Golf in the Comox Valley – a history of the Comox Golf Club.
Like the characterful people who were early settlers in the Comox Valley, the Comox Golf Club has an interesting history. After Governor Douglas issued a land and settlement proclamation for the Koumox Valley, intending to divert settlers away from the Victoria area as well as from the newly discovered Cariboo gold fields by offering land in the valley for $1 per acre and free transportation to the area, new settlers began to arrive.
In 1863 James Robb and son William pre-empted the steep and heavily forested land along the shore of the bay, with the idea of clearing the land, building a dock and then selling town lots for the village of Port Augusta (now named Comox) that would inevitably spring up at the site. His farm covered most of the area from the shore to St Joseph’s hospital, to Robb Road and over to Pritchard. In 1889, James Robb died, his ambitious vision unrealized.
The push for a golf course.
As early as 1917 the Comox Argus reported comments such as “the area’s agriculture, backed up by timber and mining”, “the optimism of the people ensured prosperity” and “because of our natural advantages as a tourist and summer resort”. With development of the railway and highway between Nanaimo and Campbell River, the Courtenay – Comox district was a natural halfway stop. To capture workers and tourists in transit, one proposal put forth in 1921, was to construct a golf course. It would be relatively inexpensive to prepare a golf course and the Board of Trade saw this project’s potential of attracting permanent businesses and residents to the district. Where to find the land?
Between the two world wars, Courtenay and Cumberland flourished business wise but Comox remained a tourist area dependent on fishing, golfing and ski-ing.
The start of the Comox Golf Club.
In November 1921, a newcomer to the area, Sidney “Dusty” d’Esterre put together a consortium of local businessmen to buy up the 283 acre Robb estate. The Comox Golf Club Company was formed in April 1922 proposing to lay out a nine hole course for $3,350 and offered forty shares for sale at $100 each. The Company would also have a five year lease of 100 acres of the Robb estate for expansion to an eighteen hole course plus an option to buy the course for $150 an acre.
Courtenay Golf Club Limited.
In June of 1922, the Comox Argus reported that “A. B. Dundas and other golf enthusiasts have found an excellent eight hole course (on the Upper Road) which they can get rent free”. By September, the Comox Golf Club had secured land on the Upper Road, (from Whittome and Company of Nanaimo), 2 1/2 miles from Courtenay. Good financing terms were reached, the land already had six greens “in pretty good shape” and would require little cost to expand to a nine hole course. The location alongside the Island Highway was accessible to both residents and tourists.
The Comox Golf Club Company met on September 27th 1922 and re-organized under the name Courtenay Golf Club Limited with Mr A. B. Dundas the first president. On July 18th 1923 Courtenay Golf Club Limited was incorporated to “promote the game of golf”.
Second course started.
While the Courtenay Golf Club was being structured, a private course, started by the Elks Hotel in Comox, was being planned. By September 1927, seven of nine holes had been developed and golfers of the district were invited to try the course for free. Designed by A.M.D. Fairburn of Victoria, the course was “scenically ideal, running on the high land just above the cluster of houses at old Comox and with a view of the bay from Royston to Hornby Island”. The course was challenging for players as well as the workers, who developed land left by loggers.
In April 1928, the Comox Golf Club course was officially opened comprising nine holes, 2,485 yards in length and greens of New Zealand fescue. The course was privately owned but allowances were made for district golfers to play regularly. A year’s fees were “Men $25, Women $15, Husband and Wife $35 with daily green fees of $1 and .75c for hotel guests”.
The recession years.
The 1931 census showed the Courtenay – Comox area had 1210 residents yet needed two golf courses to satisfy players. Inter club tournaments were held regularly and the Elk Hotel was able to attract many champion players from Vancouver and Victoria to the Comox course for sponsored tournaments on long weekends and holidays. By 1932, Vancouver club memberships were down as much as 60% due to the recession but the two Comox Valley courses appeared to hold their own.
Change came to the golfing scene in 1934 when Robert (Bob) Filberg gained control of the Comox course land for it’s members, from the Elk Hotel. On April 5th 1934, spearheaded by Robert Filberg, the Courtenay and Comox golf clubs merged under the name of Comox Golf Club with the original company called Courtenay Golf Club Limited becoming the operators. Arrangements were made to transfer members and trophies to the Comox golf course.
“Ostensibly there would be only one golfing facility in the Comox Valley but this theory was short lived”. The old Courtenay Golf Club’s course (Sandwick) on the Island Highway was purchased by Mr Joe Idiens and renamed Sunnydale. New competitions and trophies were established for Sunnydale members.
Mr Filberg, by this time, controlled the land on which the Comox Golf Club was situated. “He lined up the pro, Mr John Stevenson and in August 1934 sold the land to the Courtenay Golf Club Limited. The land cost $7,000 in total with $2,000 down and interest of 7% on the balance to be paid over ten years. Always a golfer at heart, he included a clause that should the property not continue to be used as a golf course during the ten years, he would have the option to buy it back”.
The re-organized Comox Golf Club elected Mr Thomas Graham as it’s president and Mrs S.H. Cliffe became the president of the Comox Ladies Golf Club. Johnny Stevenson became the Club’s first professional and stayed until 1961. In 1934 membership fees were Gentlemen $25, Ladies $15, Married Couple $35 and Junior rate $7.50.
Ownership of the land occupied by the Comox Golf Club.
“Courtenay Golf Club Limited eventually paid for the land and continued to run the golf facilities in Comox. On April 17th 1948 the Comox Golf Club was incorporated under the Societies Act and through various arrangements with the Courtenay Golf Club Limited (as landlord) the organization carried on much as before. Mr Filberg, however, was still concerned that his beloved Club and the land it was on could one day be sold for the prime real estate it was, and in the sixties he very quietly obtained control of over half the shares issued by the Courtenay Golf Club Limited. In 1966, he went to the Village of Comox, shares in hand, and turned them over to the town obtaining a commitment that the area comprising the golf course must remain a golf course for the next 99 years. After 99 years, if it is no longer practicable to retain the area as a golf course, it must become only a public park in perpetuity”.
“The Courtenay Golf Club Limited has held annual meetings since incorporation. It is still the course ‘landlord’ and one representative from the Company is required to be appointed to the Comox Golf Club Board of Directors. The Company and its current directors are proud to be part of the rich history of the Comox Golf Club.”