How to Research Your Club History
For those of you who are thinking, ‘I would like to begin research on my golf club, but I don’t know where to start,’ we would like to offer some tips on the best ways to find the information you need.
Step 1: Form a History Committee
- Have each committee member read several club histories.
- Look over several other publications about the history of sport in Canada.
- Decide what your goal is:
- To publish the history in order to commemorate an anniversary?
- To record the information for possible future publication?
- To gather the information, informally, for the club’s records?
Step 2: BEGIN THE SEARCH!
The first task of the committee is to inform your members of what you are doing. Members tend to collect exactly the kinds of information you will require. Ask specifically for old club papers, photographs, trophies or other memorabilia you can borrow, photograph or scan. Instead of spending hours looking for something that might be right under your nose, ask your members what they have!
For more modern clubs , consider doing oral history interview with your older members who may still remember pivotal events, and can provide a boundless source of anecdotes. (Keep in mind that no-one’s memory is entirely reliable all of the time, so if at all possible, try to find more than one source.)
There are a lot of primary sources to help you find information. Look for:
• Minute Books
• Club newsletters
• Tournament records
• Old photographs
If your golf club has had members who have won a provincial or national title, or if any such championships were ever held at your course, definitely make the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum (CGHF) www.golfcanada.ca/cghf, a priority when sourcing information.. If you aren’t within driving distance, try writing to the Curator at email@example.com. We can gather information on these events for you. All member clubs have access to free research and referencing – a great resource right at your fingertips!
Step 3: Sort and Organize
When your research and collecting is done, sort through the material and put it into chronological order. With the information organized in this way it will be easier for you to determine the specifics on important dates, key figures and major events. Any club history should have information about founding members, location changes, possible changes in layout, the evolution of the clubhouse, membership growth, staff and tournaments.
‘Where do I search for this information?’
First, it is important to read the histories that have been written about other clubs to get an idea of the sorts of information that are commonly used and presented. Some good examples to look at include:
- Beaconsfield Golf Club - The First 100 Years by J. Hynes
- Capilano Golf & Country Club: The Making of a Legend by Andrew McCredie
- The Calgary Golf and Country Club by T. Trafford
- A History of Essex Golf & Country Club 1902 – 2002 by Jeff Mingay
- The Ladies' 1924 – 1999: Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto by Tim O’Connor
- The Royal Montreal Golf Club, 1873-2000
- The Saskatoon Golf & Country Club 1907 – 2007 by Penny Guest
The CGHF library and archives can also provide you with an abundance of material. Visitors can schedule an appointment to look through archival items as well as to search through back issues of the Canadian Golfer magazine and other golf periodicals which followed it.
Canadian Golfer is an amazing source of information. Although first published in 1915, the magazine carried ‘potted’ histories of many clubs from the 1870s as well as accounts of annual meetings held in the 1920s. It often contains published biographies and photographs of leading golfers, which can be a great help if one of these individuals was at all associated with your club.
‘What sorts of material are best? A lot of resources don’t seem to talk about golf directly and there is so much material.’
The most valuable overall resource to begin with is a copy of James A. Barclay’s Golf in Canada: A History – this book effectively outlines the development of the game in this country, and contains an enormous list of sources in its bibliography. These sources may also be a great help to you, aside from showing you the sorts of material that authors and historians generally use, so try to track them down.
Other resources that show the importance of golf in Canadian sport include Howell and Howell’s Sports and Games in Canadian Life and One Hundred – Not Out by Henry Roxburgh.
Look for your club’s original minute books, a more-or-less precise record of decisions made by your board of directors, and for back issues of any club communications – i.e. bulletins, newsletters, annual communications to members – these are invaluable for tracking organizational development and can help you pinpoint precisely when certain milestones occurred – i.e., the hiring of professionals, the building of clubhouses, etc. (Please note, however, that if your club is approaching its centennial, locating early documents of this kind may prove very difficult. Of the first six clubs in Canada, only Royal Montreal has a Minute book going back to the year it was established; the other club’s books have been lost or destroyed. Fires razed many old wooden clubhouses, and their contents went up with them.)
Keeping all this in mind, you will probably find no better source of information than your local newspaper(s). These are usually collected by title and/or year of publication in the reference section of your public library, either in hardcopy, microfiche or online. Be prepared for a tedious pursuit, the amount of material you will have to wade through to find the information you want will be large. Note that while some newspapers had special pages on sport around the turn of the century, most did not. Make sure you also look for golf-related information in the social columns.
Talk to your local librarian too. They often know a great deal about the regions in which they work, and can be very helpful in locating local histories. These books can tell you something about when golf was first played locally, as well as other sports. This resource can also give you a better feeling for the times and the leading personalities, some of whom may have been members of your club. Librarians may also have access to photographs or old postcards of your club and its members. If not, they will certainly be able to tell you where to find your local historical society or archives.
Local archives are especially good for finding biographical material on your early members – many of them will have been pillars of the community in other ways.
