By Mike Jiggens
The Stanley Thompson Society has inducted the Chedoke Civic Golf Club in Hamilton, Ont. as its newest member club.
Nestled into the rolling parkland landscape of the Niagara Escarpment, Chedoke Civic GC is home to two 18-hole public golf courses. Golf has been played there since 1896. Originally called the Hamilton Golf Club, it was renamed Chedoke Civic Golf Club in 1924 when the City of Hamilton purchased the land from the Hamilton G&CC which moved up the mountain to Ancaster.
The Martin Course, named after Chedoke’s first club president George Martin, started out as a nine-hole layout. It is the oldest course in the city. The Beddoe Course, named after Chedoke’s second club president, Harold Beddoe, fully opened in 1951, making Chedoke Civic GC Canada’s first 36-hole municipal golf facility.
Legendary Canadian golf course architect Stanley Thompson, has close ties to both courses. His brother Nicol was the head professional at Hamilton GC as early as 1899 and lived just a few blocks from the course. Newspaper and club records indicate that Stanley and Nicol started working here and there on the Martin Course in the early 1920s right up to and including the time Stanley designed the 18-hole Beddoe Course in 1948.
“Stanley’s initial work at Chedoke in the 1920s led to further changes in 1949-50 to the original 18 and the eventual creation of the second 18,” said Bill Newton, executive director of the Stanley Thompson Society. “The Beddoe Course at Chedoke was one of Stanley’s last important assignments before his untimely death in 1953.”
In 1928, Stanley Thompson and brother Nicol drew up plans for four holes on newly-acquired property, a new hole at the base of the Niagara Escarpment, the widening of several holes and 18 new clay tees. As time and funds allowed, both Thompsons continued to upgrade and make changes to the course. What is known today as 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18 would be Thompson holes, and there may be a couple of others. It may be fair to say there’s more Thompson in today’s Martin Course than the Beddoe layout.
Newton pointed out that members of the Thompson family, including Stanley and Nicol, believed golf was a recreational game for everyone, putting emphasis on public play.
“Thompson took particular pride in his work at both the Hamilton courses, and the Stanley Thompson Society takes great pride in welcoming Chedoke to the society which now has 49 member clubs (all Thompson courses),” Newton said.
“This is a great opportunity to recognize the contribution of the Thompson family, especially Stanley Thompson to the development of the game of golf in the City of Hamilton,” said Hamilton Coun. Brian McHattie. “To think that golf was first played on this land back in 1896, and today it’s a national treasure and landmark that we proudly associate with Canada’s most famous golf course architect and his family.”
The 18-hole Stanley Thompson-designed Beddoe layout was significantly altered in the early 1960s when Highway 403 was built through a section of the course. Thompson’s layout was changed so dramatically that both moments of quirkiness and moments of brilliance in the design are found.
While he worked at Chedoke in 1948, 1949 and 1950 building the new Beddoe Course and tinkering with the older Martin Course, Stanley had other projects on the go in the area. At St. Catharines G&CC, he built nine new holes and remodeled an existing nine, which opened in 1949, and he finished Whirlpool Golf Club in Niagara Falls, which opened in 1951 with his brother Nicol as the head professional and Nicol Jr. the greenskeeper.
Today, award-winning architect, Graham Cooke, a Thompson disciple who is based out of Montreal, oversees changes to all three City of Hamilton-run courses as part of a long range plan for the facilities.
The Stanley Thompson Society is dedicated to the preservation of Stanley Thompson golf courses through education. For more information, visit http://www.golfhamilton.ca or http://www.stanleythompsonsociety.com .