Col Bedson and Stony Mountain Golf Course
How Convicts Built a Course for Their Warden
By George Siamandas
MANITOBA'S FIRST GOLF COURSE
Col Samuel Bedson is credited with building Manitoba's first golf course, Stony Mountain Golf Course in 1889 using convicts. It came only 16 years after the first Canadian golf course, the Montreal Club begun in 1873.
Manitoba's first golf course was the dream of Stony Mountain Prison Warden Col Samuel Bedson. Samuel had been born in Montreal in 1849 and was the son of a military man. Bedson had come to Manitoba as part of the Wolseley expedition in 1870 and was soon put in charge of the prison at Fort Garry.
When the prison was to be moved, Bedson selected the site of Stony Mountain, and the province's first stand-alone prison, opened in 1877. At this time Stony Mountain was a village of 200.
The tee was opposite the Warden's residence. The series of bunkers, boulders, badger holes, ploughed land and downhill slopes made it challenging indeed. The course consisted of 9 holes; 9 very difficult holes. We know this from the first score, because the results of the first game were recorded for posterity. Dr Sutherland and partner Walter Nursey defeated Col Bedson and partner Dan Smith with a score of 97 to 113.
Walter Nursey had designed the course. He had been Minister of agriculture in 1878. Nursey was the first to use the new granite curling stones introduced to Manitoba in 1881.
Bedson was a real sportsman and also built a curling rink, race track and hunt club. Bedson, who always liked to give his convicts a break, is also said to have employed convicts as butlers and servants.
In 1891 Bedson resigned as Warden to work for the Alaska Boundary Commission. But Bedson never started his job. He died in July of 1891 and is buried in St James cemetery. His golf course lasted till 1892. It was not until 1922 that the course was revived and called the Assinawa Country Club. It faded once again in 1939 with the start of WW2.
VIRDEN WELLVIEW GOLF COURSE: MANITOBA'S OLDEST
The oldest golf course still in existence is Virden opened May 7, 1892. It was started by Scots who formally established it through the sale of public shares.
When first built it was part of a pasture. The greens had to be fenced off because horses had a habit of rolling around on the sand greens. Nonetheless in the first game won by John Harrison with an 18 hole round of 92. In 1964 the Virden course had make do with a new set of hazards. Oil wells set up by the Texas Crude Oil Co. It now plays to a par 39.
Other early courses include St Charles in 1905, Elmhurst in 1910, Pine Ridge in 1912, and Assiniboine in 1917. Niakwa was built in 1923, Winnipeg Beach in 1925, Polo Park in 1931, and Tuxedo in 1934.
Golf enjoys tremendous popularity in Manitoba as shown by our large number of courses. Today Manitoba has 127 courses, of which 25 are in Winnipeg.