Contact a local archives or historical society and see if they have:
- Local correspondence from members
If you have access to a metropolitan or university library, do research there. For example, the Metropolitan Library in Toronto and the libraries at the University of Toronto carry histories that you will not find locally, as well as copies of magazines such as Outing, Athletic Life and Saturday Night – all sources of information on the large city clubs in Central Canada at the turn of the century. These institutions tend to have a rare books section, as well as archival documents. Note that in most cases you will need to book an appointment to visit this part of the library, so choose a time when you can set aside a few hours and contact the archivist. Once there, be sure to search through:
- Non-local newspapers
- Land assessment records and/or fire insurance maps
Some great, but harder to find, publications that may yield some information include:
- H. J. Morgan’s The Canadian Men and Women of the Time
- Who’s Who and Why
- Prominent Men of Canada 1931-32
- A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation
- The Union List of Serials
- Canada Sport Monthly
Another great source is the Golf Historical Society of Canada (GHSC). With over 1600 members across the country, they will have access to a variety of individuals who may be able to assist you in your research. In fact, the GHSC membership may even have collected local memorabilia of interest to you! For more information about the GHSC, please visit their website www.ghsc.ca.
‘Is the internet a place I should do research?’
The internet has become a great source of information and it will definitely be useful in finding places that could help. Most museums and libraries have started to include searchable on-line databases of their archives and libraries which can make finding relevant information much easier than ever before. Start small and work your way up to the larger institutions. National sites will likely have some information of use to you.
Some great internet sites include:
• Archives Canada.ca - www.archivescanada.ca
• The Canadian Encyclopedia - www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com
• The Dictionary of Canadian Biography - www.biographi.ca
• Library and Archives of Canada - http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/
• Also consider online searchable newspaper sites such as: www.pagesofthepast.ca – the Toronto Star’s on line archive. There is a small fee for searching but it can proof to be a valuable timesaver.
• Golf News Archives Search - http://news.google.com/news/advanced_news_search?as_drrb=a
• And my personal favourite, http://newspaperarchive.com/ca/, this is a paid subscription but well worth the money.
‘Is there any other places or people that you would recommend I contact?’
Alberta Golf– http://www.albertagolf.org/ or 1-888-414-4849.
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame – www.albertasportshalloffame.com or 403-341-8614.
Royal Albert Museum www.royalalbertmuseum.ca or 780-453-9100.
Golf clubs in British Columbia should contact the BC Golf Museum www.bcgolfmuseum.org or 604-222-4653. They have a very comprehensive collection and knowledgeable staff.
BC Sports Hall of Fame – www.bcsportshalloffame.com or 604-687-5520.
British Columbia Golf Association – www.bcga.org or 1-888-833-2242.
Royal BC Museum – http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/MainSite/default.aspx or 250- 356-7226
Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame – www.halloffame.mb.ca or 204-925-5736
Golf Manitoba – www.golfmanitoba.mb.ca or 204-925-5730
Manitoba Museum – http://www.manitobamuseum.ca/ or 204-956-2830
New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame - http://www.nbsportshalloffame.com/en/ or 506-453-3747
Golf New Brunswick - http://www.golfnb.ca or 506-451-1324
New Brunswick Museum - http://www.nbm-mnb.ca/ or 506-643-2300
Golf Newfoundland - http://www.golfnl.ca/ or 709-895-8721
Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame - http://www.sportnl.ca/programs/hall_fame.php or 709-576-4932
The Rooms - http://www.therooms.ca/archives/sports_archives.asp
Museum Association of Newfoundland and Labrador - http://www.manl.nf.ca/ or 709-722-9034
Nova Scotia Golf Association - http://www.nsga.ns.ca/ or 902-468-8844
Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame - http://www.nsshf.com/ or 902-421-1266
Nova Scotia Museum - http://museum.gov.ns.ca/en/home/default.aspx or 902-423-4677
Golf Association of Ontario - http://www.gao.ca/ or 905.852.1101
Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and Museum - http://www.nwosportshalloffame.com/ or (807) 622-2852
Ontario Golf Hall of Fame - https://gao.ca/about-us/ontario-golf-hall-of-fame/ or 905-852-1101
Prince Edward Island
PEI Golf - http://www.peiga.ca/ or 1-902-393-3293
PEI Sports Hall of Fame and Museum - http://www.peisportshalloffame.ca/ or 902.436.0423
PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation - http://www.gov.pe.ca/peimhf/index.php3 or 902.368.6600
Golf Quebec - http://www.golfquebec.org (for english add /english/accueil.asp) or 514-252-3345
Quebec Sports Hall of Fame/ Panthéon des sports du Québec - http://www.rds.ca/pantheon/ or 514-722-2551
Golf Museum of Quebec/ Musée du golf du Québec - http://www.golflescedres.com/musee.php or 450.372.0167
Saskatchewan Golf Association - http://www.golfsaskatchewan.org/ or 306-975-0850
Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and Museum - http://www.sshfm.com/ or 306.780.9232
Royal Saskatchewan Museum - http://www.royalsaskmuseum.ca/ or(306) 787-2815
PGA of Canada – http://www.pgaofcanada.com/ or 1-800-782-5764
Canadian Sports Hall of Fame - www.cshof.ca
LA84 Foundation - http://www.aafla.org/5va/over_frmst.htm
‘Can you give me an example of how my research might be conducted?’
