Tag Archives: golf

Developing Whistler’s Swing

In August 1983, Arnold Palmer opened the first golf course in Canada designed by him.  Palmer posed with buckets of golf balls and was photographed mid-swing surrounded by a crowd of people.  This was the official opening of the Whistler Golf Course as we know it today.

The Whistler Golf Course got its start in 1973, when Bob Bishop and Bernie Brown, the developers of Whistler Cay, began developing an executive-sized nine-hole course near Beaver Lane.  When completed just a few years later Whistler residents and visitors were able to play a round without driving to Squamish (the Squamish Valley course was the first golf course to open in the corridor in 1967).  A temporary pro shop at the new course carried a full range of rental clubs, balls, tees, gloves and other accessories, including caps emblazoned with the course crest: a beaver.  According to Bishop and Brown, the beavers were “the original course engineers who created this land.”

Work on the golf course expansion underway, as seen from the bluffs above.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

By 1977 the course had started to host small informal tournaments, both in summer and in winter.  For the course’s first official opening Bishop had planned to host a New Year’s Day tournament.  The plan was for golfers to wear either skis or snowshoes and use golf clubs to hit softballs towards garbage can targets.  Though we do not know if this particular tournament went ahead, there are reports of similar tournaments being played in 1975 to raise money for Whistler Search and Rescue.  Golfers were on skis, and hit red tennis balls into buckets sunk in the snow to make holes.

In 1977 Bishop and Brown announced their plans to expand the small nine-hole course to a full-size 18-hole course.  In order to develop Whistler Cay Heights, they were required to provide a community amenity and an 18-hole golf course was part of the newly formed Resort Municipality of Whistler’s community plan. That summer they began the preliminary clearing, draining, surveying and planning for the course, which was to be designed by Gordie McKay, the golf professional and superintendent in Squamish.  Because of a short construction season, they estimated it would be at least years before the full course would be finished.  In the meantime, the smaller course would be improved and kept open.

Chauffeur Chris Speedie and assistant Rod McLeod take the golf course refreshment buggy around the course during a tournament.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The expansion of the golf course became a key part in the plans for the development of a Town Centre and the transformation of Whistler into a year-round destination resort and was taken over by the Whistler Village Land Company (WVLC) by 1979.  Arnold Palmer chose to make the golf course the site of his first Canadian design, with Gordie McKay staying on as the Canadian consultant for the course.  The clubhouse and shop, along with a hockey rink and swimming pool, were to be incorporated into the planned Resort Centre (today the Whistler Conference Centre).  In September 1981 the golf course received its final inspection by Palmer and looked to be on track to open for the summer of 1982.

Arnold Palmer shows his fine follow through after sending a shot nearly 200 yards with a 9 iron. Palmer stresses proper rhythm rather than pure power to achieve those awesome shots. What a way to open a golf course! Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

This opening was delayed when Whistler, along with the rest of North America, was hit by a major recession in late 1981.  Real estate sales fell and interest rates climbed above 20%, leaving the WVLC with debts of almost $8 million, liabilities around $30 million, and land assets that nobody wanted to buy.  Whistler Land Co. Developments, a Crown corporation, was formed in January 1983 to take over the liabilities and assets of the WVLC, including the golf course.

Under the Whistler Land Co., the full Whistler Golf Course was completed.  It was ready for Palmer’s opening round in August 1983.

Whistler Golf…

At the moment, Whistler’s golf courses are an unlikely place to find a game of golf or even a determined played at the driving range.  Instead cross-country skiers, snowshoers and, in the case of the Whistler Golf Club, dog walkers can be found taking advantage of the layer of snow on top of the greens.  In just a couple of months, however, the ski and dogs will be replaced by carts and clubs.

Looking through one of the books on the museum’s reference shelf I came across The Whistler Handbook containing a summary of the courses found in Whistler, written by Doug Sack in 1993.  Sack was the first sports editor for the Whistler Question; he started in 1984 and held the post for 18 years.  During that time he also contributed to other publications, including The Whistler Handbook put together by Bob Colebrook, Kevin Raffler and Jennifer Wilson in the early 1990s.

Work on the Whistler Golf Course as seen from the bluffs where the building lots are situated.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

In the golf section of the Handbook Sack covers all of the courses from Furry Creek to Pemberton, including a few that hadn’t yet opened or were still under construction.  His commentary, like most of the book, is informative while entertaining.

The oldest golf course in the corridor is the Squamish Valley, first opened in 1967.  According to Sack it was built “by community-minded loggers and businessmen” and then renovated under the direction of Robert Muir-Graves in 1992.

The next course to open in the area was the Whistler Golf Course.  Though it originally opened with 9 holes, the full 18-hole course designed by Arnold Palmer officially opened in the summer of 1983.  Ten years later the course was reportedly busy with tournaments and visitors, making walk on tee times almost impossible except for “weekday twilights.”  This course is probably the most photographed in the museum collections as the Question was there to cover all aspects from its construction to the golf lessons Palmer once gave mascot Willie Whistler in 1981 on the 9-hole course to the commercial Sean Connery filmed on the greens in 1984.

