Golf in Alberta: A Fore-gone Conclusion - Lougheed House

Posted by | August 15, 2017 | 150 stories | No Comments

Douglas Gordon Lougheed, youngest son of James and Isabella, was born September 3, 1901. Already a scratch golfer (one who usually shoots at or below par) by the age of seven, Douglas was practicing on the Banff Springs Hotel course at nine. Will Thompson, a professional golf coach, took young Douglas under his wing, declaring that he could be made a champion. The young Lougheed attended Western Canada College (what is now Western Canada High School, just a couple blocks from Lougheed House), where he was praised for his athleticism. He went on to study at University College in Victoria, and then spent a couple years working in Toronto insurance before returning to Calgary and joining the firm of Lougheed and Taylor.

In 1922, Douglas won the Alberta Junior Golf Championship. Two years later, he won the Alberta Amateur Golf Championship, his high-water mark in the sport. He continued to work for Lougheed and Taylor, and Pete Smith Motors, until his untimely death on October 15, 1931. Regardless, Douglas’s passion for golfing stayed with him his whole life.

 

The history of golf in Alberta begins as a story of people making do with what they had. It was brought west by the North-West Mounted Police, and then popularized with the arrival of the CPR. The first recorded game of golf played in Alberta took place at Fort Macleod in 1885 between David and Albert Browning. They used hickory clubs and balls made from sapodilla sap, a tree harvested in great numbers in eastern Asia, even though it was native to Mexico. Oh, and the sap balls sometimes exploded, since, you know, you hit them with clubs.

Also, because private citizens and nascent municipalities had more important things to do in 1885 than build real golf courses, most Alberta golfers had to play around fences, gopher holes, and indifferent cows. They had a special club, called a rutter, designed to play balls that had been caught in wagon ruts. They didn’t bother changing out of their work clothes to play, but they did supply their own sand for makeshift tees. One can only assume that they carried this sand around in their pockets all day, just in case they had to drop everything and play a couple holes. And when I say holes, I mean whatever was at hand; two determined Lethbridge golfers built a four-hole course out of tomato cans, after having the rules described to them by friends passing through town.

The first golf club (the organization, not the tool) was created by the North-West Mounted Police at Fort Macleod in 1895, and the Calgary Golf and Country Club was founded two years later. The first official golf championship was won by Charlie Hague in 1908 in Calgary, and every year afterward, the championship alternated between Calgary and Edmonton. The popularity of golf grew in lockstep with the number of wealthy Albertan citizens, but the outbreak of war in 1914 hit the golfing community hard. Many clubs, including the Fort Macleod Golf Club, were forced to close down for lack of players. Prohibition, introduced in 1916, also put the damper on things, as prohibition tends to do. Interest in golf bounced back after the war, and between 1919 and 1929, the number of Alberta golf clubs leaped from 9 to 65. In the photo below, you can see Edgar and Clarence Lougheed golfing in Banff – note the uniforms.

Since then, golf has flourished in Alberta. Its countless golf courses continue to adapt to an increasingly environmentally-conscious citizenry, using advanced water conservation and pest-management solutions to minimize the environmental impact of the sometimes obscenely huge golf courses in the province. At some point, they also started using metal clubs and normal, non-explosive balls, which, in my opinion, isn’t quite as exciting.

-Jake, Summer Student

 

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