After 100 years the Elmwood Golf Club in Swift Current is celebrating this milestone with a newly renovated course and strong membership.
The club hosted a two-day golf tournament and other activities from July 5-7 to highlight the 100th anniversary and the grand re-opening of the course after four years of renovations.
An official ribbon cutting and ceremonial tee shots took place at noon on July 6. The speakers at this event were Elmwood Golf Club President Darcy Congdon, Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault, Golf Canada representative and former Swift Current resident Jack McDonald, and golf course designer Les Furber.
Mayor Perrault presented a plaque on behalf of the City to the golf club in recognition of the celebration. McDonald’s presentation included a congratulatory letter from the current president of Golf Canada and a scroll to acknowledge the club’s 100th anniversary.
The ceremonial tee shots were done by two club members from different generations. Ninety-year-old Ron Corrins became a club member in 1957 and still plays golf. He is a six-time Elmwood club champion and a Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame inductee as a member of the 1992 Saskatchewan senior men’s golf team, which won the Canadian senior championships. Griffin Wilson represented Canada at the 2018 Nordic team championships in Estonia against Finland and Sweden, and he is currently playing on the Maple Leaf junior tour.
Congdon, who has been the club president since 2017, said afterwards it is exciting and rewarding to see the outcome of the course renovation, which also includes the new Cypress Point residential community next to the golf course.
“It's been a lot of work,” he mentioned. “Exciting, you know, we work as a board and our management and staff. The landscape of Swift Current is different from what we've done in the last four years. We've got a brand-new community housing development and driving up the No. 4 highway before we did this, it was just a barren piece of land.”
The club was able to proceed with the course renovation as a result of a long-term financing arrangement with the City of Swift Current. Congdon expressed appreciation towards the City for this support.
“Obviously financially we wouldn't have been able to do it without their support, but it was a true partnership,” he said. “We gave quite a bit to be able to let the City develop those houses that's going to be tax money for this community forever. So that was a big win for the City of Swift Current, but then just the general partnership. It wouldn't have been too many years ago where it would have been kind of combative between Elmwood and the City, just because Chinook [golf course] being a City-owned course and maybe almost fighting for golfers, and it's completely 180 [degrees]. We're a partnership, they support us, we support them.”
As a follow-up to the completion of the course renovations the club launched a campaign to recruit more members, which has already been successful.
“We created a marketing campaign, a membership drive,” he said. “We were at I think 325 members last year and I think we're at just over 500 this year. That's where we need to be, it's a good number for us. … So now the work is to keep those members and keep people enjoying and having a great experience on the course. The course speaks for itself. It's tremendous.”
Les Furber, who has designed golf courses in Canada and the world, said it was a pleasure to be part of the club’s 100th anniversary celebration.
“Certainly, in Canada we're a young country, so anything that's a hundred years old is, I'm happy to be a part of it,” he noted.
The golf course renovations, which include 10 newly designed holes, did not present any real challenges.
“There was a lot of maturity there, we had a nice canvas to work with,” he said. “The existing holes were good holes, they just needed new features. So that was a great start and the golf course today looks like it's always been there because of that.”
The changes were not made to create a difficult course that will be suitable for hosting international championship. His goal was to create a layout that will be playable and fun for club members.
“So we kept most of the entrances open to the green, and mowed fairway running into the greens where you could bounce the ball on, make it more forgiving, more fun,” he said. “There's a junior program here of about 160 junior golfers that Jeff [Chambers] and his crew are teaching and they can play this golf course from our forward tees because of the way we designed it. So it's not about difficulty, it's about having fun and great playing conditions.”
The Elmwood Golf Club was known as the Swift Current Golf Club when it opened in 1919 as a private, nine-hole course. It was originally located in the Ashley Park area, but was later moved to the current location.
McDonald, who is a past president of Golf Canada, currently resides in Kamloops. He was born in Rosetown and grew up in Swift Current. He started to play golf on the Elmwood course in 1959 and while studying at the University of Saskatchewan he worked at the golf course during the summers.
He moved away from the city in 1969, but over the years continued to visit family and played on this golf course. He has won the Labour Day golf tournament at Elmwood golf course a record nine times.
He has many fond memories of the golf course, and he was therefore proud and honoured to represent Golf Canada at the 100th anniversary celebration. He recalled planting a line of poplar trees at the 10th hole in 1964.
“I remember going through there with the old Allis-Chalmers tractor with the single blade plough and creating the furrow to put the trees in and some of the ones over on number four and on number one,” he said. “So it's fun to come back and see how big they are now. It's incredible. When we were putting them in, they were knee-high, and now they're 40, 50, 60 feet high. So there's lots of good things, lots of memories, and some of the people are the biggest part of the memories.”