volunteers would prepare luncheons or dinners for tournaments and special events.
Starting as their own entity, the Ladies Club formally joined the larger Fernie Golf and Country Club in 1928. Miss M. Brown, Mrs. George Kilman Jr. and Mrs. Owen represented the Ladies Club members on the Board of Directors. They contributed $35 from their coffers, which they requested be used on furniture for the clubhouse.
Not only did the ladies provide substantial service and volunteer hours to the physical club operations, in 1933 they offered recommendations to the board to help increase membership:
- Visitor Days – encourage members to bring visitors to the clubhouse for tea and to promote the Club,
- Create local advertisements at hotels and campgrounds to encourage new golfers,
- Reduce members cost for lunch from $5 to $3
That tradition of forward thinking still resonates with today’s Ladies League as members continually promote the Club and play host to numerous golf tournaments benefitting a range of community charities.
|The Ladies Club usually published a golf guide each year to provide members with information ranging from a special events calendar to handicap instructions
|The Ladies League has always had strong leadership and volunteer base. Jean Simpkins, left, was a league president for many years, pictured here with Theresa Vickers, center, and Rosemary Brydon
|Many Fernie golfers also travel to represent the club at tournaments – this group enjoyed a visit to the Crystal Lake Golf Course south of Eureka, Montana
|Marilyn Bruschetta, left, along with Evelyn Mitchell,center, and Linda Cryderman, enjoyed Ladies League Tuesday specials, which continue to this day
The Junior golf program at the Club was developed in 1928, when annual fees were set at $5 per year. Youngsters interested in golf were also encouraged to caddy to learn the game. However, each had to purchase a 25-cent badge for proper identification.
Through the years the program has helped mentor and develop young local golfers, many who were coached by Club volunteers from both the men’s and ladies league. A Club volunteer, with the help of the Club professional, organizes the program.
Few sports garner participant’s long-term dedication like golf. The Fernie Golf Club is a true testament with numerous members belonging to the club for more than 40 years and at least one member has belonged for over 50 years. Many local families have been members for multiple generations.
This dedication to the sport has translated into a thriving club with strong programs for golfers of all ages.
|Junior programs have run at the club since its inception providing young people with an opportunity to learn the game. Picture here is Mike Rigg, left, Mark Lento, center, and Danny Gill
|Fernie Golf Club members like Tippy Menduk would provide the Junior Program golfers with instruction
Fernie is known as a sports town. Whether team sports like hockey or soccer or individual sports like skiing or golf, the community has produced some very accomplished athletes. Among the best in 1922 was ‘Sandy’ Watson who, along with a fellow competitor – D.G. McKenzie of Blairmore were semi finalists at the “Canadian National Championships”, while Agnes Lawes dominated in the ladies competitions a few years later. They were followed during 1940 – 1950 era by Frank and Ellen Hughes who won several “East Kootenay” and “Crowsnest Pass Open” titles and were succeeded by Jimmy Maraasco who held the old 9 hole course record of 29. Jimmy moved to Vancouver Island where he won the “Island Amateur” and in 1972 defeated well-known pro Bill Wakeham to win the “West Coast Open”. Arny Sherwood then continued winning laurels for Fernie for a number of years. A former member, Gary Puder, subsequently won a B. C. Amateur championship. The Hughes family continued prominence at the Fernie Golf club, with Frank Hughes holding the course record of 64 on the old course, and brother Paul holding the course record of 64 on the new course. Paul Hughes qualified in both 1991 and 1992 for the B.C. Amateur championship.
Sandy Watson, Agnes Lawes
Among the best golfers in the 1920s was one of the club founders Sandy Watson, who won the prestigious Crows Nest Pass Championship four times. Sandy, and fellow competitor D.G. McKenzie of Blairmore, were semi finalists at the Canadian National Championship. Fernie golfer Agnes Lawes also dominated the Crows Nest Pass Championship in 1925, 1930, 1931 and again in 1948.
