The first golf in Kelowna was played in 1899 on a 9-hole course located near the present day City Hall and Memorial Arena.
In 1914 the golf course moved to a new location in the Bankhead area where a 9-hole course was established. This location proved unsuccessful due in part to members leaving to join the Armed Forces to fight in World War 1 (1914 - 1918).
In 1920, the members decided to purchase and move to the present location known then as the Wolaston property. The Club had 72 members at that time. Funds to purchase the property were raised by the sale of shares to members. The Club was incorporated in 1920 as the Kelowna Golf Club. Play commenced on the new course consisting of nine holes with sand greens.
In 1920, it was decided to build a clubhouse on the golf course. Funds were raised, tenders called and the new clubhouse opened overlooking the lake slightly west of the present clubhouse location. The lake lot in the middle of the course was donated to the Club in 1925 by Okanagan Loan and Investment Co.
In 1925, plans were made to extend the course to 18 holes. Funds were raised by the sale of debentures to purchase additional Wolaston property. A golf course architect was engaged to design the extension. The new 18-hole course with sand greens opened on March 20, 1926.
As water for irrigation was not available on the course, an agreement was signed in 1937 between the golf club and Glenmore Irrigation District to extend their pipeline and to supply water into the golf course lake which was known as Eagle Pond.
Study was given in 1945 to providing an irrigation system for the course. The problem in obtaining a sufficient supply of water and cost of an irrigation system prompted consideration to be given to selling the present golf club site and relocation in Okanagan Mission where a water supply would not be a problem.
Golf course architect, Mr. A.V. Macan, was retained to study the advisability of relocating to the Okanagan Mission site or remaining at Glenmore Drive. Remaining at the current location was approved at a Special General Meeting held on August 22, 1947.
The golf club was successful in obtaining a license from the B.C. Water Rights Branch to divert water from the golf club lake (Eagle Pond) for irrigation of the golf course.
During the years 1949 and 1950, a decision was reached to reduce the course to 9 holes, to sell some of the property to the City and to use the funds to finance an irrigation system for the remaining 9 holes. Grass greens were then installed for the first time at the Kelowna Golf Course.
In 1957, the Kelowna Tennis Club decided to sell their downtown property and merge with the Kelowna Golf Club. Three new tennis courts were constructed at the Golf Club on the site now occupied by the clubhouse.
The need to extend our course to 18 holes was indicated by the increase in membership which occurred during 1958 and 1959 resulting in the formation of a Course Extension Committee. A new deal to supply sufficient water for an 18-hole course was negotiated with Glenmore Irrigation District in 1960. Also in that year, golf course architect, Mr. A.V. Macan, was retained to plan a new 18-hole golf course. His study proved that additional property would be required to accommodate an 18-hole golf course.
After considerable negotiation with our neighbours, sufficient property was purchased to accommodate an 18 hole golf course. The layout of the new golf course was then completed by architect Vern Macan. Special meetings of the membership were called in January 1960 to approve purchase of additional property and in March 1961 to approve the borrowing of $150,000 to cover the cost of the course extension and repayable over 25 years. The total debenture issue of $150,000 was purchased by members and their friends. The course extension, including the new property, sprinkler system, 17 new tees, 17 new greens and new fairways was completed and seeded in September 1961. The official opening of our new 18-hole course was held on June 23, 1962.
On June 12, 1966, the clubhouse was almost totally destroyed by fire. A plywood shed was set up which served as a sandwich bar for the next year.
A plan was presented to the membership in December 1966 for construction of a new clubhouse, changes to holes #12, #13 and #14 and relocation of the tennis courts. The plan was approved, financing arranged and working drawings commenced. Construction of the new clubhouse started in April and it was opened in November 1967.
A full basement was provided in the new clubhouse. The plan was to utilize half of it at a later date for locker/shower rooms and the other half for the new Golf Shop. This entailed changing the starting hole from #1 to #16. After a good deal of consideration, a decision was reached to leave the hole numbering as at present and to build a new Golf Shop building. Construction commenced in June and the new Golf Shop was opened in November 1970.
In 1976, the men's clubroom was extended to include the old locker room and provide an area for shuffleboard, pool table and card tables. The old clubroom became an area for food service and TV viewing. A new locker and shower room was built downstairs in accordance with the original plans for the clubhouse building.
Early in 1977, a completely new underground irrigation system was installed to provide automatic, nighttime sprinkling for the complete golf course, including tees, greens, fairways and rough. The cost of the new sprinkler system was $210,000 and authority to borrow this sum was given by members at the annual General Meeting held on January 6, 1977.
In 1978, a completely new locker/shower room was built for the ladies section on the lower floor of the clubhouse. This relocation of facilities allowed the former locker room area on the main floor to become an extended ladies clubroom.
In 1980, a new steel Quonset building was erected for storage of our golf course maintenance equipment. In 1994, the old maintenance building was demolished and replaced with a new and up to date building which was approximately twice the size of the old one. It included washrooms for the staff and also new washrooms for members at the nearby 13th tee.
Golf Course - In September 1993, the City of Kelowna advised the golf club they planned to widen Glenmore Drive to four lanes and in the future to six lanes. They also advised that they wished to acquire a sizeable strip of the golf course property which bordered on Glenmore Drive plus the most southerly section of the course, which at that time accommodated holes #7 and 8, plus half of the 9th hole.