Sean Connery seen filming a Japanese commercial for Biogurt on the Whistler Golf Course.  Whistler Question Collection, 1984.

By 1993 the Pemberton Valley Golf Club, designed by Boyd Barr and opened in 1989, was described by Sack as having “two distinctive nines, one in the open with lakes, and one in the trees” and offering a “diverse golfing experience.”  In only four years the course had developed a reputation as “the most popular course for locals and the most relaxed for visitors.”

Unlike the Pemberton Valley course, neither the Fairmont Chateau Golf Course nor the course in Furry Creek, both newly opened in 1993, were described by Sack as “relaxing”.  According to Sack, “You know a golf course is tough when you’re standing on the first tee and you hear one of the assistant pros walking off the 18th green bragging to his co-workers about almost breaking 80.”

As of 1993 Big Sky and Nicklaus North were under construction, set to open in 1994 and 1995 respectively.

Summertime in the Whistler Village in the 1990s.  Greg Griffith Collection.

The golf courses of Whistler are only one aspect covered in The Whistler Handbook, which includes sections on the community, the resort services, winter sports and more.  Anyone who experienced Whistler in the 1990s will find the contents familiar, whether they golf or not.  The 1990s are not often highlighted at the museum (in part because the decade still seems recent, despite ending 19 years ago); having resources like The Whistler Handbook and others in our collection ensure that the 1990s will be preserved as part of Whistler’s history.

This Week In Photos: August 23

1978

Someone forgot to get a building permit and arrived to find this notice on their site.

A young boy takes a leap during cross country training at the Myrtle Philip School gym.

This car may be in need of more than just a tow.

Offering Brunch & Lunch from 11 am – but when does it end?

1979

The Whistler Tennis Club Tournament on Saturday at the Taylor courts in Creekside.

Bob Priest stands proudly in front of his new drugstore in Pemberton.

What is it? Not a squatter’s cabin but merely a plastic structure for the fire department to practice its smoke rescue maneuvers.

Impromptu sidewalk sale – Leigh Finck sells off his goods after finding himself out on the street (literally) on Saturday.

Signs appearing on the tree by the Town Centre – note the Danger Construction Zone!

The first meeting of the Whistler Council in the new council chamber trailer. Acting Mayor Horsey presides.

1980

Grant Cooper cuts through bush on shores of Lost Lake. Miles of X-country trails are being cut as well as a dock and beach for the south end of Lost Lake.

In Pemberton there’s parking for all types of vehicles.

Town Centre’s Resort Centre rises faster as summer begins to wind down.

Congregating at the Molson Whistler Fun Fitness Swim after party to check the scores.

1981

These pyjama people must have gotten their beauty sleep the night before to enjoy Club 10’s pyjama party.

Brenda Thompson talks to customers at the Whistler PNE booth in the BC Building.

Benny Hu and Peggy Lee of Vancouver and Peter Chan of Calgary eat up the flavour of soft ice cream at Hilda’s Delicatessen.

It was a busy first day for Carlbergs! Lisa Knight and her brother Greg Carlberg were pleasantly surprised by the large number of customers who visited them on their opening day August 22.

A quick coat of paint – and a quick smile – help freshen up the outside of the old Vallee Blanche. Simone Aaron and Pascal Tipine get ready to open their new restaurant – Madame’s.

A member of a party of British kayakers paddles through white water on the Cheakamus River.

1982

Craig McKenzie of the Whistler Health Planning Society inspects the trailer brought into position adjacent to the Sports & Convention Centre for Whistler’s new medical clinic.

A victorious flight from the north face of Big Old Softie brought a rush of excitement to (L to R) Dave O’Keefe, Colin Dennis, Sandy Boyd, Terry Dyke, Howie Byard and Doug Banner.

A welder fixes a part to one of the towers that will be used on Lift No. 6 at Blackcomb.

Pockets the Clown teaches a group of children about product safety through puppets and poems during the Blinkley & Doinkle Puppet Show held in Village Square Tuesday.

1983

Bikers show their Harleys in front of the Carleton Lodge…

while Village Square hosts a show of Jaguars.

In between watching the Binkley and Doinkle Puppet Show in Whistler Village Thursday afternoon, these kids are participating in a jam session led by Karen Overgaard.

Arnold Palmer shows his fine follow through after sending a shot nearly 200 yards with a 9 iron. Palmer stresses proper rhythm rather than pure power to achieve those awesome shots. What a way to open a golf course!

Delta Mountain Inn’s new Director of Sales is 32-year-old Charles Ku. Hired for the position August 15, Ku was previously with the Century Plaza Hotel in Vancouver. He has been in the hotel business for 12 years and started at the venerable Empress Hotel in Victoria as a dishwasher. Ku, who has been skiing at Whistler for six years, says he almost feels like one of the locals. He replaces Robin Thompson as Director of Sales.

The Twigs patio at the Delta Mountain Inn looks busy on a sunny summer afternoon.

