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History of the Club

History of the Brantford Golf & Country Club 

Architect: Thompson, Cumming and Thompson

Architectural History

The following is an excerpt from the book “The Great Golf Courses of Canada” By John Gordon.

In January 1879, the following notice appeared in The Courier, the newspaper serving the south western Ontario city of Brantford: “A golf club (whatever that may mean) has been organized in this city with the following as office bearers: A. Robertson, captain; John H. Stratford, treasurer; W.L. Creighton, secretary; Henry Yates, Jas. Ker. Osborne, J.Y Morton, George H. Wilkes, committee.  They will play Wednesdays and Fridays.”  Later that year, these stalwarts were joined by Hon. A.S. Hardy, the premier of Ontario and the first cabinet minister in Canada to join a golf club, and Alfred J. Wilkes.

From its initial four-hole start atop the inauspiciously named Vinegar Hill, Brantford Golf and Country Club moved to other locales, which featured the game of golf in its most rudimentary sense. It was not until the third course was established that any attempt was made to maintain decent greens, tees, and install bunkers. Annual dues were $2 for men, $1 for ladies, and a caretaker was charged with cutting the greens and tees. The club history notes that “he was helped by a herd of cattle which grazed on the course”.

Brantford Golf and Country Club joined the Toronto Golf Club, which was founded in 1876 as the first golf club in North America west of Montreal, as the only courses in Ontario. They, bolstered by players from a new club at Niagara-on-the-Lake, soon challenged a Quebec provincial team, consisting of members from Royal Montreal (founded in 1873) and Royal Quebec (1874). These first inter-provincial matches were held in Montreal in 1882 and, despite the stellar play of Brantford member A.W. Smith, Quebec dominated. Ontario would have its revenge the following year, defeating Quebec by 30 holes.

Two more moves were made before 1906 when nine holes were laid out in the vicinity of the present course. However, a rapidly growing membership demanded an expansion of both the course and the clubhouse, necessitating the purchase of adjacent land in 1919. The course was designed by Thompson, Cumming and Thompson, a Toronto partnership of brothers Stanley and Nicol Thompson and George Cumming, the head professional at the Toronto Golf Club.  While it would be Stanley who developed into the dean of Canada’s course architects, the history of the Brantford Golf and Country Club ascribes most of the credit for this design to Cumming and Nicol, who served as head professional at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ontario, for 50 years.

The outstanding periodical of the time, Canadian Golfer, described their handiwork: “A very sporting course is this 18-hole course on the banks of the Grand River. The total length is 6,300 yards. There are three one shot holes, -the backbone of every well-designed course. There are many holes of surpassing merit. Special attention has been given to the trapping of the generous greens, which are of a most diversified character: sloping, rolling and punch bowl. The latest ideas in golf-course construction are embodied in the layout of these up-to-date links and when all is whipped into shape, Brantford golfers will have a testing course of infinite variety.” The editor of Canadian Golfer, Ralph Reville, was a member of Brantford.

For 40 Years, Brantford members enjoyed this “testing course.” In 1960, proposed changes to the clubhouse, curling rink, swimming pool and other facilities, meant renovating the course. Two-time club president R. Bruce Forbes, a Brantford member since 1932, as a close friend of noted Canadian architect C.E (Robbie) Robinson and approached the designer. “We had no money- and I mean no money,” Forbes recalls. “He did it because he was a pal of mine. He never got a cent from us, although he did get a lot of free meals and golf.” Forbes is the club’s most distinguished member; a fine player and gentleman, whose self-admitted” love affair with golf” led to roles as both president and executive-director of the Royal Canadian Golf Association and to eventual nomination to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.

Robinson, who had been given his start in the business by Stanley Thompson, summarized his proposals to the board late that year: “I am now satisfied that I have a well-balanced series of holes which will eliminate the two successive par threes on the second nine and also provide a strong finishing hole.  The yardage on the first and second nine will be better balanced and combine into championship length of about 6,800 yards.

“In addition to the new route plan, I would provide modern designs to replace all present greens which are small, flat and uninteresting. Furthermore, they do not provide the shot values normally called for in present-day golf.  I would also add a modest number of fairway bunkers, which are now lacking on an otherwise exceptionally fine sequence of golf holes.  The stream would be routed and widened to develop water hazards at strategic points on two or three holes. All hazards and bunkers would be placed to test the par golfer but would be out of range of the average golfer or located to provide alternate routes for the high handicap players.  Your club has one of the finest properties I have inspected, and it is my opinion that the above architectural refinements will result in a course that will compare with or surpass the best in Ontario.”

The truth of Robinson’s prediction has been proven time and again during the many championships, ranging from junior to senior, and amateur to professional, held at Brantford in the intervening years. The first major pro event held on the redesigned course was the 1970 Canadian PGA Championship, won by Al Balding of Toronto with a score of 282, six under par.  The course record of 64 was set by Bob Panasik of Windsor, Ontario, during the pro-am preceding the tournament. The Canadian Amateur was held here during Brantford’s centennial year of 1979.  Rafael Alarcon of Mexico took the title, also with a 282.