THE HUGHES OF FERNIE & THE FERNIE GC (Source: BC Golf Museum)
Research to date shows the Hughes family tree dates to the 1850s in Creggan Upper, County Armagh and Louth, Ireland. Like most Irish families, Patrick Hughes and Mary McKenna Hughes had several children among them son Patrick Hughes. Probably for economic reasons, the son, Patrick, left Ireland in the 1870s for Lanarkshire, Scotland. The family consisted of at least seven children. The two oldest children, Patrick and Thomas, are listed in the 1901 Scotland census as coal miner hewers. In 1903, Patrick (age 22) and Thomas (age 20) boarded the SS Sicilian from Glasgow, Scotland bound for Montreal, Quebec. The ship manifest listed the two brothers as travelling to Fernie, British Columbia to work in the coal mines. Around 1908, Patrick married Elizabeth Shields. The couple had eleven children including Ellen (b 1912), Francis (b 1914), Terry (b 1923), John, and Jim. The 1921 Canada Census, records Patrick as a clerk/salesman with an annual income of $1200. Clearly, he had left the coal mining profession during the previous decade. There is no record for Thomas in the 1911 Canada Census or the Fernie City Directories.
At present, it is difficult to determine how the Hughes children became actively involved in golf. But the Fernie GC had a number of prominent regional champions. Alex Watson won the prestigious Crow’s Nest Pass Championship (CNPC) in 1922, ’24, ’25, and ‘28. When he moved to Victoria he immediately won the 1928 Victoria City Championship as a member of the Victoria GC. Mrs. Agnes Lawes won CNPC in 1925, ’30, ’31, and ’48. Hank Hayne won the Crow in 1927. Perhaps Ellen and Frank started as caddies for these prominent players. Newspaper accounts indicate the Hughes children participated in all local sports excelling in sports, like badminton and swimming. There is no indication their parents played golf. In fact one newspaper account in 1936 indicated the parents had not seen their children play golf until the Fernie GC hosted the Crow Championship at the Fernie course.
Ellen dominated women’s golf in the East Kootenays from 1932 – 1950s. She credited her success to her long driving ability. “My opponents become intimidated when I constantly out drive them by thirty to forty yards. “Frank’s opponents consistently remarked they never felt dominated by Frank. “He was always such a gentleman on the course win or lose.”
In a 1937 article Roy McKenzie, the Lethbridge, Alberta sports editor for the Lethbridge Herald, outlined the uniqueness of the brother /sister duo from Fernie. “It was in 1933 that the Hughes from Fernie first pulled their brother-sister act by Frank winning the men’s championship and Ellen winning the women’s title. Many said it was lucky breaks when they repeated in 1936, but in 1937 they repeated again. This seems to establish one thing definitely: that they are both able to play like champions for three gruelling days. The Hughes show real golf on the tough little course that they play on at home and they are able to take this golf with them to other courses. Frank’s style is a contrast to his sister. A slim good-looking lad, he might be termed an unorthodox player. He takes a short grip on the club, stands a long way from the ball and bends over quite a bit. His drives vary in length and most have a little hook on the end to give added distance. Frank is a mental golfer. He wins his matches because he does not believe that he can lose. He sinks long putts because he makes up his mind the putt will go in. To follow him in a match you would think that he never considered missing a putt. Playing a practice round in the 1937 tournament at Blairmore, he scored 69 with 12 one-putt greens. Hughes attempts to sink every approach from 100 yards in. In this way he gets closer to the cup than his opponents who are trying to get close to the green. His opponents enjoy playing a match against him. He is the modest player to be found. He has the ability to make his opponents feel at home and they are seldom nervous.”
Other members of the Hughes family who showed golfing prowess included Terry, the 1948 Crow Champion. John and Jim won various flights in the Crow. Over its 100-year history the Fernie GC has produced several other champions including: Arnold Sherwood, Gary Puder, and Jackie Twamley.
Frank Hughes holds the FGC course record of 64 on the old course while his brother Paul qualified in both 1991 and 1992 for the B.C. Amateur Championship.
Ellen Hughes playing record
Crows Nest Pass Champion 1932,’33,’34,’35,’36,’37,’38,’39,’40,’44,
Nelson District Open Champion 1936
Frank Hughes playing record
Crows Nest Pass Champion 1933,’36,’37
Wood Valance Champion 1946,’48,’50
Terry Hughes playing record
Crows Nest Pass Champion 1948
|Frank Hughes, left, with Frank Pichler, at a Fernie club tournament. Ellen and Frank Hughes, Frank’s aunt and uncle, dominated local tournaments in the 1940s and 50s
The highest achievement for a Fernie golfer belongs to Jackie Twamley. Jackie has won both B.C. and Alberta Junior championships and in 1986 was Canadian Junior Champion as well as Alberta Ladies Champion. She then earned a golf scholarship at the University of North Texas. Jackie placed well at the World Junior Ladies in San Diego and in a World Amateur Tournament in Australia. Jackie worked as an assistant pro at Bear’s Paw in Calgary, where she qualified for the 1991 LPGA event in Canada, the Du Maurier Cup.