1984

This Baxter condotel unit may seem out of place on West Georgia Street in Vancouver, but marketing consultant Mel Grebinsky says it’s one of the “highest profile” corners in the city. The Baxter Group is marketing 165 of the $50,000 units inside the buildings, which will be built near the Whistler gondola and, according to Grebinsky, everyone from office clerks to lawyers is interested. Admission to the downtown show unit is by donation to the Variety Club.

Now that’s breaking ground! Whistler Mountain’s new addition to its Squarehouse got underway last Wednesday with (L to R) Roger McCarthy, project manager; Lorne Borgal, WMSC president; and Dave Murray, director of skiing. The initial phase of the project, slated for a December completion, includes a 350-seat dining area and 186 sq. m kitchen designed to produce baked goods, soups and a variety of other items. Additional improvements scheduled for the 1985/86 ski season include a 250-seat mezzanine and the balance of a full production kitchen.

Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup Robinson packs it in Friday for the big move to bigger and better facilities at the new municipal hall in Whistler Village. Staff have been waiting in anticipation for the move.

Furniture and files are moved into the new municipal hall (and old Keg building) on Blackcomb Way, next to the Public Services Building.

Seven athletes competed over the weekend for the Mr. Mountain title, which was eventually won by defending champ Ken Hardy. Events included golfing, kayaking, cycling, weightlifting and a series of times calisthenics.

About 120 travel agents flocked to Whistler Saturday for a fun-day event appropriately titled Battle of the Travel Stars. These office athletes completed obstacle courses by foot and by canoe, set new records in a swimming dress-up event at Delta Mountain Inn’s pool and ended the day with a rousing banquet at the hotel. The tug-of-war had the added excitement of a pool of Mazola between the two teams.

A healthy group of 30 young skiers is taking part in a month-long Whistler Mountain Ski Club ski camp. Skiing sessions are held on the Whistler Mountain glaciers using the club’s rope tow, but the skiers also spent a week doing dryland training before starting the technically-oriented camp directed by coach Jacques Morel.

Crafts in the Park is starting up again!

We’re super excited to announce that Crafts in the Park are starting up again! Every  Thursday starting July 5th, the Whistler Museum and the Whistler Library will be hosting fun and free craft activities in Florence Petersen Park from 11 to 12 am. Kids of all ages can learn about Whistler’s history, enjoy a story, and get creative with one of our amazing crafts.

Our theme this year is “Whistler Through the Ages”. People have been coming to Whistler for over one hundred years in the pursuit of seasonal fun- from the first visitors to Rainbow Lodge in 1914, who came out to ride, fish, and sail, or the crowds that gathered in 2010 to cheer on the Olympic athletes. Our crafts this year are based on activities enjoyed in Whistler past and present.

July 5th

The first settlers in Whistler came here to hunt and trap animals for food, and for their furs. We’ll  be making multimedia animal collages, using foam, felt, paper, magazines, tissue paper, fake fur, and more.  Whistler has an amazing variety of wildlife (bears, squirrels, and everything in between) so what animal will you make?

Animal Collage Craft.jpg

July 12th

Alta Lake became a popular fishing destination in 1914. People caught fish of all kinds.  Just like those early tourists, we’ll be making our own mini fishing rods and fish. You’ll even be able to catch these fish with your rod. Design these fish however you want – rainbows are never a bad idea!

Fish Craft.jpg

July 19th

For this craft, we’re collaborating with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. We’ll learn about the relationships between animals and people in Pacific Northwest First Nations culture, and the ways we can identify with animals to understand the world around us. The children will make their own animal headdresses, and participate in a drumming song.

July 26th

Sailing has been popular in Whistler since its early days and Alta Lake residents enjoyed taking all kinds of boats out in the summer. We’ll be making our own sailboats out of sponges, corks, and paper. Just like real boats, these really float, and you’ll even get a chance to try them out on the water.

Boat Craft.jpg

August 2nd

Rainbow Lodge at one time had a stable of 20 horses, and many visitors enjoyed trail rides and trail picnics during their stays. We’ll be making cut-out paper horses with moveable joints. Though you can’t take these horses out for a ride, they’re a fun, poseable homemade toy. And although Whistler’s never been home to any unicorns (as far as we know) you can go ahead and make one of those too.

horse craft2.jpg

August 9th

Whistler boasts several beautiful golf courses and this craft is a fun spin on one of Whistler’s favourite sports. We’ll be making kinetic golf ball paintings, using golf balls to roll the paint across the paper. These painting are fun to do and look even cooler.

Golf Ball Craft.jpg

August 16th

Skiing began in Whistler in the early 1960s and has been wildly popular ever since. We’ll be making paper doll skiers and snowboarders, and using paper and fabric to dress them up warmly against Whistler’s freezing winters.

Ski People Craft2.jpg

August 23rd

Whistler was proud to host the Olympics in 2010 when Canada won gold on home turf for the first time. We will be making our own personalized Olympic medals using foam stamp printing and metallic glitter. Win gold in your favourite sport, or even make up your own!

So come out and join us at Crafts in the Park, every Thursday from 11 to 12 in Florence Petersen Park!