A Little Piece of Golf History
by Joe McLean
Stanley Thompson, Robert Trent Jones and Geoffrey Cornish are renowned as three of the world’s most famous golf course architects. All three have a connection with the picturesque nine-hole Norway Bay Golf Course in Bristol, Quebec.
“Mr. McCredie related to me how he had engaged the ‘two lads’ (to build the golf course), paying them each $200.00 per week, and their keep at his Scobie House hotel in the Bay. Some readers will remember Norway Bay for its sandy beaches before the power dam was built at Fitzroy Harbour. Flats of golden sand similar to Daytona Beach in Florida were the trademark of the Bay in those Halcyon days. At the time the Hotel was located in the centre of the Bay, and that is where ‘the lads’ enjoyed luxurious hospitality while they were building this now popular golf course.”
These words were part of an article written by the late W. Lyn Stewart in June of 1990 and were a portion of an interview with James Harvey McCredie, whose family commissioned the building of and at the time of the article owned and operated the Norway Bay On The Ottawa Golf & Country Club. This name can be found on the original blueprints of the layout of the golf course dated December 4, 1937.
The ‘two lads’ mentioned were Stanley Thompson and Robert Trent Jones and their ‘keep’ was free room and board. According to James A. Barclay in his book, The Toronto Terror – The Life and Works of Stanley Thompson, Golf Course Architect, “Geoffrey Cornish also worked on this project.”
The Norway Bay Golf and Country Club opened in the late 1930’s. However, the “Norway Bay Golf Course” located next to the Pine Lodge Resort and opened in 1932 by Joe Russell was in existence less than three kilometres away from the new course. Arrangements were made and from 1939 onward, the golf course at the Pine Lodge Resort has been called the Pine Lodge, Bristol Beach Golf Club.
Cottagers, summer visitors and guests of Scobie House, a hotel located on River Road in Norway Bay and later known as the Riverview Inn, frequented this brand new 9-hole addition to the Norway Bay cottage community. For many years access to Norway Bay was by automobile, rail (the CN railway line ran from Montreal to Canada West and was located across from the current entrance to the golf course) or ferry (The Norvic Ferry crossed the Ottawa River from Sand Point, Arnprior to Norway Bay).
The McCredie Family owned and operated the golf course until 2007 when they sold the course to brother and sister -James and Linda Thompson (No relation to Stanley Thompson). Jim and Linda were also co-owners of the Pine Lodge Golf Course that their family purchased in 1969. Linda and her husband John Kilgour took over ownership of the Norway Bay Golf Club in 2009.
In 1994 the modern clubhouse now in existence was built. To accommodate it a re-routing of the original third hole took place. If it had been kept in play it could have resulted in severe damages to vehicles in the required parking lot. This clubhouse is the third in the history of the golf course and is easily the most impressive. The original clubhouse was located between what is now the sixth green and the seventh tee and the second clubhouse can still be seen to the right of the first green.
The upper level of the clubhouse is licenced for 150 with a banquet hall and an outdoor wrap-around deck offering panoramic views of portions of the golf course. The entrance hall to the banquet features photos of Norway Bay and its habitants from an earlier time.
The pro-shop and a forty seat pub/restaurant, appropriately called “Stanleys”, are located on the lower level of the clubhouse. Apart from an impressive menu and a varied assortment of cold beverages, the walls are filled with trophies and clubs honouring various club-members who helped organize events for a very active membership. An outdoor deck is found outside the pub area and is well protected from the elements by the upper deck.
Earlier in June, this writer accompanied fellow Golf Historical Society of Canada Members Paul Murray and John Smith, who is also the Historian for the Stanley Thompson Society, on a playing tour of a little piece of history with our equally old hickory clubs.
Rather than take you hole by hole, it is sufficient to say that apart from the new ninth hole and the tee area for the first hole, the course envisioned by Stanley Thompson has been kept fairly intact. The greens, while relatively small to today’s standards, are tricky enough with the amount of undulations on them. Gaping bunkers, many of which are hidden from view, are strategically placed around many of the greens to catch errant shots and with the greens being situated in close proximity to wooded areas and in two cases the meandering stream that is Golden Creek. Mr. Thompson has effectively used mounds to provide backstops catching wayward golf shots.
A delightful characteristic of some of the older golf courses was the naming of the holes and in the case of the Norway Bay Golf Club, the names Bird’s Eye View, Blind Hollow, Little Misery, The Pines, The Alders, The Maples, Straight Away, Uphill and Challenge aptly describe the holes.
My favourite hole on the course is the 120-yard third fittingly named “Little Misery”. Your tee shot from an elevated tee has to be spot on as trees to the left and rear of the green await poor tee shots while a bunker to the right of the green is equally ominous. A ball ending up in the bunker on the back slope of the 4th tee will result in a nerve-wracking shot downhill to the green with anything hit long ending up in the trees and possibly out of bounds.
Our few hours at the Norway Bay Golf Club were a treat for all of us, made even more enjoyable by meeting and talking to several of the local golfers who have been playing this grand old course for many years. It was also special to listen to Linda Thompson, who manages the clubhouse and her husband John Kilgour, who supervises the work on the golf course. Since they took over the operation of the golf club in 2009, they have worked to rejuvenate and inject new life into their golf club. Their goal has been to bring as they call it, “This Proud Old Norway Bay Lady”, back to its original splendour.
It is apparent to all that the couple have a genuine affection for their pride and joy that is The Norway Bay Golf Club and they welcome visitors to their “little piece of history”.
I’m sure that Stanley Thompson, Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Geoffrey Cornish would be proud of their efforts in maintaining the course as the trio envisioned it back in the mid 1930’s.