It soon became apparent that the City was determined to acquire the portion of the golf course which they needed to widen Glenmore Drive and, if necessary, they would use their power of expropriation.
In 1994 the Board of Directors named a team of members to commence negotiations with the City of Kelowna officials. The team consisted of the president, three past presidents and one director, with part of their mandate to ensure that no costs would be incurred by the members of the Club. The negotiating team for the City included their land agent, their engineer for street construction and their City clerk.
Negotiations commenced in June 1994 and, after many meetings, a tentative agreement was reached in October 1995. A Special General Meeting of voting members of the Club was held on November 21, 1995 to approve the tentative agreement which had been reached with the City of Kelowna negotiating team. The members voted to approve the agreement by a majority of 93%. The final agreement with the City of Kelowna was signed in January 1996.
The construction of three new holes immediately north of #1 green commenced in March 1997. In addition, new tees and a new green were built for hole #1, hole #8 received new tees and a new green and a completely new hole #9 was built, including tees, fairway, and a green for a cost of $2.7 million. Play commenced on the new holes in May 1998.
Clubhouse - In 1996, serious consideration was given by our Board of Directors to the need to upgrade and expand our clubhouse which was 31 years old. The building was badly in need of repairs such as a new roof, upgrade of mechanical, electrical, fire protection with a new sprinkler system and other building components to satisfy the B.C. building code and City building regulations.
In addition, activity in the clubhouse had increased significantly during the past 10 to 15 years. The number of Club tournaments had increased in order to serve our various member groups such as senior men, ladies and senior ladies, men's section, mixed tournaments and junior tournaments. All of these activities involve the use of the clubhouse for registration, lunch, dinner and prize presentations.
There had also been increased demand from members to hold their wedding receptions and banquets, annual staff parties, etc. in the clubhouse.
With the increase in clubhouse activity, there became a need to provide space for use by members who are not participating in the Club function but still wanted to have some undisturbed areas where they could entertain friends for dinner or a few cocktails. This would be available in the mixed lounge and in the dining room.
A committee of nine members was appointed by the Board of Directors in August, 1997 to study the need for and to develop plans to improve the clubhouse.
Discussion groups were organized with the members to obtain their ideas of what the Club should have. The ideas presented were developed into three concept plans and presented to the original discussion groups. Following these meetings, modifications were made to the plans and a questionnaire was sent to every member seeking their opinion on four different proposals, which included a new clubhouse option.
The results of the survey were analysed and then a 17-page brochure was prepared in April 1998 containing complete detail on the proposed clubhouse renovation and mailed out to all voting members. A Special General Meeting was held on April 27, 1998 at which the proposal was outlined in full detail. The large attendance of voting members approved the proposal by an 85% majority, which included financing for the renovations of $2.1 million.
An architect was selected, tenders were called, a contractor chosen and construction commenced in November 1998, with completion in the spring of 1999.
In 2011, the golf course initiated the search for a Golf Course Architect to assist with formulating a new Golf Course Master Plan. Through this process the Club retained John Harbottle who comprised a renovation plan that would guide the Club over the next 10 years. In 2012, unfortunately, John unexpectedly passed away and the Club then engaged Canadian Golf Course Architect, Jeff Mingay to interpret John Harbottle’s plan and continue on with the master planning. Jeff’s most recent work through 2013 to present can be seen on the greensites and/or bunkers of holes on all holes but 4 that will be updated over the next couple of years.
One of the other major elements to assist with the exceptional playing conditions was the purchase and installation of a state of the art irrigation system in 2012.
As part of the Club's Centennial Celebration in 2020 we constructed and opened the new Centennial Bridge in conjunction with the remodeling and renovation of our signature 12th hole. Through all of the Club’s history there have been multiple conversions and re-routings yet there are still six original greens remaining from A. V. Macan’s construction (#6, #10, #11, #15, #16, and #18 greens).
2020 was the year of COVID-19 which although our Centennial year lead to the Club, Community and the World facing the pandemic which caused a 5 week closure of the entire Club from March 22 thru April 28. When we did reopen the golf course to play we had limited tee times at 15 minute intervals, no rakes, garbage cans or benches. We were not allowed to touch the flagstick at any time and had the entire place on an escalated sanitization schedule. Despite all of this the Club enjoyed a very good season with excellent playing conditions, extremely thankful members and a huge increase in demand on the golf course. Unfortunately due to the pandemic we were unable to celebrate the Club's Centennial in the spirited fashion that we had planned.
The Club is committed to continually upgrading the Golf Course through its master planning process to ensure an enjoyable and challenging golf experience.
This calendar of events in the history and development of the golf course is abbreviated, but we hope you find it interesting. In reviewing the records of past years, it is very obvious that the members of today are indeed indebted to those members who, over the years since 1920, have devoted their time and money to purchase and improve the beautiful property we now own, enjoy and know as the Kelowna Golf and Country Club.
Written by Evelyn Metke
The Kelowna Golf & Country Club was incorporated in 1920 and is located in the heart of Kelowna. This favourite semi private golf club currently has a waiting list for full play membership.