Years of Golf at Essex
Jeff Mingay and Richard H. Carr
Donald Ross: Golf s first superstar
Gordon MacGregor: the best 18-hole golf course west of Toronto
golf is one of the most popular sports in the world. But one hundred
years ago, golf in Canada was in its infancy. Recognized golf clubs
had been established in Victoria, British Columbia; in Brantford,
Toronto, Kingston and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario; and Montreal
and Quebec City. But there were few others. And those that did exist
had a very difficult time recruiting members to sustain themselves.
Walkerville Country Club
is the case with many seminal local historical events, this story
begins in Walkerville.
On the porch at Walkerville Country
Club, circa 1900
American businessman Hiram Walker developed a fine reputation for
the quality of his whisky. From the remarkable success of Walkers
industry was born a prosperous little town bearing his name.
With success comes expendable time and monies that could be dedicated
to recreation and leisure. In the late 1880s, Walker and his family
established the Walkerville Country Club.
Although the game of golf was by no means a popular activity at
the time, Walker laid out a rudimentary nine-hole course for members
of his country club at some point prior to 1900 on the current site
of Walkerville Collegiate High School and Willistead Crescent. This
makes Walkerville Country Club one of the first golf courses in
the Windsor-Detroit area.
For the record, the Country Club of Detroit, which is generally
acknowledged as the oldest golf-related club in the area, was established
with an 18-hole golf course in 1897. Two years later, Detroit Golf
Club was incorporated.
Due to the absence of proper engineering, the Walkerville course
drained very poorly and was unplayable for extended periods of time
following rain. There was also an absence of ground contour, sand
bunkers and other obstacles, which made golf in Walkerville rather
George Mair and a number of other disgruntled Walkerville golfers
soon decided that a more suitable course was not only desirable,
By 1902, assisted principally by his wife and a Mr. Greenhill,
Mair had successfully solicited support from an enthusiastic group
of Walkerville and Windsor area golfers enough support to
warrant the establishment of a new club, which they called Oak Ridge
Golf Club. Appropriately, Mair was elected the new clubs first
Men like Mair involved with the organization of North Americas
first golf clubs could not have imagined that one hundred years
later historians would want to know how and when the game took root
in their city. As a result, historical documents, photographs and
other information regarding the establishment of many golf clubs
Oak Ridge Golf Club
Members of Oak Ridge Golf
Club lounging on the front porch of the clubhouse on the Yawkey
Farm in Sandwich, Ontario, circa 1909.
the establishment of Oak Ridge was chronicled, albeit briefly, in
the January 1916 edition of The Canadian Golfer magazine.
It was about fifteen years ago that Windsor and Walkerville
had a joint club at Walkerville, but the course was not a very suitable
one, becoming almost unplayable in wet weather. Through the kindness
of Mr. Thos. Austin of Detroit, son-in-law of the late Mr. Yawkey,
a multimillionaire, who owned a large tract of land in and adjoining
Sandwich, Mr. Mair, the first President of the new club, and the
members were most generously offered the use, free of charge, of
a thirty-four-hundred-yard golf course on his farm.
The club was successful from its inception, and subsequently 44
acres were rented adjoining Mr. Yawkeys farm from a Mr. Freeman
of Detroit. Largely through the efforts of the late Mrs. Mair, who
secured subscriptions from members and friends, a small clubhouse
was erected on this
property and the game of golf prospered apace.
For nearly a decade, Oak Ridge Golf Club enjoyed great success on
the Yawkey and Freeman Farms in Sandwich. Enthusiasm for the game
of golf and the general activities of the club had grown tremendously
in just eight years.
the fact Oak Ridge directors could no longer justify the exorbitant
cost of leasing the Yawkey and Freeman lands, the golf course
and clubhouse were quickly being rendered incapable of accommodating
the increasing demands of a growing membership.
Plans to move the club were underway in 1909 when Oak Ridge directors
exercised an option to purchase a 53-acre property, located at the
intersection of Centre Road (today Prince Road) and the Essex Terminal
Railway line in Sandwich from the heirs of the late Colonel John
Having essentially been evicted from the Yawkey and Freeman owned
lands, Oak Ridge members were granted permission to play golf on
the old, hapless Walkerville course while their new layout on the
Prince Farm was under construction.
During their first season spent golfing at Walkerville Country Club
in 1910, Oak Ridge members exhibited a ripe, infectious enthusiasm
for their ambitious plans. Soon, a significant number of Walkerville
golfers opted to join Oak Ridge. The end result was a genuine amalgamation
between the two clubs that warranted the creation of an entirely