Over 110 years old, St. Thomas Golf and Country Club is one of the few clubs formed in Ontario prior to the year 1900. Over the course its long history, our club has undergone substantial growth and change, always keeping up with the times and maintaining the course to current standards of excellence. Pivotal changes include the move to the current location with a course designed by Stanley Thompson in 1922 and the 1970 expansion designed by Robbie Robinson.
We have had the honour and the privilege of hosting many great tournaments over the years. Our Championship highlights include:
2015 Ontario Women's Amateur Championship— Maddie Szeryk
2010 Canadian Senior Men’s Championship — Paul Simson
2005 Ontario Junior Championship — Matt Graham
1996 Ontario Open — Martin Price
1992 Ontario Amateur Championship — Mike Weir
1989 Canadian Senior Men’s Championship — Keith Alexander
1985 Ontario Ladies Amateur — Ann Lavis
1982 Ontario Amateur — Bill Swartz
1978 Ontario Open — George Knudson
1966 Ontario Senior Men’s Championship — Phil Farley
The history of the St. Thomas Golf and Country Club really began in 1899 when about 30 local men leased land and an old farmhouse at the Pinafore Park on Elm Street and started the first St. Thomas Golf Course. The 9-hole golf course was built that year and the old farm house was used as a clubhouse. By 1908 the members decided to move to a new location just east of St. Thomas and the new course opened in July 1909.
By 1920 the popularity of the game and the size of the membership had increased to the point that the members were considering yet another move in order to accommodate a new 18-hole layout. The Whaley farm in Union was purchased in 1922 and Stanley Thompson designed a new 18-hole course. By June of 1923 the first 9 holes were open for play. By that summer a beautiful clubhouse was complete.
The 1920’s were “boom years” in Canada and at the new course. By 1927 all 18 holes were in play. The St. Thomas Golf and Country Club became much more than a golf course. It was an important social centre for St. Thomas and it was a facility of which everyone in the city and county was proud.
The course went through some very bad times in the 1930’s, but the directors applied common sense and were flexible in discounts and giving special dispensations to members experiencing hard times. Costs were minimized and with tremendous cooperation from the staff and members the club survived and prospered.
When WWII broke out, men went overseas, and although membership was stable until 1943, it subsequently declined rapidly. In 1940 it was decided that men in active service would not be charged to play golf at the club. War-time austerity measures did create some changes at the course as the shortage of gasoline and manpower made it impossible to maintain holes 14 and 15 as long holes. They were shortened substantially by moving the tees and greens.
In 1944, as the war was going well for the allies, a golf tournament was hosted at the club with a $1 entry fee and all proceeds were given to the Red Cross.
When the war ended in May 1945, everyone was looking forward to peace and prosperity in the years to come.
The Post-War years were wonderful years at the St. Thomas Golf and Country Club. The war was over, the men and women in the services came home. Golf boomed; membership grew. The main goal f in the first few years was to maintain and improve the course, and to revitalize club play and social activities.
By 1947, plans were in place to extend holes 14 and 15 back to their pre-war status.
The St. Thomas Golf and Country Club prospered in the mid-1950’s as the game grew in popularity and the challenge for the club shifted to meeting the growing needs of the late 50’s and 60’s. The 1950’s saw new investment in the course including building some championship tees, installing a watering system and building a dam. During this time many large tournaments were played on the course including what would become the annual “Early Bird Tournament”, first played in 1949 and won by Moe Norman. Moe also won the event in 1950 and 1954 before joining the ranks of the professionals.
By 1970, it had become clear that a new plan was needed to allow for more players at St. Thomas Golf and Country Club. The club purchased the Russ property consisting of 78 acres to the west of the course and hired Robbie Robinson to design an expansion plan. New holes number 2, 3, 4, 15 and 16 were constructed expanding the course to 6779 yards with a par 72 (36-36).
Through the 1980’s and 1990’s much work was done at the club including widening the fairways, improving airflow and turf quality, increasing water storage capacity, and developing a practice range. A long range master plan was developed for course improvements that would enhance the overall conditioning, playability, strategic value and visual character of the course and restore and enhance the values and characteristics that Stanley Thompson was renowned for. Under the direction of Doug Carrick of Carrick Design Inc. a number of improvements to the course were implemented between 1995 and 2000.
Work on the course is on-going to maintain St. Thomas Golf and Country Club as one of Canada’s finest golf courses. The present course has a par 72 (36-36) from all tees and measures 6795 yards with an OGA rating of 73.1 and a slope of 128 from the championship tees. The plan to add a new set of shorter tees will make this great historic course more playable for seniors and juniors alike.
The success of St. Thomas Golf and Country Club lies in the fact that for more than 110 years the consistent leadership of elected directors have made it their goal to build and maintain a superior golf course and to provide clubhouse facilities and service of high quality. There can be no doubt that we are proud of our past, and that we look to our future confident that we will always have one of the greatest golf courses in Canada right here at St. Thomas Golf and Country Club.