Let’s say that you are interested in the history of Alcrest Golf Club. If you didn’t know the first thing about that club or the best place to start, because it takes so little time you will probably want to use an online search engine like www.google.com. One easy, five-second search for the name of the club…and you’ve received 540 hits! A scan of the first ten results reveals: that Alcrest Golf Club was located in Winnipeg, Manitoba; that Stanley Thompson designed the course; and that a book was written by J. Alan Hackett about golf courses in the province entitled Manitoba Links: A Kaleidoscopic History of Golf. (Well, that sounds like a must read, doesn’t it?)
What else have you found out? It is important to know that when you use search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing, you are being given results that measure the percentage of the material that matches your query. This means that the 540th hit you’ve received may have nothing to do with Alcrest Golf Club at all, but perhaps relates to a sporting goods store in Tucson, Arizona that carries golf clubs and is owned by a Mr. Alcrest. That’s interesting, no doubt, but hardly useful – be careful and make sure that your information is relevant and coming from a reliable source, and you won’t ever be on the wrong track.
Another simple search can tell you that Winnipeg is home to the offices of three small historical societies; the City of Winnipeg Archives; the Manitoba Golf Association; and the major provincial archives: the Archives of Manitoba. The small historical societies, although they don’t seem to have searchable records, do have various newsletters online – maybe one of them talks about sports in general, or golf in particular? The City of Winnipeg Archives doesn’t have an online database either…but it does have a digital exhibit of pictures and video that may yield some information. The Archives of Manitoba online database (which can be found at http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/search.html) is extensive and very helpful.
Now, recall that book you discovered earlier: Manitoba Links: A Kaleidoscopic History of Golf. Search for it in the Archives of Manitoba database. It turns out that this provincial collection holds all of Mr. Hackett’s original research notes, photographs and more! Just by typing in the word ‘golf’ in the database you’ll find a wealth of other information, too. (For example, it turns out that Alcrest Golf Club actually wasn’t in Winnipeg, but rather in a small township close to the city, the Municipality of Springfield…that’s important!) As a final step, you should enter any other keywords that you’ve discovered to this point, especially the names of any founders, directors, course architect(s), club champions, etc. Some of the resulting material may have been scanned, and can be browsed online. A trip to the archives is beginning to look like it will be invaluable.
The next place that you might choose to contact is us, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum. The Curator, Meggan Gardner, could inform you about the Stanley Thompson Society, which will likely have information relating to the course (perhaps even the original plans) since Mr. Thompson designed it. The Stanley Thompson Archives are stored at the University of Guelph – another worthwhile resource. Meggan would also tell you about the CGHF’s main collections database. Although it is not currently available online, museum staffers are always available to conduct the search on your behalf – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a searchable photo database available on the Hall of Fame web site that is accessible free of charge at http://photosgallery.golfcanada.ca/ . Try using your expanded keywords to get the most information!
Note that all of the work to this point has been done from home, and quickly, with just a computer and a phone. Add this material to the artifacts that the members of the club would surely be ready to show you and you’re on your way to finding out everything you ever needed to know about Alcrest.
Remember to always verify the information you find online. Some sites provide valuable leads, such as Wikkipedia, but the information is submitted and then peer reviewed, not necessarily resulting from original research.
‘I have all of my research completed, now what do I do?’
Congratulations! You’ve found a ton of information!
If you are going to have your club history published, choose the person or group who will actually write the book. There are numerous ways of doing this including dividing up the work and having the entire History Committee start out writing different parts. If you discover that there is a professional writer that is a member of your club who might volunteer their time, ask them. It is also possible to hire an author. (Websites like www.elance.com connect creative professionals with projects online; all you would have to do is post a prospective budget, and collect offers.) Generally it is wise to identify one person as the editor, whether a professional or just a keen member of the committee, to ensure continuity.
Choose the photographs you wish to include and find out what form of reproduction will best suit your purposes. If the book is only to be a manuscript, any photos can be very inexpensively reproduced so they can be included with the manuscript without ever risking damage to the originals.
Be sure to celebrate the completion of your project and to send a copy to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame so that researchers from the entire world will have access your history!
Now you’ve gone to the trouble of tracking down such good records of your club history, you will want to maintain all of this research for the next individual looking for information. The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame is safe, stable and has an environmentally-controlled environment – you may want to consider donating the original materials to our archives. Researchers will have access to your club history and you know valuable research materials will be safe from disasters such as accidental paper-shredding, fire, flood and more. After all, if this information is lost, it may be gone forever – or, at best, another individual will have to endure the same painstaking hours you did!
Alternatively your club may wish to consider establishing an archive for the club. The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum is always happy to help you with that as well.