THE EVOLUTION OF GOLF IN CALGARY
Calgarians have always embraced teeing up as a summer pastime, and with ongoing course developments the game of golf is still in full swing.
Fore! Calgary's golf courses have evolved over the past century, but now they're better than ever.
Mixing business with pleasure on the course has been a longtime tradition—so much so that Calgary businessman founded The Calgary Golf and Country Club in 1897 as a way to formalize their golfing relationships on nomadic courses throughout the city. The Calgary Golf and Country Club’s official course opened in 1911 and is still in use today, making it the oldest private course in Alberta. Calgary’s Shaganappi Point Golf Course opened in 1915 as the city’s first municipal course. “People, ages eight to 98, from all walks of life. It was incredible how much they enjoyed playing Shag. That’s what made it special,” longtime player Jay Wilson says. In the early days of golf in Calgary, courses were typically sandy, un-landscaped plots— unlike the stunning green, tree-lined, landscaped 52 private and public courses in Calgary today.
A golf renaissance in Alberta began with the family of Barry Ehlert, now a managing partner at Windmill Golf Group. Ehlert's grandfather had a golf course in Southern Alberta that his son worked on— mowing the fields with a pull tractor—in the late 1950s. Wanting to stay in the golf business, but not seeing much opportunity for golf currently in Alberta, he became a landscape architect who designed about one dozen golf courses throughout Alberta. He then had the opportunity to be a managing partner, introducing Boulder Creek Golf Course and Silverwing Links courses as his own.
Shaganappi Point Golf Course is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this summer with special events and activities throughout the season. Despite all the changes over the last 100 years, “what we never lost was the ‘fun’ factor,” says Lisa Lanctot, the city's golf business development coordinator. “The par-68, 18-hole layout appeals to the recreational golfer who wants to spend time with friends and have an enjoyable outing.” It’s a low-score, accessible course where even inexperienced and casual golfers can get into the swing of things. “It’s the 100th anniversary of the municipality providing an affordable, recreational opportunity for Calgarians,” says Kyle Ripley, the city’s manager of golf course operations. “Golf affords the opportunity to get out and be physically and mentally active in a social setting. It’s a wonderful game from that perspective.”
Over at the Windmill Group, Ehlert continued the family tradition of working in golf by getting involved at the Boulder Creek course, eventually growing the Windmill Golf Group portfolio to include eight courses—five of which are in Calgary—in use today. “We cater to a lot of corporations, but there are certainly a lot of individuals and different walks of life that golf appeals to," Ehlert says. "[Windmill's five courses] offer something in the city that no one else can. We have very, very high end facilities like The Hamptons Golf Club, and then courses like Boulder Creek Golf Course which have a less expensive, daily fee. We know there’s a wide range of golfer demographics and we put programs together so that people have flexibility with [the sort of course] they want to golf and how much they want to spend. That’s how golf has evolved for us: the scalability of who we actually reach— we’re reaching a higher percentage of actual golfers because we have more to offer them.” One unique part of Windmill's offering are their flexible, multi-course memberships. “The flexibility of our memberships work with our members’ schedules and allow them to play all of our facilities, plus there are individual memberships, guest memberships, and corporate memberships that allow different people to use the pass." From a geographic standpoint, Windmill's courses are easily accessible. “Springbank has a quiet appeal to it, it is a great facility for tourists and is a true private-public experience. Silverwing Links has an outstanding location close to the airport, and Boulder Creek serves the south part of the city.”
Shaganappi Point Golf Course, circa 1925