The Royal Montreal Golf Club was the first official permanent golf club in Canada, established in 1873. Men, women and children enjoyed the lush private club facilities.
A beloved sport for several hundred years in Scotland, and then by Scottish immigrants in Canada, golf found its first official permanent Canadian home in the province of Quebec. In 1873, a club was established on the outskirts of the metropolis of Montreal called the Montreal Golf Club. Under the authority of Queen Victoria, the word Royal was added to the moniker. It became the Royal Montreal Golf Club in 1884.
Founded by a group of eight men, the 9-hole golf course was laid out in Mount Royal Park on Fletcher’s Field. The sprawl of the growing city encroached and so, in 1896, the golf course moved to Dixie, near Dorval. With the population still not quite settled, The Royal Montreal Golf Club moved to its final destination in Ile-Bizard, Quebec, in 1959.
Royal Montreal Golf Club had strict rules
Permanently established, the RMGC laid out a series of three courses. Set on a large expanse of lush, green land with a scenic river background, the Blue Course, the Red Course and the Dixie totaled 45 holes, with each course of varying challenges. (The Blue Course is considered one of the finest – and most difficult – in the world.) The Club had, and still has, strict rules on dress code, divots and playing courtesies. Children participated in golf and women also enjoyed the sport. Lady golfers were welcomed and encouraged, with the first Ladies Section formed circa 1892, and the first Canadian National Ladies’ Championship in 1901.
The clubs used to play golf were somewhat different from today’s clubs. The shafts were made of wood, most often hickory. The drivers were crafted of smooth, rounded wood, sanded, varnished and polished to a shine. The irons were less-shaped than today’s irons, fashioned by blacksmiths with smooth faces and less intricate calculations.
Early golf balls were made of goose feathers stitched into painted leather sacks. They were expensive to produce and did not last long, maybe two rounds, according to PCAworldwide.com. Golf balls in the 1890s were made of “gutty-percha”, a rubber made of Malaysian Tree gum that was heated, formed into a ball and given several coats of paint. The players found that roughed-up balls soared better than the smooth ones; dimples were hammered-in to create more even play. Later balls were formed with a new rubber core and made in dimpled iron molds.
Other golf clubs opened in competition
After the RMGC was firmly established, other golf clubs sprung up to provide competition for the Royal Montreal group. Noted by Karen Hewson, curator of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, Quebec City, Kingston, Toronto and Niagara were among the first to provide golfers with inter-provincial games and friendly rivalries. The first golf club in the United States was St. Andrews, formed in Yonkers, New York in 1888.
A private, members-only club, the Royal Montreal Golf Club takes its turn hosting major international golfing events. This year, the RMGC will be hosting the PGA Tour’s Presidents Cup on September 24th to 30th, 2007, with top players such as Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir expected to be in attendance.
Head down, arms straight, eyes on the ball and … Fore!